Founders Spotlight: Onalethata Tautona (Founder, UniPay)

After winning P500,000 in the Business Den 2.0 competition, Onalethata plans to scale UniPay, a startup providing payment solutions for the public transport industry, into a game-changing entity. A finance professional. by academic background, he used his combination of finance and passion for tech to build fintech products, UniPay being his third attempt.

In this interview, he takes us through his early days in the startup scene, his vision for UniPay, his thoughts on the state of fintech in Botswana and much more!

Please share your background in tech

My journey in tech spans about two decades. Early interactions began when I was just 10 years old, selling prepaid services to low and medium-income groups at my family’s tuck shop. During that time, I witnessed how technology had the power to transform people's lives. When I started university a few years later and could finally afford my first laptop, I began learning how to develop software on my own.

It wasn't an easy journey as I was enrolled in a Finance degree so juggling computing and the finance degree workload was strenuous. So much so that my grades started to suffer. However, I had a passion for computing and a hunch that one day the field would grow significantly in Africa. I persevered, often sneaking into computer science classes to learn as much as I could.

After graduating with my Finance degree, I began to specialize in fintech and started my first startup called GoCash which was a mobile money platform. Unfortunately, due to stiff competition from telecoms in Botswana, low demand, and the inability to secure funding, it ultimately failed. Nevertheless, I carried the lessons learned forward.

I then decided to start building UniPost, which aims to help micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) leverage social commerce by providing tools to facilitate payments and seamless delivery across the continent. Additionally, I founded UniPay, a fintech company that addresses challenges in the logistics sector, whether it involves the movement of people or goods.

I am well-versed in backend development, front-end development, and all that comes with it, such as APIs, mobile applications, chatbots, and more.

What is the problem UniPay is trying to solve with its product offering

As I mentioned earlier, UniPay is a fintech company focused on addressing challenges in the logistics sector, including those related to the movement of people. One day, while sitting with some friends of mine who happen to be minibus (combi) drivers, they asked me if I could develop a solution for the issues currently plaguing their operations.

Firstly, they face liquidity problems during the day, which often lead to altercations with commuters, delays, and revenue loss, as they are sometimes forced to waive the fare for passengers. Secondly, due to the handling of cash, there have been numerous instances of their daily earnings being stolen. This has led them to reduce operating hours, especially at night, leaving commuters stranded.

Thirdly, they cannot maintain a record of the transactions they make, making it difficult for them to provide financial institutions with financial records as proof of income. Consequently, they are excluded from certain financial services.

Lastly, their association has goals, such as establishing a fund. However, they struggle to coordinate themselves to consistently contribute to the fund. Therefore, they need a solution that can collect a portion of their daily earnings to build and maintain that fund.

How does the product work?

To address these challenges, we developed a product that equips them with a card reader that connects to their smartphones. Commuters, on the other hand, can purchase a prepaid card for P10.00 at one of our kiosks, which we plan to set up at the Gaborone Bus Rank, Gaborone Station, or BBS Mall Rank. They can load the card with funds using cash, mobile money, or a bank account. Customers can then simply tap to make a payment instead of using cash.

This eliminates liquidity problems, reduces the risk of cash theft, creates a record of transactions, and helps them build their fund by deducting an agreed-upon amount into the association's pool.

Link to seeing UniPay in action:

How do products like yours contribute towards financial inclusivity in Botswana?

Specialized products like UniPay solve problems that other players in the market currently cannot address. By providing customized solutions, combi and taxi drivers can now provide financial institutions with proof of income and build a fund that can help them establish burial societies and access better healthcare through medical aid schemes.

What challenges have you had in scaling the product?

We are currently in the pre-launch phase, testing our product in combis and also establishing key partnerships with filling stations, mobile money providers, banks, etc.

How have you been addressing those challenges?

Developing such a solution comes with substantial costs. Fortunately, we were able to win the Business Den 2.0 competition by BDC and have received a capital injection of P500,000.00. We are using these funds to acquire the necessary equipment, hire key personnel, pay for cloud services, and marketing.

What’s your vision for UniPay in the next 2-5 years?

Our vision is to scale both horizontally and vertically. Horizontally, we aim to expand our public transport payment offering beyond Greater Gaborone to the rest of the country and potentially to other countries with similar public transport systems in the SADC region. Vertically, we plan to enter new industries, such as providing fuel management systems for B2B clients.

What do you think is the future of fintech in Botswana?

The future of fintech in Botswana relies on using Botswana as a microcosm for growth in the SADC region and eventually expanding to the rest of Africa. However, achieving this will require significant support in terms of collaboration, funding, and favourable legislation.

What advice do you have for tech entrepreneurs in Botswana?

In the tech startup scene, Botswana may seem small compared to countries like Nigeria, Kenya, Egypt, and South Africa. However, we must not be discouraged by this and should focus on building solutions with the potential to expand beyond our borders. Let's work towards making Botswana known not only for its beef and diamonds but also for its technological innovations.

Please share your contacts for readers interested in getting in touch

You can reach me at

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