Oratile Seabela is the founder and CEO of MALII Fintech. This tech platform aims to solve the cash payment system, lack of public transport integration, financial exclusion, and inefficiencies in the minibus taxi industry.
MALII is an app that enables taxi commuters to make payments without using cash. Commuters upload funds for the month in the MALII wallet, using their bank card or top up at the nearest spaza shop. They then find a QR code sticker positioned on the taxi window and can scan the QR code with their smartphone.
The idea for MALII came to Oratile in 2017 while she was taking a taxi. “During my daily commute I questioned why travellers still pay for transport in cash and how their travel experience could be improved?”
These questions led to Oratile engaging with taxi owners, drivers and commuters, to establish whether or not this was a genuine concern. “It turned out that all stakeholders had challenges with cash transactions and I was inspired to find a solution,” explains Oratile.
Oratile believes in creating value for the taxi industry through inclusive innovation. “The greater purpose of MALII is to steer economic revival in townships and improve the quality of life for those working in the informal sector,” she says. “This can be achieved by making the benefits of financial inclusion accessible to township residents and people living in rural areas.”
Like any other entrepreneurial journey, Oratile has faced challenges. One of these has been her ability to raise funds due to the negative perceptions that investors had towards the taxi industry.
“Investors are wary of interacting with taxi owners and drivers,” she explains. “After my interactions with the industry players, I realised that they are extremely business savvy. They are people who are earning an honest living and providing for their families. If you add value and your proposal makes financial sense, they are keen to do business with you.”
In 2020 Oratile entered the SAB Foundation Social Innovation and Disability Empowerment Awards and this is where things really turned around for her business. The R200 000 in grant funding awarded to her at the awards was used to cover legal and operating expenses.
Currently Oratile is preparing to pilot the app with stakeholders in Gauteng. As this is a financial technology app there is a lot of red tape with regards to the regulations and partnering with a banking institution. Her goal is to scale her business across each of the nine provinces over the next three years.
It is no secret that both the fintech and the transport industry are male-dominated. “Some people will have concerns that I am young or a woman,” she says. “But, potential clients know that I am able to show value in the service that I’m offering and that my idea makes financial sense. It is important to acknowledge that women are an extremely valuable resource. We possess so much potential in that we have the ability to multitask and are terrific managers in a business environment.”
“Women lead with passion and grace. This Women’s Month I celebrate all the beautiful, strong and resilient women of South Africa,” concludes Oratile.