Andrew Takyi-Appiah: Africa’s Mobile Payments Evangelist

Growing up, Andrew Takyi Appiah did everything to avoid the destinies that were being articulated for him.

He loved building things with Lego bricks so much that him mother wanted him – her only son, and the last of six children – to become an engineer. She would occasionally sneak into his school to ensure that he was attending the Science class.

But the young Takyi-Appiah made it a point never to study Science, “To be perfectly honest with you, I don’t think I ever entered a Physics, Chemistry, or Biology class”.

And so he ensured that he would not be able to study Science.

Goodbye Engineer! His dedication had paid off.

Expectations were even higher for him to follow in his father’s footsteps. Senior Takyi- Appiah was a banker and had one time been the Minister of Finance. When it was decided for him that he would go to St Augustine’s College because his dad had been there too, he decided that he wasn’t going to be a banker.

Mr Takyi-Appiah earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Brand Management at the University of Hull before moving to the United States for a Master’s Degree in Brand Management at the University of California, Los Angeles.

After his Masters in 2006, he came back home to work for the Nestle Ghana Limited.

He thought he had succeeded in charting his own path and purpose.

But the game was rigged!

Fate always finds a way

While the Brand Manager for Coffee and Confectionery at Nestle Ghana, Takyi-Appiah contacted Dolapo Ogundimu, then the Managing Director of GT Bank and proposed that both brands could benefit from their common client base if they worked together.

They had a good meeting, but instead of a deal, Takyi-Appiah got what he least expected; an invitation into the world of banking.

For someone who had stubbornly decided to never become a banker and had succeeded on that path up to that point, such an invitation seemed ludicrous.

He wasn’t going back to school to study all that banking in order to catch-up.

“I said never! I won’t work for him.”

Only five short months later, Nestle Ghana would undergo some changes which Takyi-Appiah just didn’t see himself a part of.

He had to get a new job. So he accepted his destiny. “I called him and said, you know what, I’ll take you up on your offer.”

At age 27, Takyi-Appiah took his first banking job as the Head of Retail at GT Bank. Thankfully, his Marketing and Business Development background helped him fit in perfectly.

Six months into the job he was reassigned. They needed his talents elsewhere – in Corporate Banking.

They made him Head of the Manufacturing Unit in corporate banking.

This was the seat of the big ticket transactions and a much bigger challenge than he anticipated.

When he promised to bring in $20,000.00 in transfers for the week at his first managers’ weekly meeting, the MD cut in
and said, “What I want to be hearing from you is $200,000 – $1 million. Bottom Line. If youcan’t do it, get out of the
room.”

Now getting a sense of the new challenge, he sat quiet and said a prayer.

And fate smiled on him. But success didn’t come easy. He worked hard and asked clients for referrals when they
expressed appreciation for his work.

Nights were for networking, days for transactions and book building.

There was no slacking. He found his father’s old acquaintances and colleagues who held his hand and guided him to rich
pickings.

The flood gates opened. Together with his team, he worked very hard to take the visa facilitator service from Ecobank.

The retail industry marvelled, GT Bank became one of the crown jewels.

And when Ecobank needed someone to head the Transactions Unit of their East Africa Corridor, they poached him.

Takyi-Appiah has since turned up at various places including UT Bank and PricewaterhouseCoopers, developing markets and doing work in businesstransformation.

Starting Zeepay

While on a deal-closing trip to South Africa in 2008 with a colleague, Julius Robertson, the idea of a payment system that is independent of the mobile network operators came up.

They called up their people to ask them questions that would help them solve this problem.

They developed a blueprint, calling it playing an agnostic game.

The dream was possible, but implementation costs proved prohibitive.

As a man who embraced challenges, Takyi-Appiah kept gnawing at the problem until it all came together in 2015 when investors came on board and provided the needed capital injection.

On May 4th 2016, he launched Zeepay and hasn’t looked back since.

Today, Takyi-Appiah’s Zeepay is the only agnostic payment service provider in Africa that facilitates mobile payment transactions with its ‘tap n pay’ technology, and channels remittances into mobile wallets.

The big goal is to handle $4 billion in remittances over the next two years.

Very passionate about improving financial inclusion and mobile money usage in Ghana, Takyi- Appiah is now something of an evangelist, taking his vast experience and expertise in banking and mobile payments to the world, preaching his ideas and strategies at various international forums.

Zeepay and Takyi- Appiah’s growing list of acclaim include the 1776 Africa Champions for Tech in 2015, the Young Gun of the Year Award at the 2016 West Africa Mobile Awards, the 1776 Challenge Cup Accra in 2015, the Public Choice Best Start -up of the year, and the New Entrant Award for Best Mobile Money.

“I believe one thing. I believe leaders are born, and I believe that entrepreneurs are born. I believe Mark Zuckerberg was destined to become what he became.Time and chance might have played a part of it, but that was destiny. That’s a belief system I have, and I will die with that”

He would know. He is living proof of that belief system.

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