South African-based HR and communications technology startup SmartWage has raised a $2 million seed funding round to support its vision of transforming the continent’s workforce through digital inclusion, particularly for frontline employees.

The funding comes from investors including LoftyInc Capital Management, Creator Collective Capital, and Penrose Capital, along with angels from Naspers, Dimension Data, Investec, and Standard Bank

Founded in 2019, SmartWage allowed other companies to provide their employees with instant access to a percentage of their salaries and wages for work they have already done.

The startup has since expanded to giving enterprises a simple yet effective way to digitize their most time-consuming HR processes, helping them save time and money in order to focus on service.

The product gives employees without emails the ability to receive company-wide communication, access their payslips, request leave and get access to financial wellness products, all via WhatsApp.

SmartWage plans to deploy the capital to expand its product and technology team and double down on solving employers’ biggest problems.

“Payslips and leaves are still done manually with paper printouts, while employee communication is done using notice boards or apps, which have huge usage drop-offs. Onboarding and disciplinary procedures are still paper-based, costing businesses precious time, money, and resources,” Co-founder Simon Ellis said.

“We have learned through our process that employees need access to cash more than ever before. Eighty percent of South Africans struggle to make it to the end of the month without relying on some form of short-term debt, and the payday loan industry is booming,” said Ellis.

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“If we can save employers time and money through digitization, we can bridge the gap between South African enterprises and their frontline employees, helping enterprises connect clearly and dynamically with their employees, whilst offering financial wellness tools at the same time. By offering tools that benefit both employers and employees, we have a powerful value proposition.”

Idris Bello, a founding partner of LoftyInc Capital Management, said he was excited by the scalability of the SmartWage product set and the impact it could have, in both Africa and beyond the continent.

“The team at SmartWage are innovators – they’re building more than just an earned wage access product, and have recognized that in order to make a tangible impact on employers, they need to build a powerful way for employers to engage with their workforce. We are excited to partner with Simon, Caroline, and the powerful team they’ve assembled to support SmartWage’s mission to drive digital inclusion across Africa,” he said.

SmartWage clients include companies that employ frontline employees, typically in retail, quick-service restaurants (QSR), manufacturing, construction, and hospitality. It has grown its monthly active user base 14x in the past 12 months, and now works with brands such as Edgars, KFC, Debonairs, Seattle Coffee, Truda and Twizza

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Nigel Jr.
As a tech enthusiast and expert, Nigel Jr. is dedicated to providing in-depth and insightful content on all things technology. With a background in online journalism, product reviewing, and tech creation, Nigel has become a trusted source for all things tech.

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