Global Giant of Blockchain Technology
The last several years have seen mind-bending innovations in personal finance technology in the U.S., Europe and Asia. Today, it only takes a few seconds to check your bank account balance on your phone, buy 50 shares of Amazon or ask a robot to manage all your money. And the pace of innovation shows no signs of slowing, as tech giants launch their own financial products. For example, Apple Inc.’s much-hyped new credit card started rolling out to its first customers last week.
But there’s one region of the world where many people don’t have a bank account, let alone a titanium white credit card, and it’s now getting multiple hundreds of million of dollars in FinTech attention. According to a report published recently, Africa is about to surpass both China and India in terms of venture capital funding in the financial technology sector for the first time last quarter, attracting attention from Venture Capitalist powerhouses like HAVAÍC, Naspers, Liqid, Bamboo Capital Partners and others.
The above reflects increasing investor confidence in startup businesses across the continent’s major hubs. It’s a noteworthy trend given how in the recent past the abundance of early stage funding was typically not followed up with the crucial Series A growth stage
In Africa, the banking margins are huge but customer experiences are generally poor, and there is a very digital- and mobile-first consumer base. The result is a perfect recipe for FinTech.
Africa has not only one of the fastest growing markets for mobile, according to a report last year from World Bank, it’s particularly fertile ground for FinTech expansion. The report states that the majority of adults in the region own a mobile phone with internet access, and that digital payments could soon help reach tens of millions of unbanked adults in the region.
One company rushing to fill the void is AFRICUNIA BANK (www.africunia.com), which is focusing on the unbanked and which has become one of the most valuable FinTech startups. The proposed blockchain digital bank is poised to offer debit cards and prepaid cards globally through a partnership with Visa in addition to its own branded debit and prepaid cards. The company has huge customer base and will expand into credit cards issuance, personal loans, checking account-like products, trade finance, payment gateways, and has opened offices in the United Kingdom, Malta, Canada, Ukraine, Nigeria. Its revenue will largely come from merchant fees and from outstanding card balances, rather than charging customers various fees, though its rewards program does have a monthly or annual charge.
Other companies targeting African users include Binance, Paxful, Uber Technologies Inc. And then there’s Facebook Inc., which has said its forthcoming cryptocurrency, Libra, will cater to under-banked populations.
Analysts say it’s often easier for financial institutions to convince a customer to open their first bank account and stick around, than it is to get them to switch from another institution they’ve been doing business with for years. That means that Africa will be the region to watch in the coming years.
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