African neobanks stand out from the crowd by addressing a massive market with challenging economic conditions
The ongoing boom in digital banking is most vividly observed in Latin America, Africa, and the Middle East. It is fuelled by the rising investor enthusiasm for the sector, considering that VC funds devoted over $2 billion to neobanks in the first half of last year alone.
Africa occupies 20% of the earth’s land area – more than China, Canada, and the USA put together. At the same time, it’s home to 16% of the world’s population, and the majority is still unbanked. Naturally, neobanks have a vast potential on the continent. Hence, there are many examples of successful digital banking projects across African countries. We’ll shortly describe the top 7 of them.
Technically being a French startup, Eversend caters to the African diaspora across the globe. The company completed the Techstars Berlin Accelerator in 2019, participated in the Google Launchpad Accelerator, won Slush, and got over $2 million in funding, including a phenomenal crowdfunding campaign on Seedrs, where the team raised over 134% of their goal in a few days.
The “borderless money app” offers multi-currency accounts as well as a virtual USD card. Eversend can be accessed without an internet connection, which is crucial for the continent where 65% of the population remains offline.
The app allows various types of P2P transactions: money transfers between Eversend users in Nigeria, Kenya, Uganda, and Rwanda; mobile money transfers to MPESA, Airtel, MTN, and Tigo users in Kenya, Rwanda & Uganda; and transfers to any bank accounts in Nigeria. While the app is still rolling out, ultimately it’s going to include a full range of features: personal loans, individual and group savings, merchant payments, donations, crypto-trading, crowdfunding, currency exchange, and multi-currency wallets.
Chipper cash (Uganda)
Founded in San Francisco, the startup raised $30 million in the Series B funding round led by Ribbit Capital with the participation of Bezos Expeditions — the personal VC fund of Jeff Bezos.
Chipper Cash is a cross-border payments app, covering the territories of Nigeria, Kenya, South Africa, Ghana, Uganda, Rwanda, and Tanzania. The users can enjoy fee-free money transfers and bill payments. Recently, the neobank started beta-testing new features allowing to buy and sell Bitcoin and invest in US stocks from Africa. Along with its P2P app, the startup also runs Chipper Checkout — a merchant-focused payment product that generates the revenue needed to support Chipper Cash’s free-of-charge services.
SOL wallet (South Africa)
The startup has raised over $4 million in a single funding round up-to-date by 1 disclosed investor.
SOL Wallet allows users to create multi-currency accounts online, exchange currencies at interbank rates, trade FX, crypto, and stocks, pay for services and utilities, send money to friends, get an SOL debit card issued by Standard Bank of South Africa, withdraw cash in ATMs and retail stores, and purchase prepaid products such as airtime, electricity, and DSTV.
In 2018, this digital bank raised $6.9 million in a Series A investment round that became one of the largest in Nigerian tech history. Its latest funding round attracted some more investments, bringing the funding amount total to $8.15 million.
Lidya has created an online lending platform for small and midsize businesses to easily access flexible, affordable credit options. To estimate credit risk, Lidya uses nearly 100 data points to evaluate each applicant and builds a unique credit score. Businesses can also use the startup’s proprietary dashboards and tools to manage their invoices and cash flow.
The four-year-old startup has created its team on a 50-50 gender base level. Its co-founder and CEO Odunayo Eweniyi is an excellent example and a great source of inspiration for all female professionals in the tech industry.
PiggyVest (formerly Piggy Bank) is a savings app with autosave features, a “safelock” which allows you to pre-set the dates of possible money withdrawals, favorable interest rates, and micro-investments options. Active users can get Piggy points as a reward and use them to make more money. The platform currently boasts to have 350,000 active users.
CowryWise was founded in 2017 but has gathered only $300K in funding up-to-date. However, the neobank has good perspectives. In 2019, the fintech was selected as one of the 50 winners of Kairos K50 Tech Summit held in New York. In 2020, the company was distinguished by the Global Inclusive Fintech Accelerator Catalyst Fund as one of 30 early-stage companies focused on advancing financial inclusion for underserved consumers that will receive the Fund’s financial and educational support.
The neobank provides its services via a wealth management app that enables you to save for short-term and long-term goals, invest in mutual funds, store money in a Stash account, and carry out P2P transactions.
7aweshly is a savings platform for formerly unbanked or underbanked youth. Its core operations are based on a micro-saving mobile application tool. The app is specifically aimed at the younger generation between the ages of 16 to 21, having a lot of interactive features, gamified interface, and a connected Facebook AI chatbot that categorizes young users according to their saving skills and fights financial illiteracy. The newest exciting feature is the ability to save your money on gold. Users can set financial goals on the platform and make deposits via CIB ATM. The startup plans to extend the deposit facility to supermarkets and pharmacies in the nearest future.
The startup received $28K while participating in the North African Flat6Labs Accelerator program. All the startups in the tenth cycle of Flat6Labs Cairo went through the four-month acceleration program to receive coaching, mentorship, and advice from subject matter experts. The participants received equal investment sums in exchange for 10% equity.