Nigerian fintech company OPay, provider of micro-loans and investment services on mobile phones, raised $120 million in series B Monday, aiming to deliver financial inclusion to Africa’s unbanked and expand into other African countries.
Founded in 2018, the Lago-based company aspires to be a one-stop mobile platform for payment, transportation and food delivery for Africa’s underbanked population.
Of the round’s nine investors, seven are based in China, including Meituan Dianping, Sequoia China and IDG Capital, signaling Chinese investors’ growing presence in Africa’s crowded fintech scene. The investment is among the largest in African fintech, according to PitchBook.
The app’s appeal is due in part to the range of services it offers: it can be used to pay for public bus rides, dubbed OBus, and access micro loans with OKash. OPay is the financial division of Opera, a Norway-based Chinese-backed tech company. The new fund will be used to expand OPay’s business into other African countries, including South Africa and Kenya.
Several of the current round’s investors also supported the July $50 million Series A fundraising, with Softbank Asia, BAI and Beijing-based VC firm GaoRong joining the new round. A Chinese investor also led the second largest fintech investment in Africa this year: Shenzhen-based Transsion Holdings invested $40 million in PalmPay, another Lagos-based payment startup, last week.
Private investors boosted Africa-based fintech spending by 30% this year, to a record $250 million, according to PitchBook. The boom followed a temporary cooling down in 2016 when investments dropped 78% from the 2014’s $128 million.
While China’s Africa investments generated a flurry of media attention, U.S., U.K. and South African investors are the most active in active fintech-focused investors, according to PitchBook data. Village Capital of Washington D.C. has participated in 20 deals over the past five years, while London-based Startupbootcamp has invested in 11. At the same time, Shanghai’s LUN Partners Group and Tencent Holdings, the most active Chinese investors in Africa fintech, have invested two deals each.
- OPay is poised to leverage web browser Opera’s over 350 million average monthly active user base. Opera ranked as the second most used browser in Africa, occupying a market share of 12%, compared to Chrome’s 60%, according to StatCounter Global Stats.
- Africa’s fast-growing Internet usage presents opportunities for digital-only banks. While the share of Africans with traditional bank accounts has increased little, the portion with mobile money accounts reached 21% in 2017, almost double from 2014, according to a World Bank report.