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From MTN to MFS Africa, the journey of Dare Okoudjou, the Beninese boss conquering the US

Few African start-ups manage to expand outside the continent. Even rarer are those that buy a company on the other side of the Atlantic, yet this is what Dare Okoudjou has just managed to accomplish with his company, MFS Africa. This London-based Beninese entrepreneur has just announced the takeover of Global Technology Partners (GTP) – a 63-person company founded in 2013 by an American, Robert Merrick, and that is based in Tulsa, Oklahoma – for $34m.

GTP specialises in prepaid bank cards, which are currently distributed to 500,000 users in 34 countries on the continent, according to the Financial Times. The Bialek-led company already has 80 clients in Africa, in the banking (UBA, Ecobank, Stanbic, Zenith Bank, Coris Bank and NSIA), fintech (Chipper) and telecommunications sectors (Airtel).

Fourth acquisition

This is not Okoudjou’s first acquisition. Founded in 2010, MFS Africa bought its first company in 2016. At that time, the manager was already looking to expand outside the continent, as he bought Sochitel, a British company also present in New Jersey, Johannesburg, Accra and Douala, which provides international phone credit top-ups and digital services (bill payment, vouchers, etc.). After Uganda’s Beyonic in 2015 and Nigeria’s Baxi in 2021, which opened the doors to the largest market in Africa, MFS concluded its fourth acquisition with GTP. This transaction should enable the company, its founder hopes, to expand in North America.

Okoudjou’s background is just as cosmopolitan as his company. Born in Porto-Novo, he attended the capital’s Lycée Béhanzin before moving to Casablanca in 1995 for a year of preparation to join engineering schools at Lycée Mohammed V. This institution opened the doors to France, where he studied telecommunications at Télécom Paris between 1996 and 1999.

The son of a teacher father and nurse mother, he began his career at PwC in Paris, where he helped create one of Maroc Telecom’s two competitors at the end of the 1990s, and then worked on creating the first prepaid mobile service in the Moroccan kingdom.

In 2006, the self-described “over-optimist” joined MTN in Johannesburg. He then led a team in charge of the MTN Momo mobile money service’s commercial strategy. A year later, he became head of international mobile money development, a position he held for almost two years before leaving MTN to found MFS Africa.

400 million mobile wallets

Since its creation, the fintech has raised $124m from a dozen international investors and the US investment advisory firm FT Partners, which also accompanied it as it acquired Beyonic and Baxi. The latest fundraising dates back to November 2021, when MFS Africa raised $100m (including $30m in debt) from AfricInvest, Endeavor and Goodwell Investments.

Initially, a simple remittance service, the start-up has evolved through acquisitions to focus on secure international transfer products for underbanked customers and SMEs. MFS Africa now employs over 500 staff across seven offices worldwide. The company claims to have 400 million mobile wallets in over 35 countries.

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