Interview with Apptivate Africa CEO, Neil Ribeiro

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Apptivate Africa, formerly known as Sodexo Kenya, an offshoot of Europe’s transformative digital lunch scheme provider, is looking to sign in more companies across Africa. The move follows a successful two-year test run in Kenya. The company is now riding on a growing demand for the scheme by local firms seeking to improve their overall business productivity by boosting staff morale and productivity.

Neil Ribeiro, Apptivate Africa’s Chief Executive Officer explains how the company has managed to sign in close to 100 companies, with over 3,000 employees now enjoying their lunches through the firm’s first product, M-Kula.

What is Apptivate Africa? 

Apptivate Africa is a young and innovative company that is disrupting the way that employers motivate their employees in Kenya, and eventually across Sub Saharan Africa.  We recently won the i-Hub Africa Innovation Award for creating a solution to solve corporate (productivity / motivation) and social (hunger) problems.

Why did you choose to set up Apptivate’s East Africa’s headquarters in Kenya?

Our solutions are all on the mobile phone and can be accessed via an app or USSD.  Incidentally, that is where the “App” in our name comes from.  We chose the country that had the highest level of adoption of mobile phone solutions to allow us to penetrate easily.  Additionally, unlike in other countries, the Kenyan income tax act allows for employees to get upto Ksh 48,000 in meals tax free.  Our M-Kula solution allows employers to motivate their teams with food in an easy, efficient and transparent way.

What are some of the challenges that the organisation has faced since its inception?

Kenyan employers have, in the past, assumed that a pay cheque is enough to get an employee to show up to work and be motivated.  Some employers still think this is enough and do not want to provide their employees with any other benefits.  It is when these employers, who are reluctant to change, lose good employees that they realize that they need to do more.  Feeding employees is one way that you can motivate them daily with a fundamental need.  Employees who are fed more productive, meet their goals more often, and more likely to help their colleagues.

What are some of the milestones / achievements that Apptivate Africa has had since it began?

We launched our first product, M-Kula in October 2016, and got our first client in the very next month.  Within a year we were providing lunch to 1000 Kenyans through M-Kula. Today we have almost 100 clients and are providing lunch to 4000 Kenyans through our solution.

What are Apptivate Africa’s plans for the near or distant future?

Whilst we continue to provide solutions for employers to motivate their teams, we are also working towards providing solutions to the consumer directly.  For the employer we are working on ways to help them be more efficient in fleet expense management and travel and entertainment expense management.  On the consumer side we will soon allow consumers who do not get fed by their employer to access the special offers which we offer to those employees whose lunch is paid for by their employers.  Today M-Tuza, our multi-store gift wallet is only being used by employers to gift or reward their employees and clients.   We will soon allow consumers to buy gifts for their friends on our M-Tuza platform.

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