5 Out of 7 Tech Unicorns in Africa Come From Fintech

5 Out of 7 Tech Unicorns in Africa Come From Fintech

by 12 October 2021

Africa is seeing a rush of funding for its fintech sector, and some companies have already emerged as the continent’s biggest fintech bets, becoming unicorns in Africa.

African fintech companies have raised more in the first seven months than they have in the decade before, according to one report. Between January and September this year, African fintech companies have raised a touch near US$1.5 billion. That, against the US$1.06 billion they raised all across 2011 to 2020, is a clear indication of accelerated interest in the market potential of fintech in Africa.

There are a total of seven tech unicorns in Africa right now, with fintech unicorns in Africa holding the majority of five. The other two are Jumia (ecommerce) and the most recent unicorn in the continent Andela (HR solution for software engineers). The space also includes ‘soonicorns’, or companies that are one their way to becoming future unicorns, such as Kuda Bank. The Nigeria-focused challenger bank raised US$55 million in a Series B this year, at a valuation of US$500 million.

From the ones that made the US$1 billion cut, here’s what you need to know about the five fintech unicorns in Africa.

Top fintech unicorns in Africa.

Fawry (Egypt)

Valuation: US$2+ billion

Unicorns in Africa flutterwave

A listed company, Fawry is not a unicorn in the technical sense of the word (since it is a listed company, whereas unicorns are usually startups with a US$1+ valuation). Yet, it is widely considered to be one in the MENA region.

The company offers a wide range of B2B and B2C payment services, and trades on the EGX with a market cap of about US$1.5 billion as of 6 October.

OPay (Nigeria)

Valuation: US$2 billion

opay Unicorns in Africa

OPay sprung to unicorn status after SoftBank’s Vision Fund 2 led a US$400 million funding round in the company in August this year. The round took the company’s valuation to US$2 billion. It also made OPay SoftBank’s debut investment in Africa.

OPay provides a mobile money solution (a central fintech sector in Africa) that comes with physical debit cards, an offline banking solution and savings facilities.

Wave (Senegal)

Valuation: US$1.7 billion

wave Unicorns in Africa

Wave is the latest entrant to the list of fintech unicorns in Africa. The company attained a valuation of US$1.7 billion in September this year, after a US$200 million Series A funding round.

Investors in the company include global heavyweights Sequoia, Founders Fund, Stripe and Ribbit Capital. Wave also offers a mobile money solution that includes deposits and withdrawals, transfers and bill payments.

Flutterwave (San Francisco)

Valuation: US$1+ billion

Flutterwave Unicorns in Africa

Payment infrastructure company Flutterwave raised US$170 million in a Series C that took place in March this year. The funding round came at a valuation of US$1 billion, taking the company to unicorn status.

Flutterwave has recently been announcing a string of partnerships, including with MTN Group, 9PSB, and Currencycloud.

Interswitch (Nigeria)

Valuation: US$1 billion

Unicorns in Africa interswitch

Interswitch is a digital payments company, with solutions spanning transactions, collection, disbursement, card issuance and more.

The company became a unicorn after Visa picked up a minority stake in the company in 2019, leading to a valuation of US$1 billion. The deal was reportedly valued at US$200 million for 20% equity. The company had IPO plans for the first half of 2020, but the plans haven’t materialised thus far.

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