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10 entrepreneurs who will shake up fintech

The fintech sector has been booming over the past decade on the continent and, if the latest McKinsey study is anything to go by, the movement has accelerated even more recently. Between 2020 and 2021, the number of tech start-ups in Africa has tripled to 5,200 companies, half of which are fintechs. They are called Flutterwave, Chipper Cash, Kuda, Jumo, Intouch and Wave, and are among the best-known and most successful companies in African fintech.

These technologies address the needs that the traditional banking sector cannot meet on a continent where the rate of banking remains low and 90% of transactions are still done in cash. The fintechs, therefore, offer services (online banking, microcredit, electronic wallet, insurance, etc.) that aim to provide their customers with greater transparency and simplicity in their transactions, while allowing them to reduce costs by up to 80%, according to a study by the McKinsey firm.

African fintech’s growth potential is considerable, due to the continent’s young population, increasing smartphone penetration and ever-improving network coverage. McKinsey even believes that the sector’s revenues could increase eightfold by 2025, reaching $30bn.

However, these start-ups are concentrated in certain specific markets, particularly English-speaking ones such as Kenya and Nigeria. But according to the consultancy firm’s study, countries such as Senegal, Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire and Morocco also have strong growth potential in this sector. Who are the entrepreneurs who manage to stand out in the French-speaking markets? Here is a brief overview.

Côte d’Ivoire

Hassan Bourgi and Régis Bamba, Djamo’s founders

Djamo is the second start-up that Hassan Bourgi has launched. The first was called Busportal – which has since become redBus – a platform for selling bus tickets in Peru. But in 2019, on the strength of this success, the Lebanese-born entrepreneur left the US, crossed the Atlantic and settled in Côte d’Ivoire, where he met Régis Bamba. Hassan decided to found Djamo in 2020 with this MTN Côte d’Ivoire developer and product manager.

The start-up aims to address the limitations of traditional banking systems. It offers an access card for online transactions, as well as savings and investment solutions in a single application. The platform also provides financial education to its customers. In 2021, the company, which claims 200,000 customers, was supported in its development by the US incubator Y Combinator.

Anouar Traboulsi, Green Pay’s founder

Former owner of the construction company Omni Travaux – sold to Marylis BTP, a subsidiary of the Snedai Group, owned by the powerful Ivorian entrepreneur Adama Bictogo – Anouar Traboulsi has converted to fintech. In 2020, in the midst of a global pandemic, he launched Green Pay, a start-up which, thanks to a partnership concluded at the beginning of 2021 with the Groupement Interbancaire Monétique de l’Union Economique et Monétaire Ouest-Africaine (Gim-Uemoa), is now working with some 140 banking institutions in the region.

Green Pay provides merchants who are customers of Gim-Uemoa’s partner banks with electronic payment terminals (EPTs). These are compatible with Visa, MasterCard and mobile payment regardless of the operator. Traboulsi, who also plans to develop digital bank cards, has managed to attract the interest of Orange Côte d’Ivoire, which recently bought a majority stake in Green Pay. Mainly active in Côte d’Ivoire, the start-up is now planning to expand in the West African region.

Senegal

Aziz Yérima, PayDunya’s founder and managing director 

PayDunya began as a collective adventure at the École Supérieure Multinationale des Télécommunications in Dakar. Aziz Yérima, who is originally from Benin, brought together three friends from Côte d’Ivoire, Senegal and Togo. Together, the group realised that without a bank card, it was extremely difficult to pay to host the website they had created in 2013 as part of a women’s MSE project in Pikine.

They decided to create PayDunya in January 2015, with the aim of giving all Africans access to online payment services. The company offers solutions to facilitate the issuing and receiving of online payments for individuals and allows the collection and disbursement of bulk payments for businesses. All this can be done without a bank account or Visa card. Today, PayDunya has more than 1,200 corporate clients and claims to have completed more than 15 million transactions since its creation, for a total of 110bn CFA francs ($170m).

Dina El Kadry, Alpha Digicredit’s founder and CEO 

Dina El Kadry has already had several lives. By the age of 24, this Senegalese-Lebanese had already managed a restaurant in Saint-Louis. She finally decided to devote herself entirely to learning, obtaining a bachelor’s degree in marketing, communication and business development at the BEM Management School in Dakar, coupled with a diploma in Islamic finance. On the strength of these successes, she began her career in communications and soon became the communications director of the CBAO-Attijariwafa Bank group.

Her interest in the real estate sector led her to be appointed the group’s director of real estate credit in 2015. While there, she began to create a digital real estate financing platform, in order to democratise access to credit. Alpha Digicredit was finally launched in 2020. The company offers to put together and carry financing applications to banks and accompanies its clients along their journey: from choosing a property to financing it.

Morocco

Abdeslam Alaoui Ismaili, founder and managing director of HPS

Abdeslam Alaoui Ismaili is not a newcomer in the African fintech ecosystem. After studying in Toulouse, the young Moroccan graduate created Hightech Informatique in 1992 to resell NeXT computers in Morocco. The company failed, but three years later, with three other collaborators, he co-founded the start-up of which he is now the managing director: Hightech Payment Systems (HPS).

The company specialises in providing payment solutions for various institutions, the first of which was GPBM (Groupement Professionnel des Banques du Maroc). Its flagship product is the PowerCARD software suite, an all-in-one platform that processes all types of cards (credit, debit, prepaid, loyalty) via all channels (ATM, POS, Internet and mobile) and for all types of commerce. It is currently used by over 450 institutions in more than 90 countries. HPS has also been listed on the stock exchange since 2006 and has seen its turnover jump by 18.2% between 2021 and 2022, reaching $44m.

Emir Lallouche, Yalla Xash’s co-founder and CEO

Emir Lallouche created Yalla Xash following a personal experience. After studying computer science in Poitiers, and while living in Canada, one of his friends wanted to send money home to his sick mother. But the US company in charge of the transaction blocked the funds and the poor woman died before she could receive the money. Emir then became aware of the complexity of transferring funds between his native country and Canada and created Yalla Xash in 2017.

Through its app, the company promises to transfer money between the two countries in less than 30 seconds, at a low cost and in a completely secure manner. And it seems the start-up is on a roll, as it saw a 35% increase in transaction volumes during the global health crisis when Moroccans in Canada overwhelmingly supported their families. Perhaps this is why the Maroc Numeric Fund – which invested more than 6m dirhams (more than €550,000) in June 2021 during its fourth round of investment – set its sights on Yalla Xash.

Cameroon

Serge Boupda, Diool’s founder and managing director

Serge Boulda hadn’t returned to his native country in 10 years. After spending 15 years in France – 10 of them as a trader at Société Générale – this engineer, who also studied at HEC Paris, decided to tackle cash payments in Cameroon. To make this ambition a reality, he founded Diool in 2013. The start-up aims to facilitate the accounting of Cameroonian merchants by bringing together several financial payment services on a single digital platform.

The first official transaction took place in January 2016 and Diool has been growing ever since. It now has more than 2,500 merchant users, with $120m worth of transactions between 2016 and 2021. This success enabled the company to raise $3.5m in 2021, which will allow it to continue its expansion in Cameroon and then throughout Central Africa.

Nkwenti Azong-Wara, Maviance’s co-founder and managing director

The story began 10 years ago in Germany when Nkwenti Azong-Wara was an engineer at Siemens. In 2012, together with other Cameroonian engineers working in Germany, they decided to create Maviance, in order to facilitate digital payments for companies in their native country. The company grew rapidly and is now a pioneer in the provision of digital financial services and business software, the best known of which is the digital payment platform Smobilpay, which has been active since 2012.

After nine years as deputy director, Azong-Wara was appointed as Maviance’s managing director in January 2021. His arrival at the helm of the company was quickly followed by a $3m fundraising round from pan-African fintech MFS Africa to finance its expansion into other African countries. More recently, in February 2022, Maviance’s capital increased by a further $200,000, following Finafrik’s addition to its capital.

Mali

Simon Schwall, OKO’s founder and managing director

This 30-year-old French-Luxembourger, who studied at HEC Paris, began his career by creating several insurance services in Papua New Guinea, Fiji and Egypt, within the Swedish company Milvik Bima. Based on this experience, he decided to found his own agricultural insurance company in Mali: OKO was born in October 2017. The company’s principle is simple: it offers small farmers crop insurance against losses, thanks to satellite weather data and a mobile phone payment system.

To develop, Simon Schwall has put his trust in recognised local players, such as Haoua Sissoko Traoré, the first female doctoral student in “Population and Environment” in Mali and current “country director”, and Adama Kouyaté, the current commercial director. In five years, OKO has already won over 10,000 customers in Mali and has even recently entered the new market of Uganda.

Daouda Coulibaly, Sama Money’s founder and managing director

Not everything went according to plan for Daouda Coulibaly. Intended to take over his father’s spare parts business, the young man won a grant from the “300 young people” programme and left to study in France. With a master’s degree in regional planning in hand, he began by selling computers, then trained his clients in the use of office software. He ended up creating Trainis in 2008, a training company that quickly expanded its catalogue.

But in 2019, while Trainis continued to grow, Coulibaly took on a new challenge and founded SAMA Money. This money transfer and mobile payment platform aim to reduce the costs of money transfers and withdrawals in Mali in order to improve the inclusion of populations far from the traditional banking system. In 2022, the company took another step forward in its development. It set up operations in Côte d’Ivoire and Burundi, signed a partnership with AV+ insurance, and now has 13,000 points of sale in Mali.

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