(L-R: Appruve co-founder and CEO, Paul Damalie and Smile Identity’s CEO, Mark Straub)

Leading digital identity and KYC company, Smile Identity has acquired Ghana-based identity verification company Inclusive Innovations. Inclusive Innovations is the parent company of Appruve which operates in the same arena as Smile Identity and offers ID verification for individuals and businesses. This acquisition will aid Smile Identity’s on-ground expansion plans and the spread of its digital identity solutions across Africa.

Smile Identity helps businesses across Africa verify the identity of their users/customers before onboarding them into a product/system of value. They do this by providing automated document verification and authentication services, AML Compliance screening, biometric authentication, user verification and onboarding, and other fraud prevention security services. 

Appruve on the other hand focuses on connecting multiple databases to create a story around an individual or business. This database could be for driving license, national identity card/numbers, etc. and they connect this information to individuals and businesses which helps their customers verify various identities. This technology is made accessible through APIs and SDKs to businesses and individuals. 

According to the World Bank’s Identity for Development (ID4D) toolkit

, almost half of the one billion people who lack identification globally are in Africa. This means that a huge percentage of Africans are excluded from economic and social benefits both locally and globally. Smile Identity was inspired by this lack of global identification and ergo lack of opportunities for Africans. Since 2017 they have been providing digital identity verification services and security services to leading African companies including Paystack and OPay. This acquisition of Appruve’s parent company is a natural progression after years of partnership and collaboration between both companies in the African identity verification space. When Appruve started, Smile Identity was its first customer and over the years, both companies have leveraged each other’s technology and expertise to serve their customers.

Currently, the companies have reached a definitive merger agreement subject to regulatory and stockholder approval. The acquisition amount remains undisclosed but speaking on why Appruve is the best company to work with at this time, Smile Identity’s CEO, Mark Straub says “Over time collaborating with Paul and the team at Appruve, we realized that we shared the same vision and insights. Insights on what the likely path to solving digital identity across Africa will take, which markets will become important, and how different products will come together to aid this goal. I knew from our first meeting in Accra that I wanted to work with Paul and beyond a shared vision, the more practical reason for our businesses to come together today is the synergies between our teams. Appruve has product engineering expertise and access to some key data sources that are important to us. They also allow us to strengthen our knowledge and on-the-ground presence in key markets in West Africa where we want to deeply invest more. Ultimately it makes the most financial sense to combine both businesses and teams at this time”

This is a cash and stock deal with key members of Appruve now shareholders in Smile Identity and most of the Appruve team is being kept onboard. Speaking of this merger and why he chose to stay on, Appruve co-founder and CEO, Paul Damalie says he believes that his work around identity verification in Africa is not yet finished. 

“There are products being built at Appruve that it makes the most sense to merge forces with Smile Identity to build. We share a vision of which datasets across Africa are important. We also agree on how to leverage these critical datasets to have deeper penetration in local markets and help our clients build more holistic profiles around people and entities they’d like to verify. These are plans we want to build and this is work that I’m still very passionate about, and want to stay involved in.” he says.

With this merger, both companies are working together to achieve the same goals collectively and more efficiently. They will continue to build and deepen their expertise on what solutions work across different markets with additional insights into the Ghanaian market from the Appruve team. This combination of talent and experience will also strengthen their broader understanding of the direction of KYC in Africa and their relationships with regulators and compliance officers in the public and private sectors on the continent.

For customers, they’ll improve on the offerings that they previously enjoyed. Customers will be able to get access to all the services of both Smile Identity and Appruve and enjoy more robust solutions over time with expertise from both companies. With hundreds of customers and 60 million identity verifications so far, Smile Identity is moving the needle on onboarding and identity verification in Africa. With this acquisition of Appruve’s parent company, Smile Identity looks forward to helping customers access deeper and richer services including onboarding into payment systems (mobile money, bank accounts, international payments and remittance, etc.) both locally and internationally; stock trading and brokerage; business lending; and much more in the coming months. 

With their document verification product, Smile Identity is able to serve companies in 52 African countries and 100 companies globally. With this merger with Appruve, Smile Identity now has deeper access in Ghana, Ivory Coast, and Senegal, and they are hoping to continue to broaden their services across all of Africa.

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