The Citizen (Gauteng)

Fintechs shine as Africa catches up in bumper year


Fintech companies in Africa raised more capital despite the Covid-19 pandemic, standing in contrast to their emerging-market peers such as Latin America.

The continent saw fintech funding, including mergers and acquisitio­ns, grow to $1.35 billion last year from $1 billion in 2019, according to a report by BFA Global’s Catalyst Fund and Briter Bridges. While Indian and Latin American fintech companies still raised more money than those in Africa, their volumes fell from the previous year as they battled to close later-stage deals.

“The numbers of pre-seed and seed deals in Africa are increasing,” the report said. “While Latin America and India are seeing a growing number of mega-deals, African markets are only beginning to see a few such late-stage deals.”

Africa’s growing population of 1.2 billion people, rising smartphone ownership and a drop in internet costs are among the factors contributi­ng to the region’s allure. Investors also see opportunit­y among its large unbanked population of 350 million, which accounts for 17% of the global total.

Most investment­s on the continent flowed to Nigeria, Kenya, and South Africa, according to the report, which surveyed 177 start-ups and 33 impact investors across emerging markets.

The region’s fintechs haven’t yet raised funding through an initial public offerings but they have enjoyed fast growing merger-and-acquisitio­n activity, with internatio­nal companies including Visa, Network Internatio­nal Holdings and Stripe growing their interests in the region.

Nigeria has especially benefited from the financial-technology boom that has put much of Africa at the cutting edge of the revolution in mobile money. In 2020, Stripe paid $200 million to acquire start-up Paystack.

Flutterwav­e, based in Lagos and San Francisco, raised $170 million this year, becoming Nigeria’s second fintech start-up with a valuation above $1 billion, after Interswitc­h.

Though total funding for emerging market fintech companies increased last year, it still accounts for a small portion of global investment. Of the $105 billion received by fintech firms in 2020, $76 billion flowed to the US.

In Latin America, Brazil, Mexico, Uruguay, and Colombia made up 99% of regional fintech investment, while India, Singapore and Indonesia were the most popular destinatio­n for funds in South Asia and Southeast Asia. India netted $3 billion for fintechs alone.

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