26-year-old Nigerian entrepreneur Iyinoluwa Aboyeji wants Silicon Valley to fund a future where Africa is included. He is the founder of Flutterwave, a payments API that makes it easier for banks and businesses to process payments across Africa. The service allows consumers to pay for things in their local currency; Flutterwave takes care of integrating banks and payment-service providers into its platform so businesses don’t have to take on the expense and burden.
U.S. investors just poured $10 million of fresh funding into it. This sizable round comes one year after Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan led a $24 million funding round into another Africa-focused startup, Andela.
More than half of global population growth over the next 30 years is expected to occur in Africa, according to a report from the United Nations. By 2035, the number of Africans joining the working age population is expected to exceed those entering it worldwide, the International Monetary Fund projects. There’s no universal payment method in Africa, and only 3% of Africans reportedly own having a credit card. Other forms of payments include bank transfers and digital wallets.
It means that African businesses have a hard time accepting payments from visitors. It also makes it difficult for companies like Google, Netflix, Amazon and Facebook to accept local payments from African customers. It hinders the ease with which Africans connect with some of tech’s most beloved services.
These are factors that Aboyeji says Silicon Valley needs to start preparing for — now. He attributes this to why he decided to leave Andela. Aboyeji, the only African of Andela’s four cofounders, announced in August he’d left to start Flutterwave with a team of African ex-bankers, engineers and entrepreneurs.
Aboyeji, who spent much of last year traveling between the company’s headquarters in San Francisco and its Nigeria office, is doing his part to make a dent. (Flutterwave also has offices in Kenya, and South Africa.) To date, the company is processing more than $1.2 billion in payments across 10 million transactions. It accepts 350 currencies across 30 African countries, charging merchants a small service charge, which it shares with banks.
Flutterwave, which graduated from Silicon Valley elite accelerator program Y Combinator last summer, also counts Y Combinator, Social Capital and Omidyar Network among some of its investors.
“It is critical that Africans are able to participate in the digital economy,” Aboyeji told CNN Tech, “We’re trying to connect Africa to the digital economy — there’s no other place that exemplifies the digital economy than San Francisco… we’re slowly embedding ourselves in the community.”