Africa Roundup: Zimbabwe’s net blackout, Partech’s $143M fund, Andela’s $100M raise, Flutterwave’s pivot

Jake Bright Contributor Jake Bright is a writer and author in New York City. He is co-author of The Next Africa. More posts by this contributor Partech is doubling the size of its African venture fund to $143 million Zimbabwe’s government faces off against its tech community over internet restrictions A high court in Zimbabwe […]

A high court in Zimbabwe ended the government’s restrictions on internet and social media last month.

After days of intermittent blackouts at the order of the country’s Minister of State for National Security, ISPs restored connectivity per a January 21 judicial order.

Similar to net shutdowns around the continent, politics and protests were the catalyst. Shortly after the government announced a dramatic increase in fuel prices on January 12, Zimbabwe’s Congress of Trade Unions called for a national strike.

Web and app blackouts in the southern African country followed demonstrations that broke out in several cities. A government crackdown ensued, with deaths reported.

On January 15, Zimbabwe’s largest mobile carrier, Econet Wireless, confirmed that it had complied with a directive from the Minister of State for National Security to shutdown internet.

Net access was restored, taken down again, then restored, but social media sites remained blocked through January 21.

Throughout the restrictions, many of Zimbabwe’s citizens and techies resorted to VPNs and workarounds to access net and social media, as reported in this TechCrunch feature.

Global internet rights group Access Now sprung to action, attaching its #KeepItOn hashtag to calls for the country’s government to reopen cyberspace soon after digital interference began.

The cyber-affair adds Zimbabwe to a growing list of African countries — including Cameroon, Congo and Ethiopia — whose governments have restricted internet expression in recent years.

It also provides another case study for techies and ISPs regaining their cyber rights. Internet and social media are back up in Zimbabwe — at least for now.

Further attempts to restrict net and app access in Zimbabwe will likely revive what’s become a somewhat ironic cycle for cyber shutdowns. When governments cut off internet and social media access, citizens still find ways to use internet and social media to stop them.

Partech doubled its Africa VC fund to $143 million and opened a Nairobi office to complement its Dakar practice.

The Partech Africa Fund plans to make 20 to 25 investments across roughly 10 countries over the next several years, according to general partner Tidjane Deme. The fund has added Ceasar Nyagha as investment officer for the Kenya office to expand its East Africa reach.

Partech Africa will primarily target Series A and B investments and some pre-series rounds at higher dollar amounts. “We will consider seed-funding — what we call seed-plus — tickets in the $500,000 range,” Deme told TechCrunch for this story on the new fund. Partech is open to all sectors “with a strong appetite for people who are tapping into Africa’s informal economies,” he said.

Partech Africa joined several Africa-focused funds over the last few years to mark a surge in VC for the continent’s startups. Partech announced its first raise of $70 million in early 2018 next to TLcom Capital’s $40 million, and TPG Growth’s $2 billion.

Africa-focused VC firms, including those locally run and managed, have grown to 51 globally, according to recent Crunchbase research.

Andela, the company that connects Africa’s top software developers with technology companies from the U.S. and around the world, raised $100 million in a new round of funding.

The new financing from Generation Investment Management (an investment fund co-founded by former VP Al Gore) puts the valuation of the company at somewhere between $600 million and $700 million—based on data available from PitchBook on the company’s valuation.

The company now has more than 200 customers paying for access to the roughly 1,100 developers Andela has trained and manages.

With the new cash in hand, Andela says it will double in size, hiring another thousand developers, and invest in new product development and its own engineering and data resources. More on Andela’s recent raise and focus here at TechCrunch.

Fintech startup Flutterwave announced a new consumer payment product for Africa called GetBarter, in partnership with Visa.

The app-based offering is aimed at facilitating personal and small merchant payments within and across African countries. Existing Visa  cardholders can send and receive funds at home or internationally on GetBarter.

The product also lets non-cardholders (those with accounts or mobile wallets on other platforms) create a virtual Visa card to link to the app.  A Visa spokesperson confirmed the product partnership.

GetBarter allows Flutterwave  — which has scaled as a payment gateway for big companies through its Rave product — to pivot to African consumers and traders.

The app also creates a network for clients on multiple financial platforms to make transfers across payment products and national borders, and to shop online.

“The target market is pretty much everyone who has a payment need in Africa. That includes the entire customer base of M-Pesa,  the entire bank customer base in Nigeria, mobile money and bank customers in Ghana — pretty much the entire continent,” Flutterwave CEO Olugbenga Agboola told TechCrunch in this exclusive.

Flutterwave and Visa will focus on building a GetBarter user base across mobile money and bank clients in Kenya, Ghana, and South Africa, with plans to grow across the continent and reach those off the financial grid.

Founded in 2016, Flutterwave has positioned itself as a global B2B payments solutions platform for companies in Africa to pay other companies on the continent and abroad. It allows clients to tap its APIs and work with Flutterwave developers to customize payments applications. Existing customers include Uber,  Facebook,  Booking.com and African e-commerce unicorn Jumia.com.

Flutterwave added operations in Uganda in June and raised a $10 million Series A round in October The company also plugged into ledger activity in 2018, becoming a payment processing partner to the Ripple and Stellar blockchain networks.

Headquartered in San Francisco, with its largest operations center in Nigeria, the startup plans to add operations centers in South Africa and Cameroon, which will also become new markets for GetBarter.

And sadly, Africa’s tech community mourned losses in January. A terrorist attack on Nairobi’s 14 Riverside complex claimed the lives of six employees of fintech startup Cellulant and I-Dev CEO Jason Spindler. Both organizations had been engaged with TechCrunch’s Africa work over the last 24 months. Condolences to  family, friends, and colleagues of those lost.

More Africa Related Stories @TechCrunch

African Tech Around The Net    

Local venture capital fund formation is on the rise in Africa, led by Nigeria

Jake Bright Contributor Jake Bright is a writer and author in New York City. He is co-author of The Next Africa. More posts by this contributor E-moto startup Alta Motors reportedly powers down African financial technology startups move beyond payment services Africa’s VC landscape is becoming more African with an increasing number of investment funds […]

Africa’s VC landscape is becoming more African with an increasing number of investment funds headquartered on the continent and run by locals, according to data from Crunchbase.

The study also tracked the emergence of homegrown corporate venture arms and more Africans in top positions at outside funds. These results derived from a year-long project to boost Crunchbase’s Africa data capture and increase awareness of its platform across the continent’s tech ecosystem.

Drawing on its database and primary source research, Crunchbase identified 51 “viable” Africa-focused VC funds globally—defining viable as formally established entities with 7-10 investments or more in African startups, from seed to series stage.

Those who made the list with 7 investments indicated they would reach 10 by early 2019.  

Of the 51 funds investing in African startups, 22 (or 43 percent) were headquartered in Africa and managed by Africans.

Of the 22 African managed and located funds, 9 (or 41 percent) were formed since 2016 and 9 are Nigerian.

Four of the 9 Nigeria located funds were formed within the last year: Microtraction, Neon Ventures, Beta Ventures, and CcHub’s Growth Capital fund.

The research prioritized organizational viability and number of investments over fund and round size. Therefore, the range in typical investment values across the group was wide, with some offering $25K seed investments, and others doing $1 to $10 million rounds at the series A and B stage.

In the group of 51 total funds, TPG’s Growth Fund led the largest round on the continent in 2018 (so far):  $47.5 million to Kenyan fintech startup Cellulant.

This has only been topped by the $52 million round to South Africa’s Jumo, but that was led by Goldman Sachs—which (by the information we have) hasn’t invested significantly in African startups, aside from Jumia.   

The Nigerian funds with the most investments were EchoVC (20) and Ventures Platform (23).

Notably active funds in the group of 51 included Singularity Investments (18 African startup investments) Ghana’s Golden Palm Investments (17) and Musha Ventures (36).

At least one corporate venture arm—Safaricom’s Spark Venture Fund—made Crunchbase’s list of 51. The research also tracked a rise in corporate venture funding and acquisition activity. MTN has invested in African startups and Standard Bank added $1 million to Founders Factory’s new African accelerator. Fintech firm Interswitch has been in the acquisition market and established its E-growth Fund to invest in startups.

Cellulant CEO Ken Njoroge indicated recently his company will likely go acquisition shopping for local startups in the near future.

During the course of Crunchbase’s research sources speaking on background flagged the pending launch of three new African corporate venture arms within the next 12 to 16 months.

In addition to tracking more funds on the continent, another emerging trend point was Africans in senior positions at those located elsewhere—including the three that raised the most capital over the last 24 months.

Former Nigerian ICT minister Omobola Johnson is a senior partner at TLcom Capital’s $40 million fund. Yemi Lalude is Managing Partner of TPG Growth’s Africa fund, which announced $2 billion in its coffers last year. And at French firm Partech—which raised $70 million for its Africa fund—Tidjane Deme is General Partner.

Crunchbase’s overall findings come as a several recent articles (and a heap of Twitter debate) have expressed concern about possible outsized influence of external actors in Africa’s tech ecosystem — primarily East Africa — and bias among VC investors toward non-African founders.

More accurate data on Sub-Saharan Africa’s VC could help better inform these discussions.

Pinning down solid stats on the region’s nascent startup scene is a budding exercise. The core growth in Sub-Saharan Africa’s tech sector has occurred over the last 5-7 years so there’s less accompanying infrastructure—i.e., analyst reporting, long-term databases, and robust media coverage—than other markets

Some VC firms have taken stabs at quantifying the value of VC investment over select timeframes. In 2017, Village Capital did a report tracking fintech funding in East Africa.

The last two years, Partech and media firm Disrupt Africa have done reports on Africa’s annual VC values. Their diverging numbers demonstrate the continued challenges to producing confident stats. Partech’s study tallied 2017 funding to African startups at $560 million, while Disrupt Africa came up with $195 million for the same year.

For its part, Crunchbase aims to create as accurate a VC representation for Africa as it does for other global markets. In addition to tracking stats on African funds, the platform has extended its  Venture Program—which allows partners to directly update their Crunchbase data and investments.

To date, Crunchbase has added 33 African focused Venture Program partners including Greenhouse Capital, TLcom Capital, Draper Darkflow, Silvertree Internet Holdings, Naspers, Orange Digital Ventures, and Accion Venture Lab.

Local venture capital fund formation is on the rise in Africa, led by Nigeria

Jake Bright Contributor Jake Bright is a writer and author in New York City. He is co-author of The Next Africa. More posts by this contributor E-moto startup Alta Motors reportedly powers down African financial technology startups move beyond payment services Africa’s VC landscape is becoming more African with an increasing number of investment funds […]

Africa’s VC landscape is becoming more African with an increasing number of investment funds headquartered on the continent and run by locals, according to data from Crunchbase.

The study also tracked the emergence of homegrown corporate venture arms and more Africans in top positions at outside funds. These results derived from a year-long project to boost Crunchbase’s Africa data capture and increase awareness of its platform across the continent’s tech ecosystem.

Drawing on its database and primary source research, Crunchbase identified 51 “viable” Africa-focused VC funds globally—defining viable as formally established entities with 7-10 investments or more in African startups, from seed to series stage.

Those who made the list with 7 investments indicated they would reach 10 by early 2019.  

Of the 51 funds investing in African startups, 22 (or 43 percent) were headquartered in Africa and managed by Africans.

Of the 22 African managed and located funds, 9 (or 41 percent) were formed since 2016 and 9 are Nigerian.

Four of the 9 Nigeria located funds were formed within the last year: Microtraction, Neon Ventures, Beta Ventures, and CcHub’s Growth Capital fund.

The research prioritized organizational viability and number of investments over fund and round size. Therefore, the range in typical investment values across the group was wide, with some offering $25K seed investments, and others doing $1 to $10 million rounds at the series A and B stage.

In the group of 51 total funds, TPG’s Growth Fund led the largest round on the continent in 2018 (so far):  $47.5 million to Kenyan fintech startup Cellulant.

This has only been topped by the $52 million round to South Africa’s Jumo, but that was led by Goldman Sachs—which (by the information we have) hasn’t invested significantly in African startups, aside from Jumia.   

The Nigerian funds with the most investments were EchoVC (20) and Ventures Platform (23).

Notably active funds in the group of 51 included Singularity Investments (18 African startup investments) Ghana’s Golden Palm Investments (17) and Musha Ventures (36).

At least one corporate venture arm—Safaricom’s Spark Venture Fund—made Crunchbase’s list of 51. The research also tracked a rise in corporate venture funding and acquisition activity. MTN has invested in African startups and Standard Bank added $1 million to Founders Factory’s new African accelerator. Fintech firm Interswitch has been in the acquisition market and established its E-growth Fund to invest in startups.

Cellulant CEO Ken Njoroge indicated recently his company will likely go acquisition shopping for local startups in the near future.

During the course of Crunchbase’s research sources speaking on background flagged the pending launch of three new African corporate venture arms within the next 12 to 16 months.

In addition to tracking more funds on the continent, another emerging trend point was Africans in senior positions at those located elsewhere—including the three that raised the most capital over the last 24 months.

Former Nigerian ICT minister Omobola Johnson is a senior partner at TLcom Capital’s $40 million fund. Yemi Lalude is Managing Partner of TPG Growth’s Africa fund, which announced $2 billion in its coffers last year. And at French firm Partech—which raised $70 million for its Africa fund—Tidjane Deme is General Partner.

Crunchbase’s overall findings come as a several recent articles (and a heap of Twitter debate) have expressed concern about possible outsized influence of external actors in Africa’s tech ecosystem — primarily East Africa — and bias among VC investors toward non-African founders.

More accurate data on Sub-Saharan Africa’s VC could help better inform these discussions.

Pinning down solid stats on the region’s nascent startup scene is a budding exercise. The core growth in Sub-Saharan Africa’s tech sector has occurred over the last 5-7 years so there’s less accompanying infrastructure—i.e., analyst reporting, long-term databases, and robust media coverage—than other markets

Some VC firms have taken stabs at quantifying the value of VC investment over select timeframes. In 2017, Village Capital did a report tracking fintech funding in East Africa.

The last two years, Partech and media firm Disrupt Africa have done reports on Africa’s annual VC values. Their diverging numbers demonstrate the continued challenges to producing confident stats. Partech’s study tallied 2017 funding to African startups at $560 million, while Disrupt Africa came up with $195 million for the same year.

For its part, Crunchbase aims to create as accurate a VC representation for Africa as it does for other global markets. In addition to tracking stats on African funds, the platform has extended its  Venture Program—which allows partners to directly update their Crunchbase data and investments.

To date, Crunchbase has added 33 African focused Venture Program partners including Greenhouse Capital, TLcom Capital, Draper Darkflow, Silvertree Internet Holdings, Naspers, Orange Digital Ventures, and Accion Venture Lab.

Africa Roundup: Paga goes global and 4 startups raise $99M in VC

Jake Bright Contributor Jake Bright is a writer and author in New York City. He is co-author of The Next Africa. More posts by this contributor Polestar unveils first production EV with aim to overtake Tesla Liquid Telecom goes long on Africa’s startups as future clients Nigerian digital payments startup Paga is gearing up for international expansion […]

Nigerian digital payments startup Paga is gearing up for international expansion with a $10 million round led by the Global Innovation Fund.

The company is exploring the release of its payments product in Ethiopia, Mexico, and the Philippines—CEO Tayo Oviosu told TechCrunch.

Paga looks to go head to head with regional and global payment players, such as PayPal, Alipay, and Safaricom according to Oviosu.

“We are not only in a position to compete with them, we’re going beyond them,” he said of Kenya’s MPesa mobile money product. “Our goal is to build a global payment ecosystem across many emerging markets.”

Launched in 2012, Paga has created a multi-channel network and platform to transfer money, pay bills, and buy things digitally 9 million customers in Nigeria—including 6000 businesses.

Since inception, the startup has processed 57 million transactions worth $3.6 billion, according to Oviosu. He joined Cellulant CEO Ken Njoroge and Helios Investment Partners’ Fope Adelowo at Disrupt San Francisco to discuss fintech and Africa’s tech ecosystem.

South African fintech startup Jumo raised a $52 million round (led by Goldman Sachs) to bring its fintech services to Asia. The company—that offers loans to the unbanked in Africa—has opened an office in Singapore to lead the way.

The new round takes Jumo to $90 million raised from investors and also saw participation from existing backers that include Proparco — which is attached to the French Development Agency — Finnfund, Vostok Emerging Finance, Gemcorp Capital, and LeapFrog Investments.

Launched in 2014, Jumo specializes in social impact financial products. That means loans and saving options for those who sit outside of the existing banking system, and particularly small businesses.

To date, it claims to have helped nine million consumers across its six markets in Africa and originated over $700 million in loans. The company, which has some 350 staff across 10 offices in Africa, Europe and Asia, was part of Google’s Launchpad accelerator last year. Jumo is led by CEO Andrew Watkins-Ball, who has close to two decades in finance and investing.

Lagos based Paystack raised an $8 million Series A round led by Stripe.

In Nigeria the company’s payment API integrates with tens of thousands of businesses, and in two years it has grown to process 15 percent of all online payments.

In 2016, Paystack became the first startup from Nigeria to enter Y Combinator, and the incubator is doing some follow-on investing in this round.

Other strategic investors in this Series A include Visa and the Chinese online giant Tencent, parent of WeChat and a plethora of other services. Tencent also invested in Paystack’s previous round: the startup has raised $10 million to date.

Paystack integrates a wide range of payment options (wire transfers, cards, and mobile) that Nigerians (and soon, those in other countries in Africa) use both to accept and make payments. There’s more about the company’s platform and strategy in this TechCrunch feature.

South African startup Yoco raised $16 million in a new round of funding to expand its payment management and audit services for small and medium-sized businesses as it angles to become one of Africa’s billion-dollar businesses.

To get there the company that “builds tools and services to help SMEs get paid and manage their business” plans to tap $20 billion in commercial activity that the company’s co-founder and chief executive, Katlego Maphai estimates is waiting to move from cash payments to digital offerings.

Yoco offers a point of sale card reader that links to its proprietary payment and performance software at an entry cost of just over $100.

With this kit, cash-based businesses can start accepting cards and tracking metrics such as top-selling products, peak sales periods, and inventory flows.

Yoco has positioned itself as a missing link to “solving an access problem” for SMEs. Though South Africa has POS and business enterprise providers — and relatively high card (75 percent) and mobile penetration (68 percent) — the company estimates only 7 percent of South African businesses accept cards.

Yoco says it is already processing $280 million in annualized payment volume for just under 30,000 businesses.

The startup generates revenue through margins on hardware and software sales and fees of 2.95 percent per transaction on its POS devices.

Yoco will use the $16 million round on product and platform development, growing its distribution channels, and acquiring new talent.

Emerging markets credit startup Mines.io closed a $13 million Series A round led by The Rise Fund, and looks to expand in South America and Asia.

Mines provides business to consumer (B2C) “credit-as-a-service” products to large firms.

“We’re a technology company that facilitates local institutions — banks, mobile operators, retailers — to offer credit to their customers,” Mines CEO and co-founder Ekechi Nwokah told TechCrunch.

Most of Mines’ partnerships entail white-label lending products offered on mobile phones, including non-smart USSD devices.

With offices in San Mateo and Lagos, Mines uses big-data (extracted primarily from mobile users) and proprietary risk algorithms “to enable lending decisions,” Nwokah explained.

Mines started operations in Nigeria and counts payment processor Interswitch and mobile operator Airtel as current partners. In addition to talent acquisition, the startup plans to use the Series A to expand its credit-as-a-service products into new markets in South America and Southeast Asia “in the next few months,” according to its CEO.

Nwokah wouldn’t name specific countries for the startup’s pending South America and Southeast Asia expansion, but believes “this technology is scalable across geographies.”

As part of the Series A, Yemi Lalude from TPG Growth (founder of The Rise Fund) will join Mines’ board of directors.

 

Digital infrastructure company Liquid Telecom is betting big on African startups by rolling out multiple sponsorships and free internet across key access points to the continent’s tech entrepreneurs.

The Econet Wireless subsidiary is also partnering with local and global players like Afrilabs and Microsoft­­ to create a cross-border commercial network for the continent’s startup community.

“We believe startups will be key employers in Africa’s future economy. They’re also our future customers,” Liquid Telecom’s Head of Innovation Partnerships Oswald Jumira told TechCrunch.

With 13 offices on the continent, Liquid Telecom’s core business is building the infrastructure for all things digital in Africa.

The company provides voice, high-speed internet, and IP services at the carrier, enterprise, and retail level across Eastern, Central, and Southern Africa. It operates data centers in Nairobi and Johannesburg with 6,800 square meters of rack space.

Liquid Telecom has built a 50,000 kilometer fiber network, from Cape Town to Nairobi and this year switched on the Cape to Cairo initiative—a land-based fiber link from South Africa to Egypt.

Though startups don’t provide an immediate revenue windfall, the company is betting they will as future enterprise clients.

“Step one…in supporting startups has been….supporting co-working spaces and events with sponsorships and free internet,” Liquid Telecom CTO Ben Roberts told TechCrunch. “Step two is helping startups to adopt…business services.”

Liquid Telecom provides free internet to 30 hubs in seven countries and is active sponsoring startup related events.

On the infrastructure side, it’s developing commercial services for startups to plug into.

“At the early stage and middle stage, we’re offering startups connectivity, skills development, and access to capital through the hubs,” said Liquid Telecom’s Oswald Jumira.

“When they reach the more mature level, we’re focused on how we can scale them up…and be a go to market partner for them. To do that they’ll need to leverage…cloud services.”

Microsoft and Liquid Telecom announced a partnership in 2017 to offer cloud services such as Microsoft’s Azure, Dynamics 365, and Office 365 to select startups through free credits—and connected to comp packages of Liquid Telecom product offerings.

On the venture side, Liquid Telecom doesn’t have a fund but that could be in the cards.

“We haven’t yet started investing in startups, but I’d like to see that we do,” said chief technology officer Ben Roberts. “That can be the next move onwards… from having successful business partnerships.”

And finally, tickets are now available here for Startup Battlefield Africa in Lagos this December. The first two speakers were also announced, TLcom Capital senior partner and former minister of communication technology for Nigeria Omobola Johnson and Singularity Investment’s Lexi Novitske will discuss keys to investing across Africa’s startup landscape.

More Africa Related Stories @TechCrunch

African Tech Around the Net

With a $10 million round, Nigeria’s Paga plans global expansion

Jake Bright Contributor Jake Bright is a writer and author in New York City. He is co-author of The Next Africa. More posts by this contributor African tech leaders Fope Adelowo, Ken Njoroge, Tayo Oviosu to speak at Disrupt SF Offering a white-labeled lending service in emerging markets, Mines raises $13 million Nigerian digital payments […]

Nigerian digital payments startup Paga is gearing up for an international expansion with $10 million in funding let by the Global Innovation Fund. 

The company is planning to release its payments product in Ethiopia, Mexico, and the Philippines—CEO Tayo Oviosu told TechCrunch at Disrupt San Francisco.

Paga looks to go head to head with regional and global payment players, such as PayPal, Alipay, and Safaricom’s M-Pesa, according to Oviosu.

“We are not only in a position to compete with them, we’re going beyond them,” he  said of Kenya’s M-Pesa mobile money product. “Our goal is to build a global payment ecosystem across many emerging markets.”

Founded in 2012, Paga has created a multi-channel network and platform to transfer money, pay-bills, and buy things digitally that’s already serving 9 million customers in Nigeria—including 6000 businesses. All of whom can drop into one of Paga’s 17,167 agents or transfer funds from one of Paga’s mobile apps.

Paga products work on iOS, Android, and basic USSD phones using a star, hashtag option. The company has remittance partnerships with the likes of Western Union and Moneytrans and allows for third-party integration of its app.

Paga has also built out considerable scale in home market Nigeria—which boasts the dual distinction as Africa’s most populous nation and largest economy.

Since inception, the startup has processed 57 million transactions worth $3.6 billion, according to Oviosu.

That’s no small feat given the country straddles the challenges and opportunities of growing digital payments. Only recently did Nigeria’s mobile and internet penetration break 50 percent and 40 percent of the country’s 196 million remain unbanked.

To bring more of Nigeria’s masses onto digital commerce, Paga recently launched a new money transfer-app that further simplifies the P2P payment process from mobile devices.

For nearly a decade, Kenya’s M-Pesa—which has 20 million active users and operates abroad—has dominated discussions of mobile money in Africa.

Paga and a growing field of operators are diversifying the continent’s payment playing field.

Fintech company Cellulant raised $47 million in 2019 on its business of processing $350 million in payment transactions across 33 African countries.

In Nigeria, payment infrastructure company Interswitch has expanded across borders and is pursuing an IPO. And Nigerian payment gateway startups Paystack and Flutterwave have digitized volumes of B2B transactions while gaining global investment.

So why does Paga—a Nigerian payments company—believe it can expand its digital payments business abroad?

“Why not us?,” said CEO Oviosu. “People sit in California and listen to Spotify that was developed in Sweden. And Uber started somewhere before going to different countries and figuring out local markets,” he added.

“The team behind this business has worked globally for some of the top tech names. This platform can stand shoulder to shoulder with any payments company built somewhere else,” he said.

On that platform, Oviosu underscores it has positioned itself as a partner, not a rival, to traditional banks. “Our ecosystem is not built to compete with you, it’s actually complimentary to you,” he said of the company’s positioning to big banks—enabling Paga to partner with seven banks in Nigeria.

Paga also sees potential to adapt its model to other regulatory and consumer environments. “We’ve built an infrastructure that rides across all mobile networks,” said Oviosu. “We’re not trying to be a bank. Paga wants to work with the banks and financial institutions to enable a billion people to access and use money,” he said.

As part of the $10 million round (which brings Paga’s total funding up to $35 million), Global Innovation Partners will take a board seat. Other round participants include Goodwell, Adlevo Capital, Omidyar Network, and Unreasonable Capital.

Paga will use the Series B2 to grow its core development team of 25 engineers across countries and continents. It will also continue its due diligence on global expansion—though no hard dates have been announced.

On revenues, Paga makes money on merchant payments, bank to bank transfers, and selling airtime and data. “As we roll out other services, we will build a model where we will make money on savings and lending,” said the company’s CEO.

As for profitability, Paga does not release financials, but reached profitability in 2018, according to Oviosu—something that was confirmed in the due diligence process with round investors.

On the possibility of beating Interswitch (or another venerable startup) to become Africa’s first big tech IPO, Oviosu plays that down. “For the next 3-5 years I see us staying private,” he said.

African tech leaders Fope Adelowo, Ken Njoroge, Tayo Oviosu to speak at Disrupt SF

Africa’s startup scene is growing by leaps and bounds and three tech leaders are set to share insights on this vibrant space at Disrupt San Francisco.    Paga CEO Taya Oviosu, Helios Investment Partners’ Vice President Fope Adelowo, and Cellulant CEO Ken Njoroge will take the stage September 7 to discuss topics such as fintech, […]

Africa’s startup scene is growing by leaps and bounds and three tech leaders are set to share insights on this vibrant space at Disrupt San Francisco.   

Paga CEO Taya Oviosu, Helios Investment Partners’ Vice President Fope Adelowo, and Cellulant CEO Ken Njoroge will take the stage September 7 to discuss topics such as fintech, Africa’s founder experience, data privacy, VC investment, and the continent’s future unicorn and IPO prospects.

Nearly two decades of improved stability, economic growth and reform have created some bright spots in Africa. Rapid modernization and a growing technology scene are among them.

Africa minted its first billion-dollar unicorn — e-commerce venture Jumia— in 2016 and over the last five years, just about every big-name U.S. tech company, including Facebook, Google and Netflix, has expanded there.

The continent now has 442 active tech hubs, accelerators and innovation spaces across IT hotspots in Ghana, Kenya, South Africa, Nigeria and Rwanda. Thousands of African startups are moving into every imaginable sector: from blockchain, logistics and education to healthcare and agriculture.

And hundreds of millions of dollars in venture capital is flowing to these startups, with the expectation that some of their solutions for Africa’s 1.2 billion people will produce significant ROI.

Two of those ventures are Oviosu’s Paga and Njoroge’s Cellulant. Paga has become one of Nigeria’s leading digital payments providers in a market where many people are just signing on to financial services. Since 2012 the company has processed 57 million transactions worth $3.6 billion, reached 9 million users, and achieved profitability, according to Oviosu.

Cellulant—a Nairobi headquartered Pan-African payment startup—has also posted some impressive fintech stats. The company offers B2B and P2B services to clients that include some of the continent’s largest banks. In 2017 Cellulant’s payment platforms processed $2.7 billion across 33 countries, according to Njoroge. And in 2018 Cellulant raised one of the continent’s largest VC rounds— $47.5 million —led by TPG Growth’s Rise Fund.  

Paga and Cellulant have the potential to become early public African tech companies and both Oviosu and Njoroge mentor younger startups as angel investors in their respective markets.

On IPO prospects, Helios Investment Partners’ Fope Adelowo has been on the forefront of VC into Africa’s breakout startups. She serves a board observer to two of the firm’s high-profile Africa investments, e-commerce site MallforAfrica and payments company Interswitch. MallforAfrica recently launched a global e-commerce site with DHL and Interswitch said its plans to become one of the continent’s first tech IPOs on a major exchange by 2019.