Last week, payments technology startup - Flutterwave - finalized its expansion to Uganda. It had a team in Uganda that was carrying out the integration with the local payments service providers (PSPs) which includes telecoms, banks, and others.
This was confirmed by Omosalewa Adeyemi - who handles partnerships for Flutterwave from their San Francisco office - through a call.
“At this point [last week], we have a few people in Uganda right now that are actually integrating,” she told me.
What this expansion means is that businesses that have clients in Uganda can be able to receive payments using Flutterwave’s system.
At the same time, businesses in Uganda with operations in markets which Flutterwave supports will be able to receive payments from these clients.
“So what that means is that if there is a business in Nigeria that determines that they have customers in South Africa and Uganda, we want them to be able to use the Flutterwave platform to accept payment in all those countries,” Omosalewa told me.
Although some of Flutterwave's services - like card payment processing - are available in almost all African countries, according to Omosalewa, this expansion makes Uganda just the latest country where they have all their services localized. That’s after Kenya, Ghana, and Nigeria.
She says this is because "unlike other parts of the world, Africa is different." Partly due to its diversity. For example, while as one can use card payments across Europe and the US, that’s not the case for Africa. Each country has its own way of accepting payments.
For the part of Uganda, that implies MTN Mobile Money and Airtel Money. “We are now focusing on localizing in Uganda so that we can offer a full coverage of the payments ecosystem in Uganda,” Omosalewa said.
As part of the expansion, the startup is also recruiting “agents” that it will leverage to onboard merchants. And Omosalewa confirmed that they are in conversations with several potential partners.
“Usually, when we enter a new market, we understand that payment is all about partnerships so, we do a survey of that country, that region to figure out who the best partners for us might be,” she pointed out.
The agents are usually companies or hubs and these earn a commission per transaction handled by acquisitions they bring to the Flutterwave platform.
So far, they are in talks with The Innovation Village Kampala to act as one of their agents. This was confirmed by both Kawanguzi Japheth and Omosalewa.
“In the case of Innovation Village, when we took a look at them, we understood that they have a lot of startups in their ecosystem and are well connected to the technology and just general entrepreneurship scene in Uganda," Omosalewa said.
The other party is Roundbob according to the emails I got ahold of. Which is understandable. Given both Flutterwave and Roundbob participated in the recently concluded Alibaba eFounders Initiative that took place in Hangzhou.
It was attended by Flutterwave’s co-founder and COO while Roundbob’s David Gonahasa (founder and CEO) represented it. A place I believe the conversation could have started from.
Especially when you take into account that it is David that is introducing Flutterwave to several potential partners in the market.
Also read: These are the Ugandan startups in Hangzhou participating in Alibaba’s eFounders Initiative
“We have always planned in the second half of 2018 to grow our presence locally in Eastern as well as Francophone Western Africa,” Omosalewa explained.
Adding that “it just so came at the right time that during eFounders fellowship, our co-founder made some connections that helped or will help speed our operations locally in all these countries.”
Asked if they will set up an office in Kampala, she told me that it is likely that they will do so as long as it makes business sense. Though this will be at a later stage.
“Our model is that we launch fully in a new country [and] we onboard a number of merchants to use the platform,” she explained.
“Once we can establish a business case, we set up an office and hire local staff who are familiar with the market and that process usually takes between three to six months."
Founded in 2015, Flutterwave aims to “build a unified digital payments infrastructure for the African continent.” Last year, they raised an over $10 Million Series A from Greycroft, Green Visor and Omidyar Foundation.
It currently has clients in form of Uber - whom it processes payments from drivers in Africa for - as well as pay those very drivers for. The other one is Transferwise.
Flutterwave has participated in both Y Combinator and VC Fintech Accelerator program. Last year, they raised an over $10 Million Series A from Greycroft, Green Visor and Omidyar Foundation. They currently stand at just over 80 employees spread across their offices in Kenya, Ghana, Nigeria and the US.
Beyond Flutterwave, the other alternative in the market is DusuPay. Though it primarily focuses on inflows from the UK.