“China-backed and Africa-focused” is a way to describe much of the investment that has poured into sub-Saharan Africa in recent years. This week’s news that African-based fintech platform OPay is in the process of raising $400 million in new funding – giving the firm a valuation of $1.5 billion – is the latest example of this trend.
OPay is a mobile money platform launched in Nigeria by popular internet search engine Opera back in 2018. The funding report, which was published in The Information, noted that the capital would be used to fuel the company’s geographic expansion, having gone live in Egypt earlier this year. With Chinese investors maintaining a majority stake in the company, OPay had raised more than $170 million to date from investors including Sequoia Capital, IDG Capital, Source Code, GSR Ventures, Meituan-Dianping, and parent company Opera.
The company said that it processed $1.4 billion in payments in October alone, a sum that increased to $2 billion by December. Much of this can likely be attributed to COVID-19. In a country where cash is still king, the onset of the global pandemic made in-person, cash-based transactions problematic. Digital payment options like those provided by OPay have soared in popularity; Forbes took a look at the boom in Africa’s mobile money business back in December, noting investments in sub-Saharan payment innovators like Paystack (also of Nigeria) and Chipper Cash, a San Francisco based P2P payments company that serves customers in seven African countries.
That said, OPay is looking to leverage its pedigree as a payments solution to offer additional products including debit and credit cards. Earlier this month, OPay launched its USSD withdrawal service to make it easier for Nigerians to access cash at OPay merchant stores – without needing a debit card. Also this month, the company introduced version 4.0 of its super app. OPay 4.0 now makes it easier for users to connect with friends and family, add contacts, make quick payments for frequently used services, and more.
Interestingly, OPay is the most successful of the ventures Opera has tried to spin off. These efforts include ORide, a bicycle-sharing service that was shut down after the Nigerian government banned the business; a similarly shuttered bus-booking solution, OBus; a logistics delivery service OExpress; a B2B e-commerce platform OTrade; and a food delivery service called OFood.
Here is our look at fintech innovation around the world.
Central and Eastern Europe
Middle East and Northern Africa
Central and Southern Asia
Latin America and the Caribbean