🫰 Saving 16.7M's Savings…

Plus: GPT-5, massive SA funding rounds and how to build an ESG startup in South Africa.
March 22, 2024

Naas one? Watch some of your favourite rugby legends tackle the mean streets of SA as do-or-die courier drivers. Sic: This razor-sharp Courier Guy ad is a poke at DStv’s upcoming Springbok docuseries Chasing the Sun 2 and it’s brilliant.

In this Open Letter:

  • Savings race: Creative solutions for SA’s R27bn+ debt industry.
  • GPT-5, massive SA funding rounds & avoiding loyalty scams.
  • Inside track: What it takes to build an ESG startup in Africa.
  • What you want on your payslip: The results are in.
  • Share this: And get free business tools.

Saving 16.7M People’s Savings

Is a R27bn industry…

There’s a major elephant in every SA living room. 

62% of South Africans spend equal or more than they earn. 

And that elephant also has a baby… Most South Africans are not saving enough. 

Only 14% of South Africans feel confident that they will reach their long-term savings goals – i.e. be able to retire.

Not happening

You might have heard this before from that cousin-turned-broker who wants to sell you something to hit their target. 

But, relax, we’re not here to sell you a retirement annuity. 

We do see a major opportunity in helping people manage their money better. 

In fact, 62% of the 16.7 million income earners in SA is a market of 10 million+ people. 

And financial security is a pretty big problem – not to mention these are the earners with the means to pay for solutions… so let’s dive in:

Just how much debt is there?

SA’s total household debt is around R2.7 trillion. And there are 16.7 million officially employed salary earners in SA, with the average salary at R25’304 pm.

But DebtBuster’s most recent quarterly debt index shows the debt-to-income ratio for people earning R20k+pm is a staggering 64% – meaning most of SA pays up to 64% of their total annual income to service debt. (It jumps to 71% if you earn over R35k pm).

Crunch those numbers, and South Africans pay billions in debt servicing yearly.

Now, debt counselling and restructuring fees are regulated by the NCR at R3’000–R6’000 max per individual, and they promise to help relieve up to 60% of debt for SA citizens.

Build a solution that does the same at, say, half that rate spread over a period of time, and you still have an R25bn+ industry on your hands.

SA’s glorious tech-enabled debt-free future, according to AI.

The good fight

Ultimately helping people spend less on credit is a tough game – you need to make money off helping people spend less money (Twilight Zone, we know).

And selling a long-term benefit for short-term sacrifice, you’re up against instant gratification and 1 million+ influencers trying to sell them stuff. It’s hard going.

But the journey to financial freedom has many steps or facets and looks something like this:

  1. Education: Empowering people to make better money decisions is what Money Savvy Humans is helping with. Initially started as a way to teach financial literacy to kids, founder Catherine Main quickly realised the need in adults and converted the content to cater for an older audience. Since then she has licensed facilitators in different locations across Southern Africa. Effectively building a franchise model for her course, content and community.
  1. Tools: Helping to remove ambiguity and guiding people in the right direction is what a tool like 22seven is best at. They connect to most financial platforms (banks, investment platforms, store accounts and vehicle finance) and pull your data to give you an overview of your net position and manage your budget by automapping expenses to budget categories. 
  2. The interesting play for 22seven is their data now becomes extremely useful in analysing consumer behaviour (Hello 22seven Insights). Understanding what people buy and earn, as well as what financial products they have helps you plan and design new products for the general South African population.
  3. Say no to debt: Once that debt is under control, rather buy big-ticket items using LayUp – tech that brings age-old layby to every day retailers in a more flexible, digital manner. No interest, no fees and best of all, no debt. You can choose how much you want to layby per month and, if you change your mind, cancel and get a full refund. Nice.
  1. Savings products: It’s always wise to reroute some of the money that went to servicing debt towards long-term savings, investment or retirement instead. This is where products such as Franc and EasyEquities come in. And, if you’re looking for a community of investors where you can learn from and grow together, check out FinMeUp

Going from debt to savings is a tough journey, but with many an innovator playing in this space, it’s making things just a little bit easier.

With interest rates staying higher longer than expected, chances are these kinds of solutions will become even more important going forward. Great opportunity here. We’re watching this space.


🫧 Floating On. BNPL player Float has received R208 million in funding from Standard Bank to facilitate the rollout of its card-linked instalment platform that encourages responsible credit card usage.

🚖 Keep on Moove(ing). African FinTech Moove has raised a cool R1.8bn in its Series B round — with the round reportedly led by Uber. Makes sense though given that Moove is a car-financing startup that allows drivers interested in ride-hailing to finance a brand-new car over 4 years.

🧠 Brain Power. Meet Neuralink’s first human trial patient. Watch 49-year-old quadriplegic Noland Arbaugh explain his brain-implant experience so far, on the X livestream. TLDR: There are still some kinks to work out, but his implant allows him to play video games using only his mind.

🤖 Fives Alive? Even OpenAI’s CEO Sam Altman thinks ChatGPT-4 “kind of sucks”. So it’s good to know that a GPT-5 launch is imminent (we’re talking mid-2024), and that by some accounts it’s expected to be “materially better” than earlier versions of ChatGPT.

🥸 Scamming Loyalty. Discovery has raised the alarm on a new spin on an old scam. First, it was the “Banks”, then the “Post Office”, and now scammers are leveraging the popularity of loyalty programmes in SA to dupe unsuspecting victims to enter important info into fake websites in the hope of cashing in on a freebie.

🩳 So Nice They Listed it Twice. Pepkor Holdings has been approved for a secondary listing on A2X Markets, and joins other JSE-listed companies like Discovery, Investec, Mr Price, Naspers, Nedbank, and Pick n Pay from the 2nd of April 2024.

🏦 SA Startup Exit. Cloud banking SaaS platform nCino is acquiring DocFox, a South African startup that automates onboarding experiences for commercial and business banking in South Africa and beyond.


How to Build an ESG Startup in Africa

If you were intrigued by our focus on the R7.4bn carbon credits market the other day, then this week’s How Would You Build It podcast is for you. We spoke with Camille O'Sullivan, founder of carbon footprint and trading platform, Tweak.

And she has some seriously cool insights into what it actually takes to build a successful ESG company from SA.

Catch the highlights

1. ESG is a two-way game: change + awareness

While Tweak has a very cool approach – giving the average person access to the carbon trading space – Camille notes here that one of the early lessons they had is that, while ESG is all about changing behaviour, most people don’t want to change.

So, SA’s recent loadshedding and up-and-down economy was a bit of a blessing in disguise. It heightened people’s awareness, which allowed Tweak to come in with a cost-saving angle – lowering your footprint now gives you a cash incentive, driving accelerated adoption.

2. It pays to monetise behavioural change

A key concept, as Camille mentions here is putting real and visible rewards behind the programme. Tweak, for example, functions on the fact that carbon credits are tradeable.

Carbon offset projects actually sell carbon credits to companies, generating revenue. And by taking that mechanic and giving it to Joe Soap, everyone can now actually earn money for going solar, minimising their footprint, etc. Keep doing it, keep earning – driving retention.

3. No problem is too small to solve

One of the main criticisms against sort of “green” initiatives, is that Africa and South Africa have so many seemingly bigger problems to deal with.

But as the team notes here, that’s not always the case. If your product actually enables people to save money, that’s a big and valuable solution. It then becomes not so much about the core space your ESG is looking to impact (in Tweak’s case, it’s the environment), but from a user perspective, it’s about the reward – a powerful way to drive engagement.

You can also grab the Spotify and Apple Podcast links on our website here.


We asked what feature you want on your payslip, and some extra tax savviness would go a long way, employers…

🟨⬜️⬜️⬜️⬜️⬜️ 💵 Advance on my salary (8%)

🟩🟩🟩🟩🟩🟩 ⚖️ Pay less tax (50%)

🟨⬜️⬜️⬜️⬜️⬜️ 🤳 Get it on WhatsApp (16%)

⬜️⬜️⬜️⬜️⬜️⬜️ 🤖 Store in the vault for easy KYC and loan applications (6%)

🟨🟨⬜️⬜️⬜️⬜️ 🤪 Casino-style spin-and-win salary doublers (20%)

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