This week on Finovate Global, we feature an extended conversation with Paga founder and CEO Tayo Oviosu.
Serving more than 21 million unique users in Africa, Paga is a payments and financial services ecosystem that makes it easy for people to request, send, and receive money; pay bills; get remittances and more. Founded in 2009, Paga is Nigeria’s leading mobile money company.
We caught up with Tayo Oviosu to discuss the current state of fintech in Nigeria and in sub-Saharan Africa, in general. We also talked about how Paga is helping boost financial inclusion and empowerment in the region, and what we can expect from the company in 2023.
Paga was recently recognized with placement on the CB Insights 250 list – one of seven African start-ups featured. What is going right with fintech in sub-Saharan Africa these days?
Tayo Oviosu: It was an honor to be ranked by CB Insights in its Fintech 250 list and, as one of only seven African start-ups featured, it speaks to the pioneering approach we are introducing to the world – revolutionizing payments and creating a financial services ecosystem for Africa.
As sub-Saharan Africa gains recognition on the global stage, we are seeing innovative and pioneering products emerge and rise in popularity amongst consumers, diversifying the products they can choose from.
In 2020, we saw Stripe acquire Nigerian fintech Paystack – which disrupted the ecosystem and spoke to a future-oriented outlook that has validated the region as an exciting space, full of potential. This speaks to the increase in funding and investment opportunities in the region.
As the ecosystem continues to rapidly grow, the vision of an integrated African market is closer to being realised, with new opportunities constantly emerging. At Paga, this is something particularly pertinent to our mission of making life possible for businesses and individuals. Our consumer ecosystem (Paga) helps people send, pay, and bank digitally. We now serve over 21 million unique users at our agents and consumer direct channels. We developed our seller ecosystem (Doroki) to help businesses digitize their payments and to manage their business operations digitally. Our Platform-as-a-Service offering enables ecosystem businesses and developers to build, launch, and grow, via our API infrastructure.
Looking at Nigeria specifically, what is the most interesting thing going on in fintech in Nigeria right now?
Oviosu: We are seeing more options for customers come to fruition through a growing market. Fintechs are competing innovatively to meet customers’ different needs with various tailored products.
Subsequently, there are more lending products and services, which are crucial in affording consumers more flexibility, and options to help them reach their goals and needs, and unlock their potential.
Overall, the landscape is improving in terms of communication between companies and regulators – helping firms overcome short and long-term obstacles in compliance.
The recognition of Paga amongst such a global cohort speaks to the innovation we are driving – and the calibre of our ecosystem. Our market potential, investor profile, technological innovation, and business relationships are on a global scale. To have a Nigerian platform lauded globally is an achievement in the Nigerian fintech space in and of itself.
Let’s talk about Paga. What services does Paga offer and who is the company’s target market?
Oviosu: Paga offers an extensive, hybrid payments ecosystem for online and offline customers. We make it easy for people to send, pay, and bank digitally.
For the individual customer, we allow simple seamless payment transactions, transfers, and bill payments – embedding our services into the daily needs of our users. We also help businesses to achieve their goals; powering reliable, real-time transactions, allowing online payment collections, and bill payments – all with minimal transaction charges. For Paga agents in our offline channels, we create jobs and incentives for those helping serve their communities – and also offer financial support via our overdraft offering. We also help developers to build, by enabling them to leverage our extensive platform via our (payment) APIs and providing them with the needed technical support.
In November, we launched our cards in partnership with Visa – both physical and virtual cards – enabling our consumers to pay at over 100 million merchant locations globally, anywhere Visa is accepted. This is just another example of how we make life possible for all our users.
Our current target market is largely contained in Africa, and driving accessibility to what is still a comparatively under-served market. That said, we have plans to expand beyond this and we will keep you posted on our journey.
What makes Paga unique in the payments business?
Oviosu: Paga emerged within the context of a largely cash-dependent economy, with both individuals and businesses suffering from this inefficiency. We took on the mission of improving financial accessibility in Africa as part of the digital payments revolution – and our growth is ever-accelerating as we do so. Our transaction values are soaring: from achieving our first two trillion Naira (over $4 billion based on current official exchange rates) from January 2012 to March 2020, to achieving our most recent two trillion Naira from February 2022 to September 2022 – in just eight months!
Our ecosystem aims to solve payments and services for consumers and sellers, but what makes us unique is our ecosystem approach. We understand that cash is still popular in Africa, and so we provide onramps and offramps in order to increase our reach. Our on-and-offline infrastructure makes us accessible and we pride ourselves on our deeply connected ecosystem – connecting our users to all the banks, enabling seamless transactions to individuals and merchants, and ensuring convenience for our users in their day-to-day lives.
Our customer-first approach is embedded into our DNA, and as we enter new phases of innovation, we strive to solve problems and provide opportunities for our users – whether that be helping people to save, helping businesses digitize, or offering lending services to consumers and SMEs amongst others. Foundational to this is our Platform-as-a-Service and our strong infrastructure – for consumers, sellers, and third parties.
You recently launched a Visa-branded virtual naira card. Why virtual first?
Oviosu: We wanted to address the need in Nigeria for effective virtual cards. As a digital financial services company, we felt a digital product would adhere to our mission and address our customers’ needs quickly and effectively. We have always sought to simplify the use of and access to payments and financial services.
Customers are able to activate their digital cards in less than 20 seconds – immediately gaining access to Visa’s global network. Moreover, for both physical and virtual, we offer benefits unique to Paga’s digital platform, such as real-time transaction notifications, seamless payments via unique ‘JustPaga.me’ pages, and unique Nigerian Uniform Bank Account Numbers (NUBANs) that serve as added protection for the card.
Paga and Visa have worked together before. What makes Visa a good partner for Paga right now?
Oviosu: On our mission to power payments and accessibility, our partnership with Visa has facilitated the growth of our reach. We are able to reach even more consumers, and diversify Paga’s ecosystem for our existing consumers. Through our strategic partnership, we can carry more Africans into the financial system and bridge the accessibility gap.
The partnership has also strengthened aspects such as reliability and security – facilitated in collaboration with Visa’s Cybersource in launching our direct online card processor. The partnership has been instrumental in bettering the user experience.
What can we expect from Paga in 2023? New services? New markets?
Oviosu: We are focused on deepening our current offerings in our ecosystem. We are staying true to our customer-focused mission and are constantly seeking to better serve all our users.
In 2023, we expect to see more significant partnerships occurring in the fintech space, as well as more niche focuses. This will widen options for businesses and consumers to meet their needs. More widely, this will accelerate economic growth as jobs are created, and infrastructure is improved. We are also looking to increase our reach. Currently, our customer base stands at over 20 million, with 140,000 agent points. We are projected to reach 40 to 50 million users in Nigeria – but are also looking beyond this. Earlier last year, we announced our operational license in Ethiopia – in partnership with the Bank of Abyssinia – and as we continue to work towards making it simple for people to send, pay, and bank digitally, we invite you to watch this space!
Here is our look at fintech innovation around the world.
Latin America and the Caribbean
- TechCrunch profiled Mexican fintech Zenfi.
- Mexico-based “fintech meets healthtech” startup Medsi raised $10 million in debt financing.
- Want to learn more about the new fintech law in Chile? InvestChile has you covered with a new e-book.
- Indonesian fintech iSeller raised $12 million in Series B funding to help businesses digitize their sales.
- Bangladesh’s central bank launched its QR code payments system nationwide this week.
- Philippine-based payments processing firm PayMongo introduced new president and CEO Jojo Malolos
- South African cross-border money transfer company Mama Money announced a partnership with Zimbabwe’s AFC Commercial Bank.
- Zawya looks at the relationship between financial literacy and the rise of insuretech in Africa.
- Ecobank and MTN teamed up to launch mobile money microfinancing in Guinea
Central and Eastern Europe
- Germany-based fraud prevention company Hawk AI secured $17 million in Series B funding.
- Munich Re and Unifiedpost announced a new strategic partnership this week.
- Lithuanian technology company iDenfy to provide identity verification and AML services to Finora Bank.
Middle East and Northern Africa
- Egyptian embedded finance provider XPAY teamed up with Finastra to help support its growth agenda.
- MoneyGram announced a strategic partnership with MENA-based VoIP solution, BOTIM.
- Open ecosystem regtech firm Konsentus went live in the Middle East and North Africa this week.
Central and Southern Asia
- Worldline launched its digital payments suite for small businesses in India.
- Bangaldesh Finance announced a partnership with SM Fintech.
- Forbes India looked at the country’s “matuing fintech ecosystem.”