A collection of Futuregrowth thought leadership pieces, media articles and interviews.

COVID-19 risks to new ventures are real - but Yoco has stepped up to the plate with an innovative response to the lockdown

08 Jul 2020

We're in this together

Futuregrowth was the first South African institutional investor in the innovative FinTech enterprise Yoco, via the Futuregrowth Development Equity Fund.

We’re in this together.
Extraordinary times require an extraordinary response. Our people and partners have responded by dedicating time and resources to various initiatives. This is how our investee company Yoco has stepped up for small enterprise visibility during the COVID-19 crisis.

Yoco was launched in 2015, to enable small businesses to accept card payments – something many were unable to do or afford before then. This was a game changer in the SMME sector at the time. And, with the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic, Yoco has demonstrated once again its knack for recognising the needs of its clients and responding with ingenuity.

The Small Business Recovery Monitor

Making sound decisions has never been more important, but a lack of data in these unprecedented times makes this task particularly challenging. In its early responses to the pandemic, Yoco turned to its team of data analysts to help plot a way forward for the company and its customers. They watched as the small business community and market struggled through a sea of information, misinformation and anecdotal evidence. In the scramble for data one critical factor emerged: there were no easily accessible data sources to tell the story of small business in South Africa.

It was against this backdrop that the Yoco Small Business Recovery Monitor was born - the first-of-a-kind real-time look into the small enterprise landscape. Although the monitor shows only Yoco merchants’ trading activity, with around 80 000 traders on its platform, this is a useful sample of the broader population of small to micro enterprises. Data is a vital component – not only in the ability of small businesses to rise up and meet the pandemic – but also in their day-to-day actions and planning, and in their ability to predict the needs of the market – timeously.

Yoco co-founder and chief executive, Katlego Maphai, sums up the purpose of the monitor: “The national lockdown has been fiercely difficult for every single person in South Africa. Not simply for its economic devastation but for the immense loss each person feels in not being able to experience the things that bring them joy, or comfort. When you ask yourself what you miss most about the world as it was before COVID-19, the answers are often connected to small businesses.

“The Small Business Recovery Monitor is a vital step towards bringing these businesses into the spotlight. As we watch them recover and restart, we can use the data to clear the pathway for them. We can more aptly tell their stories, and champion their needs. For small business owners, the Recovery Monitor is also a window into the industry. To shift perspective you need the right lens, and perhaps through a lens of data we can cut through the noise and find not only insight, but innovation.”  

Using data for SME recovery

In partnership with IOL, the index is updated daily with the latest information from more than 80 000 Yoco merchants, relating to their turnover by province and industry.

Midway through the Level 5 national lockdown, the data reflected the dark reality of what was happening on the ground in South Africa. Small business turnover dropped by 92%, their livelihoods grinding to an abrupt halt.

A deeper dive into the data gave insights into the correlation between COVID-19 cases and the level of small, medium and micro enterprise economic activity in each region. Many of these were unprecedented and helped Yoco map a way forward for merchants.​

The impact of the lockdown measures on SA’s small businesses

A comparison of the turnover index on the Yoco Small Business Recovery Monitor at different stages during the lockdown vividly illustrates the impact of the lockdown measures.

Using the revenue of the first two weeks of March 2020 as a baseline (when small businesses were still trading normally), the graphs below show how turnover across the country plummeted from 91% on 17 March to 19% on 27 March 2020, the first day of the lockdown.




  • Overall, retailers had a 68% rise in transactions in the week before the lockdown started, as people stocked up in preparation and did some panic buying;
  • Despite the social distancing rules at the time, food, drink and hospitality operators saw a 54% uptick in the week before the lockdown started, with health care, beauty and fitness only seeing a 28% increase in transactions;
  • When people began to self- isolate and companies first implemented work-from-home measures in the second half of March, food, drink and hospitality players took an immediate 30% hit;
  • By the week of 8 April, Yoco’s users experienced an average 80% decline in transactions and payments across the board;
  • In the health, beauty and fitness category — the worst-affected sector — credit-card transactions have recorded a 90% decline since the lockdown began; and
  • As at 19 June, turnover for Yoco’s retail customers had returned to 100% of what it was pre-lockdown.

Small enterprises are now visible

The Yoco Small Business Recovery Monitor is freely available for viewing on its website (see below). With this offering, data on small businesses is no longer only anecdotal, or subject to the “one-size-fits’ all approach to the South African Market. These enterprises are now visible, with a depth of detail not available before.

For further information, please see the following:

  1. Yoco Small Business Recovery Monitor
  2. Lockdown retail patterns by Yoco numbers
  3. Yoco CEO Katlego Maphai on how the lockdown has hit small businesses hard

And for more on Venture Capital or assistance in this regard:

  1. Venture Capital – South Africa’s saviour in the waiting
  2. Venture capital: a much-needed engine of growth in a virus-ravaged economy

Or contact Amrish Narrandes, Head of Unlisted Equity Transactions, via email

READ: COVID-19 risks to subsistence are real