Stax Is Leveling the Playing Field Between Ussd and Bank Apps


Stax is a startup that takes banking with Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD) to an offline mobile application.

Global System for Mobile Communications Association (GSMA), says mobile money transaction in sub-Saharan Africa is through USSD.

According to a 2018 Quartz Africa article, the document had a protocol designed to facilitate communication between telcos and their subscribers.

However, telcos needed a protocol and initiated machine-to-machine communication where the subscriber’s mobile phone would simply query the network and get a response instantly. 

Interestingly, the USSD protocol has not had any major upgrade since its introduction.

Stax’s goal is to harmonize USSDs and make them simpler to use.

It is doing this with a USSD app that automates transactions and saves you the hassle of remembering codes.

USSD will be better with smartphones says Stax Co-founder and CEO, Ben Lyon.

READ: DevCenter Innovation Builds Scalable Technology Solutions

According to Lyon, the best part of USSD is that it works offline; its bad part, however, is that it has an awful user experience. 

USSD works with a smartphone or basic feature phone’s dialler. For example, to complete a bank transaction, you dial the bank’s USSD code and follow the instructions in the pop-up’s interactive menus.

These menus are timed, so inputting data such as an account number or personal identification number (PIN) has to be done swiftly, or you’ll get an error message and start again. 

There has never been significant innovation around USSD because the Internet took its place in developed nations. A high level of Internet penetration and the rapid development of smartphones and computers made USSD redundant. 

Internet penetration in Africa, on the other hand, is slow. In 2000, Internet penetration among adults in the US was 52%, significantly higher than Africa’s 0.5%

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