Africa is faced with a myriad of economic challenges which include the non-financial inclusion of a majority of middle- and low-income earners. The World Bank makes the point that over 66% of sub-Saharan Africans are unbanked, indicating the huge deficit in the financial inclusiveness of her population. The development of fintech in Africa helps the local population to reach financial inclusion, thus, improving their overall quality of life. With many African fintechs successfully getting funding this year, significant strides are being made into neobanking, placing huge challenges for traditional banks in the emerging banking space.
Here are the top fintech startups that are striving to bridge the financial inclusion gap between the different categories of the African population:
Founded: 2018, Lagos, Nigeria.
Funding raised: $170M
Services: Mobile payments, loans, remittance, ride-hailing
OPay was founded by Opera Software; the developer of the most popular web- browser and search engine. Although Opera has registered OPay as a separate company, they maintain a mutually beneficial relationship, with Opera holding about one-fifth of the OPay shares.
The e-wallet facilitates P2P transactions, mobile top-up, bill payments, paying for transportation, food & grocery delivery. Its super-app integrates numerous services on a single platform:
- Motorcycle ride-hailing ORide,
- OFood delivery,
- Wealth management OWealth,
- OKash loans,
- Bus-ticket ordering OBus,
- OMall, a B2C e-commerce app,
- OExpress, a logistics delivery service,
- OTrade, a B2B e-commerce platform, etc.
Founded: 2019, Lagos, Nigeria.
Funding raised: $40M
Services: P2P transactions, mobile payments
PalmPay officially launched after raising a $40 million seed round led by Chinese mobile phone maker Transsion. A strategic partnership with mobile companies TECNO, Infinix, and Itel became a nice addition to generous investments, with the PalmPay app being pre-installed on 20 million phones of the partner companies.
During its pilot phase, the startup registered 100,000 users and processed 1 million transactions. Its payment activities were approved by the Nigerian Central Bank. In addition, PalmPay has formed a significant partnership with Visa. Currently, the startup also operates in Ghana. It also boasts of over 1 million customers.
Founded: 2016, Lagos, Nigeria.
Funding raised: $64.7M
Services: Developer APIs, B2B payments, payment gateway systems
Flutterwave startup has developed an API that lets global merchants and businesses process credit cards and local alternative payment methods popular in African countries. Basically, the company’s proprietary software enables both foreign and African sellers to serve pan-African customers while processing payments like a local company. The list of existing customers includes Uber, Booking.com, and Jumia. The company also prepared the payment integration for U.S. pop-star Cardi B’s 2019 performances in Nigeria and Ghana.
Flutterwave enables business owners to accept payments from customers in 150 currencies, including Naira, USD, GBP, Euro, and Yuan. It operates in Cameroon, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Mauritius, Nigeria, UK, US, Rwanda, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zambia. The startup is currently headquartered in San Francisco, CA. Besides using Flutterwave as a payment gateway at the checkout stage, sending invoices and payment links, businesses can also set up their online stores straight from the Flutterwave dashboard.
In 2019, Flutterwave processed 107 million transactions worth $5.4 billion. It formed strategic partnerships with Alipay, Worldpay FIS, and Visa. The company’s estimated annual revenue is currently $27.4M.
Founded: 2013, Cape Town, South Africa.
Funding raised: $23M
Services: PoS, mobile payments
It is one of the most promising African fintechs which helps 100,000 small businesses in South Africa get paid in-store, online, and on the go with the PoS software. The card machine Yoco Go can be connected to a mobile phone so that even street sellers or those in farmers’ markets can avoid cash transactions. The company also has retail stores in major cities, where merchants can find its hardware and sign up.
In 2018, the company also launched a new Yoco Capital service, which provides small businesses with fast access to cash advances. Over a three-month trial, the service granted 225 advances to the total value of about US$509,000. The size of the possible advance was determined by the merchant’s monthly turnover.
Founded: 2002, Lagos, Nigeria.
Funding raised: $210.5M
Services: Digital payments
Nigerian fintech unicorn became the second VC-backed startup on the continent to achieve a ten-figure valuation in 2019 after Visa acquired a minority equity stake in the firm. The company has been pondering IPO for a while, and now investors have more reasons to wait for it.
Interswitch was the pioneer of the Nigerian digital payment infrastructure. In 2002, the company started offering its innovative solutions in the predominantly paper-ledger and cash-based economy. The solutions include various personal and business finance products, such as Verve payment cards and the Quickteller payment app.
The startup partnered with Kenya-based Credit Bank in 2020 to launch a multi-currency prepaid card. In order to use the card, customers do not need a bank account as funds can be transferred via mobile money.
The future of payments in Africa is one that is filled with promises and opportunities. As mobile penetration increases across Africa, with an increase by 41% of overall installs between Q1 2020 and Q1 2021, the financial services market will be even more disrupted by technology. The opportunities, therefore, keep growing within this sector, and funding, likewise. It will be interesting to watch how this landscape changes and grows in the next few years, as Africa positions itself for growth.