Aza: how we renamed sub-Saharan giant BitPesa

April 16, 2020
Wunderdogs

Brand naming for Africa’s largest non-bank currency provider 

The opportunity to work on brand naming for BitPesa – one of the strongest facilitators of the flow of currency in and out of Africa – was a dream come true: a unique challenge with a far-reaching impact on the continent. Our local research uncovered fascinating insights about a truly complex market and let us create a pan-African sounding name that acted as a catalyst for the company’s growth. Let us tell you about Aza.

The Challenge

African markets have huge untapped potential for international businesses, banks, money transfer operators and fintech companies. Yet few of these entities have direct access to these largely fragmented frontier markets, with no direct corridors available between frontier currencies. 

BitPesa is an international fintech company with a strong African heritage. Founded in 2013 in Nairobi, Kenya, the company made facilitating the flow of currency into Africa its mission from the outset. Simply put, BitPesa helps foreign businesses transfer money into Africa: and African businesses transfer money out of the continent, bypassing the intermediary currency: the US dollar. This makes transferring money in and out of Africa reliable, cost-effective, and fast.

In 2019 Bitpesa was on the cusp of expansion: however their existing identity was a major barrier to growth. A name and identity that conveyed Blockchain exclusivity was restricting the Fintech’s ability to promote their non-crypto offerings. In struggling to reach new clients across Africa revenue opportunities were being missed.  

Our brief was to reimagine the brand by stepping away from the overhyped world of crypto. The architecture, positioning, brand name and identity were revisited with the company’s mission front and centre: providing access to and accelerating growth in the frontier markets.

As a local and global enterprise the question was: how do you create a brand that honours it’s sub-saharan roots, appeals to all countries in the continent and resonates with global clients and investors?

Our Approach

When rebranding a successful sub-Saharan fintech there is significant variety in the stakeholders to be considered. 

As a global business with roots in Africa BitPesa is deeply committed to elevating and enhancing the geographies in which it operates. With a policy for hiring locals over expats and the majority of business done within the continent it was important the new identity was adopted by employees, understood by partners and appreciated by customers across Africa. Offices in London, Spain and Luxembourg follow the same hiring policy and Elizabeth Rossiello (CEO) was equally conscious of the new brand not feeling alien to those outside the continent. With this in mind the identity also had to be geographically agnostic.

An agnostic brand was just as important in attracting a third set of stakeholders: global investors and partners. The potential for frontier markets is slowly being realized, however the uncomfortable truth is many are still wary of investing in Africa purely due to misinformation or preconceived ideas. 

Africa is becoming a continent of digital natives due to the wide-reaching impact technology is and will continue to have. We wanted to create a brand name and identity that reflected and celebrated this reality, enticing those in Europe and the US to realise and leverage potential within the region.

Research

For our brand naming exercise, we began by looking for a common thread to form the basis of our strategic platform. What could we identify as a key theme between business, product and audience? Following extensive research in Lagos, San Francisco and London we arrived at growth as the common denominator. 

From here a single mother-brand emerged acting as an ecosystem within which individual services are separated by function but linked through values and goals.

Brand naming exercise

Following multiple workshops and semantic exploration we arrived at a name for the new mother brand: Aza, confirming its suitability by testing with employees across multiple regions before signing off.

Aza was selected as an embodiment of the business and the continent in which it is based. Aza is a female name used across Africa. A subtle yet powerful nod to the leadership team within the business and the matriarchal power structures of Africa. It’s meaning varies across languages, yet from Yoruba to Swahili it represents power, strength and honesty. Moreover, in Yoruba, Aza can be interpreted as  “the answer”.

The length and lettering of the name allow it to be easily pronounced across the world. The A-Z-A structure is a representation of the variety and depth of services the business offers, they literally and metaphorically go from A to Z and back again. The simple structure and pronunciation allow the business to easily expand into new markets (such as Asia) without having to localize the brand.

When the brand naming was signed off, Aza’s visual identity, like the name, was designed to become a proud symbol of the continent. 

The Outcome

Armed with an updated brand architecture, strategic and visual tool kit BitPesa evolved into Aza, successfully securing $15M from Development Bank of Southern Africa to aid its global expansion.

Portfolio view: Brand Name, Brand Architecture and Visual Identity for Aza

“Wunderdogs not only delivered great results but were super responsive and excellent to work with. We have a very unique product offering in an even more unique market and Wunderdogs really put in the time and effort to understand that. Great experience!”

– Elizabeth Rossiello, CEO, Aza
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