French tech companies eye Kenyan market, announce joint entry

They target to integrate their solutions to help businesses and individuals with easy identification

In Summary

• Eyeing the Kenyan market, Famoco and Evolis target to help businesses reach people at the grassroots by providing local firms with market-ready mobile identification devices that can be integrated into different sectors.

Famoco project director Ismail Sabry showing French ambassador to Kenya and Somalia, Arnaud Suquet how a Famoco device operates
Famoco project director Ismail Sabry showing French ambassador to Kenya and Somalia, Arnaud Suquet how a Famoco device operates

French tech companies, Evolis and Famoco have partnered to boost Kenyan startups and businesses.

They target to help them reach people at the grassroots by providing local firms with market-ready mobile identification devices that can be integrated into different sectors.

This follows their earlier announcement of a strategic partnership that seeks to develop an innovative on-site enrolment and instant card printing solution with an aim to facilitate people’s identification in emerging African markets.

Famoco is a company that provides a mobile solution based on an Android terminal that aims to be safe, secure and ethical while Evolis offers personalization solutions and card printing systems.

Evolis EMEA sales director Christophe Lebrun said that thanks to the recent ID4A (Identification For Africa) event that took place in Nairobi, local companies have started expressing interest in using their solutions.

He noted that Evolis and Famoco have been working together for over one year and that this gave them an opportunity to train local partners to use their solutions and customize them to serve local needs.

“This is in the very early stage for us here in Kenya. We rely on occasions like the ID4A event to help gain access to such market,” Lebrun said.

“Identity is extremely important for people to be able to do pretty much anything that they do in their day-to-day lives. We are hopeful that through this partnership with Famoco, we will be able to come in and help Kenyan businesses grow by integrating with them."

Famoco Chief Commercial Officer Benoit Ravier said they developed their solution with a focus on being secure meaning that at some point the client is the sole proprietor of their own data.

“When using the normal Android terminal, all the metadata gets sent to the US. With our solution, we don’t want that. What we did is we took Android and secured it by removing all the Google services and made it safe, secure and ethical,” Ravier said.

In Africa, Ravier added that they are currently working with a number of companies that use their solution for KYC (Know Your Customer) validation.

Some of them include Vodacom, Tigo in Tanzania as well as Safaricom in Kenya.

“We have some terminals that are used by Safaricom to do KYC for its customers. They are used to take pictures of customers' ID cards before issuing of sim cards,” he said.

"Our devices are of no street value because they are secure hence no information can be installed on the solution."

Ravier noted that they do not offer a finished product.

“Without local startups or partners that are going to build their applications on our terminal, the product becomes useless,” he said.

“Digitization is a way to help people to grow and we want to help local startups build their businesses. We simplify by delivering the tool that is ready for any market.”


Fintech company, Terra, has been a long-term beneficiary of Famoco devices.

The company has created a platform that enables businesses and developers to easily create, manage and deploy digital wallets.

Terra Softworks co-founder and CEO Collins Muriuki said that having been in the market for 10 years, the company only started focusing on digital wallets last year.

“We figured out that in every transaction done digitally, there is a wallet behind it and the card as well as the infrastructure is connected to a wallet payment. We then stopped doing custom solutions for big organisations because we noticed a gap,” Muriuki said.

“We found out there is a need for digital wallets for a lot of startups that are coming up. We told them that they do not need to build the whole infrastructure. We can give the infrastructure and they can build any sort of solution or service you want on top of it.”

Muriuki added that by using a Famoco device, they have had a number of successful use cases within the country.

“A lot of our customers always have an end user and a merchant. One success story is in the school feeding program that is in partnership with Food For Education,” he said.

The two managed to create a school feeding program that is spread across six counties with about 250,000 children benefiting every day.

The children wear smart bracelets containing chips in them, which they tap on the Famoco devices and are able to collect Sh 15 for lunch every day.

“Using Mpesa, parents load money on the wristbands that have the child’s information and hence the money goes to one specific account,” Muriuki said.

“It is possible to map multiple accounts onto one bracelet because typically a parent will have more than one child. They are also able to check the balance on their phones once the money has been loaded to the bracelet.”

Muriuki explained that the device identifies the child’s bracelet, curates and securely processes the transaction and submits it to Terra.

“If you look at it, these are wallets that parents have access to and are able to load money into the wallets, while kids have access to them and get to enjoy hot lunch every day,” he added.

“We built the solution for Food For Education and we are happy it has taken off.”

Terra also has a B2B model that targets businesses.

Muriuki said that they have built wallets for KTDA farmers where they manage them and they get a smartcard.

“If they deliver tea before waiting for the 30-day cycle to get paid, they can, for example, use that card to access inputs from an agro vet,” he said.

They are also currently supporting a startup known as Zeraki that offers analytics for secondary schools.

At the moment, they are trying to figure out how they can set up a pocket money system for high schoolers.

“Zeraki has 3500 schools in Kenya and we want to embed ourselves with them. We are working on a pilot right now where they will be able to use our technology and deploy it to their reach of schools,” Muriuki added.

He, however, said that they prefer using Famoco devices to other solutions.

“There is something known as the end of life. We have tried so many devices and something that we have noticed is that there are security and support issues,” he said.

“If you get any regular device after two or three years, chances are it will be out of production. If you deploy 1000 devices in 500 schools, in six months or three years, you might need to replace a charger or screen and they are no longer in circulation.”

“We have used the Famoco devices for three years now and whenever we need batteries or screens, they deliver. The devices last longer than other commercial ones.”

Muriuki also said that they prefer Famoco gadgets as they also don’t have street value.

“With those devices, no one would want to steal them because it is impossible to download things on them,” he added.

“Other solutions it is very easy to crack and hack the software in order to install what you want but Famoco devices are meant for business hence tough to hack as we have made them secure.”

He said that they have deployed the devices in Kiambu, Kisumu, Mombasa and Nairobi and sometimes their agents have to walk through unsafe routes to get home.

“In case one of our agents is attacked, when someone sees a Famoco and wants to steal it, they don’t want it anymore because it is impossible to put a sim card in it, call or even text with it. If it is taken, we can track it,” Muriuki said.

“We tried smartphones with KTDA and we lost a lot of devices in the field hence why we stuck with Famoco.”

He added that the cost of the device is good as well as the consistency in production and distribution.

“We got free Famocos that we used to test drive with when we did our pilots because customers wanted devices that were working. With commercial phones, I had to pay for them upfront.”

Going forward, Muriuki said that Terra is looking to onboard Evolis and work with both French companies to look for ways to scale up their software.

“It is clear that they don’t do the software stuff at the local market but they have access to the big forums and that is where we can scale. The relationship is symbiotic, they grow, we grow,” he noted.

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