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“At 23:56 on 23rd October 1963, Zambians rose in reverence of the Union Jack, the de facto national flag of the United Kingdom, for the last time as it lowered, signifying the end of British rule in Zambia.”

― Precious Mwansa-Chisa

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Zazu and the Man Behind It Simplifying Money

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What first comes to mind when you hear the word Zazu? I bet it is the colorful chirpy bird from the classic 90s animated film, The Lion King. No one would blame you if that was the case. After all, Zazu captivated audiences both young and old with his wit, his humour and ability to stay ahead of the young protagonist Simba and his antics. But what really should come to your mind if you are in Zambia is an innovative Zambian app.

Zazu’s mission is to make money simple and at a time when money is fast becoming a scarce resource, this mission appeals to many. The mobile app is well on its way to becoming essential for the young, tech savvy and cost-conscious Zambian. It provides an answer to the question “Where does all my money go?” by automatically tracking expenses and categorising them in groups for easier and more informed personal financial management.

To add to this, Zazu is also playing on the cutting edge of the ever-evolving digital payments field by allowing users to pay bills, send money and transact online safely using a virtual card issued in partnership with Mastercard.

And the innovation doesn’t stop there. Zazu recently launched a physical debit card called the Zazucard which can be used to transact at any point of sale (POS) terminal and to make withdrawals at any Mastercard enabled ATMs globally. These additions by the start-up position it to lead the field in the developing financial technology (Fintech) industry in Zambia.

Zazu is the brainchild of Perseus Mlambo, a Forbes Africa 30 Under 30 class of 2018 member. Although he spent much of his formative years outside Zambia, he was always aware of the changes and developments that were taking place back home and across the continent. After completing his law degree at Nottingham Law School, Perseus very quickly landed a lucrative job at the age of 24 with the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland. The work was rewarding, purposeful and most importantly for Perseus’ future role with Zazu, it was also impactful. It gave a glimpse into what could be accomplished when people come together and commit resources to solving real world problems.

After his time at the United Nations came to an end, like many young men at that age, Perseus was left wondering what to do next and he decided to return home to Africa. Perseus spent some time in Zimbabwe where he partnered up with friends to create an SMS platform that worked with smallholder farmers to create a market for their produce. While their product was good and results were tangible, the environment in Zimbabwe proved challenging for the young and eager entrepreneurs to really make their mark. So Perseus packed his bags and made the short trip to Lusaka.

According to Perseus, finance is nothing but people and computers. And that is exactly what he assembled at Zazu. Before the mobile app was fully developed, Zazu started as an SMS chatbot platform called 619 that taught people about basic finance topics such as insurance, mobile money, savings, transfers and investing. The platform was founded on one question – How can people get money, keep it and look after their own interests? And that is the question that Zazu continues to find answers to with the constant product innovation and an intense customer focus.

Zazu is unique because it solves a current and historical problem in the Zambian banking space. The historical problem was that banking was not always fit for purpose. The excessive fees and the complicated on-boarding requirements combined with the eroding economic climate make traditional banking a tough proposition to sell to the everyday consumer. Perseus and Zazu realised that consumers needed one thing when it came to how they manage their money. That thing was transparency.

And with transparency comes power. Power to make decisions and to plan in the face of an uncertain future. Zazu users have full access to pricing on the app, there are no hidden fees and many of the functions that banks charge their customers for are free on the app. Zazu customers are more informed, more empowered and better positioned to create wealth for themselves. In other words, Zazu customers have power in their hands.

Even with all these advantages over traditional banks, Perseus will be the first to tell you that Zazu is not against traditional commercial banking but simply offers an alternative to customers that keeps pace with changing money habits and evolving technology. And technology is exactly what Zazu is counting on to bring future ambitions to fruition.

Behind the mobile app is a company called Zazu Africa Limited, aptly named because of the vision that Perseus sees for Zazu going forward. The company has plans to take on not only the Zambian market but also the African continent and soon enough the world. By March of 2021, Africans anywhere in the world will be able to get a Zazucard and experience their money in a new way and perhaps a simpler way than normal.

Zazu has evolved from simply being a mobile wallet to becoming a lifestyle companion. It has given people equity and ownership of their financial futures and created a new generation of personal money managers. Zambians are using Zazu to plan for the lives they always wanted and now can have by making the right choices with their money today. Zazu customers are planning for further education, travel, health and their businesses. They are now smarter because they have information that they did not have before, but should have had all along. And all this information has finally made money simple.

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