PawaPay Raises 9M, Mr Eazi and 88mph (Zagadat) Among Investors
Aug 26, 2021
When a company creates digital payment solutions for African countries outside Nigeria and South Africa, mobile money is key. East Africa has used mobile money for years, but since such initiatives are led by telecom companies, creating a unified infrastructure is challenging. PawaPay, a U.K.-based company, has raised $9 million in seed funding to tackle the complexities of cashless payment on the continent. The company hopes to help businesses facilitate seamless transactions and this will require technical integrations from telecom operators like Safaricom, Orange and Vodafone among others. Today, the company is announcing that it has closed $9 million in seed funding to scale its operational presence, recruit talent and expand into new markets. U.K.-based fund 88mph joined forces with China-based MSA Capital, along with participation from U.S.-based funds Kepple Ventures and Vunani Capital in the recent $9M seed round for PawaPay. PawaPay is a spinoff from betPawa, an online sports betting firm. The company was started by Nikolai Barnwell who previously led the New Markets department at betPawa . He also serves on 88mph ’s Board of Directors. PawaPay was started to allow people to send and receive money internationally using mobile money. Freelancers in Ivory Coast often have issues receiving payment for their services on global platforms because typically they would need to use a bank account or card, which is not commonplace there. Just how big is mobile money in Africa? The World Bank estimates that there are 350 million unbanked people in sub-Saharan Africa from their 2015 figures. Various inadequacies account for this stat, but banks have no incentive to serve individuals without accounts. A significant portion of the global population pays in cash, and digital transactions are expensive for banks to process. Also, opening a bank account often requires providing proof of identity which can be too onerous for this demographic group. However, one thing is for sure: The unbanked have mobile phones, and there are over 850 million mobile connections in Africa. That’s why mobile money is prevalent throughout Africa. Telecom companies created their own payment systems and transferred money using mobile phones without high fees. Given that individuals with phone numbers can have basic financial services such as savings and transfers, PawaPay aims to ease access by creating a simple payment app. Currently, up to $500 billion flows through the mobile money market in sub-Saharan Africa every year. About 300 million people have active monthly accounts. But it is also one of the least developed due to fragmentation in the telecom industry. Each telecom operates with its own mobile money product, making a fragmented infrastructure for merchants who face exorbitant costs from using this technology at scale. Payment gateways, payment gateways
PawaPay tries to position itself as a market leader in high-volume mobile money payments. Its API allows merchants to access telecom operators’ mobile money systems to receive and send payments. “We’re making a very heavy bet on the rise of mobile money and all the complexities that arise out of mobile money and all the infrastructure that needs to be built around payments with mobile money at its core,” Barnwell. “And the way we’re looking at the continent, we’re looking at adoption rates for mobile money growing at an insane speed. It has become quite obvious that this is a very significant financial infrastructure and there’s a lot of it that’s been missing if you want to work serious volume and businesses on mobile money.”
PawaPay is a cross-platform payment solution that corporations can use to quickly receive payments in new markets. PawaPay claims that they are processing over 10 million transactions every week, with operation in 10 different African countries: Cameroon, DRC, Ghana, Kenya, Mozambique, Nigeria. Although Barnwell sees transaction volumes as impressive, pawaPay did not perform well because of regulatory hurdles and licensing approaches in each market. “In each country, we’ve had to start from scratch with the right data to understand how they look at the space, at the licensing sheets, what kind of companies they want to license, what kind of requirements they’re looking for, how we can work quite closely with them to make sure that they’re comfortable with us,” he said. Although the CEO states that regulation slows down processes, it is important for pawaPay as many unregulated companies are operating without licenses and may have unstable technologies. Some of them even have intentions to commit fraud. “We’ve gone in and decided we want to be completely regulated. We want to be completely covered in all the markets, with full licensing, and be a very stable reliable premium product in these markets,” he added. There are multiple payment platforms facilitating transactions for people and businesses in Africa, like Flutterwave, DPO Group, Yoco, MFS Africa, and Paystack. But among all others, pawaPay is the one with the purest mobile money focus. PawaPay focuses on addressing the challenges of using mobile money while other platforms utilize traditional banking infrastructure to provide payments. PawaPay raised a $9 million seed round backed by Mr. Eazi’s Zagadat Capital, 88mph, and MFS Africa. Barnwell states that PawaPay has activated nearly the same number of wallet providers and plans to go live across 30-40 telco integrations soon. In West Africa, mobile money adoption is catching up with that of East Africa. Last year, West African countries recorded 198 million registered mobile money accounts compared to 293 million in East African countries. West African countries led the way with the highest transaction value at $178 billion, and Ghana, Senegal and Ivory Coast were also providing significant growth. This presented a huge opportunity as compared to payment card providers who relied on a few countries. “Although most of the attention is on card payments, the big giant in payments in Africa really is mobile money,” the CEO said. PawaPay, which focuses on mobile money transfers, is being backed by Kresten Buch-founder of 88mph and chairman of pawaPay. He was drawn to this industry because when he invested in Africa 10 years ago., “one of the key drivers was that mobile money was a superior payment method to credit and debit cards when used for online payment.”
With a seed round of $9M and significant funding from music industry celeb Oluwatosin Ajibade (also known as Mr. Eazi), the founder of zagadat capital, pawaPay is commencing its global revolution:
Being investors hugely focused on Africa and very familiar with the landscape, we believe that mobile money-focused fintech is not just one of the most exciting places to invest but also one of the most important bridges to ensuring financial inclusion of the billions of people across the continent. The kicker for us was that we believe in the clear mission, vision and strategy and we are confident that the pawaPay team is the best team to achieve it.