pawaPay, an African payments company based in the UK, has secured a $9 million seed fund to scale its operations, hire more talents, and expand into new African countries. The round was led by MSA and UK-based investment fund 88mph. Vunani Capital,  Kepple Ventures and African Musician Mr Eazi’s Zagadat Capital also participated in the round. 

pawaPay provides unified mobile money (MoMo) API infrastructure. In Africa, mobile money is primarily the brainchild of telecommunication companies like Safaricom, MTN and Airtel. Each telco has its unique infrastructure powering its MoMo operations; working with these different telecom infrastructures is complicated for businesses. 

To remove the complexity or fragment from MoMo operation, a unified API is needed and this is where startups like pawaPay come in. pawaPay is building a simple API that unifies all telco-backed MoMo infrastructures and gives businesses access to more than 300 million customers in more than ten markets. 

Mobile money is bridging the financial divide thanks to the proliferation of mobile phones across the African continent. As huge and as widespread conventional banking is, there are still a large number of unbanked and underbanked people. The World bank in 2015 placed the number of these unbanked population at over 350 million. Now, how do unbanked people with mobile phones access financial services? Simple, MoMo!

According to pawaPay’s CEO Nikolai Barnwell, pawaPay was built to help people send and receive money internationally using mobile money. 

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“We’re making a bet that this infrastructure will continue to grow and offer a superior experience than traditional financial infrastructures such as card and banking,” Barnwell said in a statement.

Barnwell added that it has become quite obvious that MoMo is a very significant financial infrastructure and they (pawaPay) could see “its adoption in the continent continue growing at an insane speed.”

With 10 million transactions per week totalling 257.4 million transactions worth $1.2 billion, 99% completion rate and no chargeback recorded, and a presence in 10 countries, pawaPay is surely positioning itself as an industry leader in high volume mobile money payments focused on delivering reliability and transparency for merchants wishing to connect to the customers on the continent. 

pawaPay says it handles local operations, compliance, regulatory cover and bank accounts, making it as simple as clicking a button to start receiving payments in a new market. 

However, pawaPay is playing in a highly competitive market. There are already established fintech startups like MFS Africa, that has connected over 300 million mobile money wallets in Africa; Mpesa, which is the MoMo groundbreaker in Africa and now leading the movement from East Africa. There is also Julaya, a new market entrant and a noteworthy market player.

According to the CEO, though still in beta, pawaPay also connects to nearly the same number of wallets MFS Africa connects to and hopes to go live across 30 to 40 telco integrations soon.

“We are excited to have world-class investors supporting our vision to connect every mobile money wallet in Africa to each other, and the rest of the world, as we continue to make it simpler to do payments,” Barnwell said in a statement.

Speaking on their investment in payPawa, Kresten Buch, Founder of 88mph, said mobile money was a superior payment method to credit and debit cards when used for online payment and that was the reason they entered the African market in 2010. “So, we are excited to be an investor in pawaPay’s journey and continue to witness the development of digital infrastructure in Africa”.

“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.” Mr Eazi, singer, songwriter, entrepreneur and Founder of Zagadat Capital said in a statement. “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”.

Damilare Dosunmu | Author

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