According to a World Bank Report, 66% of the adult population in Africa is unbanked. Banking has for a longtime been associated with physical structures where one has to walk to deposit, transfer or withdraw money. But across the continent, multiple startups have emerged to provide mobile based financial services that banks have had a monopoly over. We call these startups, neobanks.
Per the balance, a neobank is a digital technology firm that offers digital or mobile-only financial services. Some of the services such players do offer include - but not limited to - checking and savings accounts, payment and money transfer services, loans for individuals or businesses or other services including budgeting help and more.
Neobanks in Africa and other emerging economies are not really disrupting traditional financial services, but instead building up a historically underdeveloped industry. In Kenya, financial inclusion stood at 27% in 2006 before MPesa started operations in 2007. MPesa is the mobile money service of Safaricom that allows its users to pay bills and send money to each other using their mobile phones or agents across the country. They can do this whether they have a bank account or not. Last year, the financial inclusion rate stood at 86% and this is largely due to the wide reach of Safaricom and its agent network. Safaricom has more agents than all banks in Kenya have branches combined. Across West Africa, the reach of mobile money is 13 times wider than local banks. This prompted MTN to launch a mobile money based IPO and raised over $200m.
Africa has the world’s youngest labour force and a rapidly growing rate of mobile phone use. It is essential to provide mobile based financial services like payments, lending and investing. The huge potential of this market has attracted Silicon Valley Venture capital firms, international fintechs and Chinese investors to back startups in this sector.
The Most Funded Neobanks in Africa
The 10 most funded neobanks in Africa have raised a combined $688m across 35 rounds. This is an average of almost $20m per round and $69m per startup. Of the 10 neobanks, 7 are from Nigeria and 1 each from Uganda, Kenya and South Africa. The 7 Nigerian neobanks have raised $343m which is almost 50% of the total amount raised.
The most funded round in terms of amount raised is Series A with $226m which accounts for 33% of the total amount raised followed by Series B with $199m (29%), Series C with $148m(21%) and Seed round with $64m (9%). The most popular round was Seed with 11 rounds, Series A with 7 and Series B with 6. There were 3 Debt Financing and private equity rounds each and 1 undisclosed, Grant and pre-seed rounds each.
There are 6 payments companies in the top 10 which account for $460m (67%) of the $688m total. The rest are digital banks(2) and loan companies(2). Here are the most funded neobanks in Africa
Total Funding: ($170m)
Country : Nigeria
Sub- sector; Payments
OPay is a payments company in Nigeria that was launched in 2018 by the search engine and browser giant, Opera. It claims to currently operate about 80% of bank transfers among mobile money operators in Nigeria and about 20% of the country’s non-merchant Point-of-sale (POS) transactions. Opera reported that OPay’s monthly transactions grew 4.5x in 2020 and processed over $2bn by December.
OPay has raised two monstrous rounds of financing from mainly Chinese investors. It raised a $50m Series A in July 2019 from investors like GSR Ventures, IDG Capital, Meituan Decamping Opera , Source Code Capital and Sequoia Capital China. Meituan Dianping, Source Code Capital, IDG Capital, Sequoia Capital China and GSR Ventures all returned for OPay’s Series B in November 2019. They were joined by SoftBank Ventures Asia, Gaorong Capital. . Bertelsmann Asia Investments and Redpoint Ventures Asia. OPay raised $120m in this Series B.
2.Chipper Cash ($152m)
Total Funding :
Country : Uganda
Sub-sector : Payments
Chipper Cash is a payments company founded in 2018 by Ugandan Ham Sserunjogi and Ghanaian Majid Moujaled. It offers mobile-based no fees peer to peer payment services in 7 African countries; Ghana, Uganda, Nigeria, Tanzania, Rwanda, South Africa and Kenya. In order to make money, Chipper Cash also runs Chipper Checkout, which is a merchant focused, fee-based payment product.
Chipper Cash has 3m users on its platform and processes an average of 80,000 transactions everyday. It added a feature on its app and website where users can buy and sell cryptocurrencies and also invest in US stocks from Africa through a partnership with US financial services company, DriveWealth.
Chipper Cash raised its first round of financing in May 2019, a $2.4m seed round from Deciens Capital. This was followed by a $6m Seed II round from Deciens Capital again and Raptor Group. The two investors, Deciens Capital and Raptor Group, were joined by 500 Startups and Liquid 2 Ventures for Chipper Cash’s $13.8m Series A in June 2020. In November 2020, it raised $30m in its Series B from Ribbit Capital and Jeff Bezos’ Bezos Expeditions. It’s latest round was a $100m Series C in May 2021 from Silicon Valley Bank Deciens Capital, Ribbit Capital, Bezos Expeditions, One Way Ventures, 500 Startups, Tribe Capital and Bruez Ventures.
Total Funding : ($139m)
Country : South Africa
Sub-sector: Digital Bank
TymeBank is a South African digital bank that offers transactional bank accounts with zero or low monthly fees and a savings account. It is the first bank in South Africa to be fully operated off cloud based infrastructure network. It was also the first South African bank to get a commercial banking license since 1999. Customers are on boarded at physical kiosks usually in Pick N Pay and Boxer stores around the country. The bank currently boasts of 2.8m and is growing rapidly adding 110,000 new customers per month.
In June 2019, TymeBank raised a $13.63m private equity round from Ethos Private Equity and Patrice Motsepe’s African Rainbow Partners. It followed this with another private equity round from African Rainbow Capital again and Financial Services Holdings. It’s last round was in February 2021. Apis Partners and JG Summit Holdings invested $109m into TymeBank in an undisclosed round.
Total Funding : ($54m)
Country : Kenya
Cellulant is a digital payments company headquartered in Nairobi, Kenya. It was initially launched as a music streaming platform to enable musicians to make money when a fan downloads their song. However, it’s founders pivoted to digital payments through their cloud based payments platform,Tinng. It’s services include consumer payments, collect payments for merchants, digital banking and remittances. The startup claims to process 12% of Africa’s digital payments today. It operates in 13 African countries and has partnerships with about 28 mobile operators and 31 banks.
Cellulant has raised funds three times. The first time was in October 2011. It was a $1.5m Series A from TBL Mirror Fund. The second time was a $5.5m Series B in February 2014 from Velocity Capital Private Equity. In May 2018, it raised its third and final round of financing. The Rise Fund, Satya Capital , Endeavor Capital, Velocity Capital, Progression Capital Africa invested $47.5m in its Series C.
Total Funding : ($40m)
Country : Nigeria
PalmPay is a payments startup in Nigeria that enables its users to make payments without fees, pay bills, get airtime discounts and make bank transfers with a rate of just $0.03. PalmPay has a partnership deal with Transission Holdings, the makers of Itel, TECO and Infinix, to have the app pre-installed in over 20m devices. PalmPay raised a $40m seed round in November 2019 from Transission Holdings, NetEase and MediaTek.
Total Funding : $37m
Country : Nigeria
Migo is a credit startup that provides AI driven products to large companies. These products enable the companies to extend credit to their underbanked clients. It’s list of clients include big companies like MTN and Interswitch. Migo has provided more than 3m loans to over 1m customers in Nigeria since 2017.
Migo raised a $938,000 seed round in August 2014 from XSeed Capital Partners in April 2014 which was followed by a $2.2m seed round in June 2016 from Xseed Capital Partners, Nyca Partners, Greenhouse Capital, First Ally Capital and Fintech Collective . It also raised $1m in a debt financing round from Western Technology Investments in April 2017.
The Rise Fund, Velocity Capital, First Ally Capital, Nyca Partners, Singularity Investments, Trans Sahara Investment Corporation, Western Technology Investment and XSeed Capital Partners invested in Migo’s $13m Series A in August 2018. It last raised money in December 2019. It was a Series B of $20m Funded by Valor Capital Group, The Rise Fund and Velocity Capital.
Total Funding : $36m
Country : Nigeria
Sub-sector: Digital Bank
Kuda is a no fees, digital only bank operating in Nigeria. It has a microfinance banking license from the Central Bank of Nigeria. Its main service is the digital only savings account. New customers can download the app, enter the Know Your Customer (KYC) information and have an account within a day. The account can receive deposits, request a debit card and it will be delivered to your door.
Kuda got a $17,000 seed investment from the Startupbootcamp in July 2018. It also got $1.6m in September 2019 in a Pre-seed round from Haresh Aswani and Ragnar Meitern. In November 2020, it raised another seed round of $10m from Target Global, Entree Capital and SBI Investments. Kuda also raised $25m from Valar Ventures and Target Global in March 2021 which was its Series A.
Total Funding : $32m
Country : Nigeria
Paga, founded in 2009 by Tayo Oviosu, is Nigeria’s biggest mobile payments company. It boasts of 17m users that include technology entrepreneurs, businesses and individuals. It made $2.3bn worth of transactions in 2020 and $8bn during the past 4 years. It also has a deal with VISA to provide merchants with solutions that enable payments by money transfer or QR codes. Paga has over 27,000 agents located across Nigeria.
Tim Draper funded Paga’s seed round with $700,000 in September 2010. Two years later, in June 2012, Paga raised a $9m Series A from Omidyar Network, Goodwell Investments ,Capricon Investments Group , Acumen and Adlevo Capital. The same investors, except Acumen, were involved in Paga’s $13m Series B in October 2015. It raised another Series B in September 2018 from Global Innovation Fund and Unreasonable Capital. Earlier investors Goodwell Investments, Adlevo Capital and Omidyar Network were involved in this deal as well.
Total Funding : $16m
Country : Nigeria
Founded in 2012 by Chijioke Dozie and Ngozi Dozie, OneFi is a Nigerian fintech that enables people to access credit to pay for things and pay later through its platform, conveniently called Paylater. A user can also transfer money, recharge airtime and pay bills on the platform. Since 2016, Paylater has given out $60m across 750,000 loans or 1,500 loans everyday at an average of $80 per loan. It was one of the 3 African startups that was selected for the 5th class of Google’s Launchpad Accelerator in 2017. It also emerged as one of the 20 finalists of the Ecobank Fintech Challenge and also one of the 5 finalists of the 4th edition of Apps Africa Innovation Awards.
OneFi raised a seed round in March 2014 from undisclosed investors. It then got $10m on June 11 2015. It was a debt financing round. 2 days later, it got an undisclosed private equity round. Both these rounds were financed by Net1 UEPS Technologies. In November 2017, it was given a $50,000 grant from the Google Launchpad Accelerator Africa. It’s last round of financing was a $5m debt financing round from Lendable..
Total Funding : $12m
Country : Nigeria
Paystack is a payments company in Nigeria and Ghana. It launched in South Africa earlier this year. It powers businesses with its payments API. Paystack claims to have been powering 15% of all online payments in Nigeria and had more than 10,000 businesses. It has since grown to power 50% of all online payments and over 60,000 businesses with clients including the likes of MTN, SPAR and UPS.
Paystack caused shockwaves across the continent when it was acquired by global fintech giant Stripe in a deal worth more than $200m in what was a landmark moment for African fintechs. Paystack raised $120,000 seed Capital from Y Combinator as part of its March 2016 cohort. It raised another $1.3m seed round in December 2016 from Tencent Holdings, Comcast Ventures and Singularity Investments. Stripe, Y Combinator , Tencent Holdings and VISA Funded the startup’s $10.2m Series A in August 2018.
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