Afridigest Week in Review: Mobile money meets its match

+An Egyptian mega-round +Digitizing informal retail +Mobile money reads +Leapfrogging 'leapfrogging' +Gamification +Future of work & web 3.0

The Afridigest Week in Review is a must-read weekly recap for Africa-focused founders, executives, and investors, as well as interested observers.
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Week 36 2021

📰 Deal of the week

Wave, a US/Senegal-based mobile money provider, raised a $200M Series A co-led by Sequoia Heritage, Founders Fund, Stripe, and Ribbit Capital; Partech Africa (a previous investor) and Sam Altman, former Y Combinator president, also participated. The round values wave at $1.7B.

💡 Why it’s the deal of the week: The round is the largest-ever Series A round in Africa and marks the birth of a new (confirmed) private unicorn on the continent — the first arising from/targeting Francophone Africa; half of Senegalese adults are active Wave users.

⛏️ Go deeper:

  • Hidden unicorns: In ‘unicorns are becoming less rare globally and in Africa too’, we talked about Africa’s ‘unicorns in hiding’ in the mobile money space, but perhaps thanks to the company’s no-publicity policy, we overlooked Wave.

    In any case, what Wave is doing, i.e. competing against telco mobile money offerings, is no easy task but there’s a huge opportunity therein. (Afridigest last mentioned Wave and its competition with Orange Senegal in ‘5 key themes that emerged from Africa's startup ecosystem in the first half of the year’)

  • Wave isn’t Sendwave: The Wave team built and sold the remittance platform SendWave to WorldRemit/Zepz to double down on this mobile money opportunity.

  • Agent networks: Build & maintaining an agent network isn’t easy but the potential payoff is large. With Wave, OPay, Paga, PalmPay, Kudi, and the general landscape in mind, it seems that agent networks may end up a very important vector for value creation at scale across Africa. (See also: ‘How offline agent networks are driving Africa's digital development’)

  • Harbinger of what’s to come: “Africa is going to be the fastest growing and most important market over the next coming decades for many companies. I think people are realizing how big the market opportunity is and how much value is going to be created and we’ll see a lot more things like this happen.” — Sam Altman

🔦 Other deals
  • MNT-Halan, the microlending and payments entity created by a merger between Egyptian super app Halan and Netherlands' MNT Investments (holder of Egypt’s first licensed interoperable digital wallet), raised $120M from Apis Growth Fund II, Development Partners International, Lorax Capital Partners, Venture Partners, Endeavor Catalyst, DisruptTech, and others — MNT-Halan disclosed that it processes $100M monthly, has 1 million monthly active users, and has disbursed over $1.7B worth of loans to 1.8M borrowers since inception.

  • Prospa, a Nigerian neobank/operating system for microbusinesses, raised a $3.8M pre-seed round from investors including Global Founders Capital, Liquid 2 Ventures, Mercury’s Immad Akhund, Ramp’s Karim Atiyeh, and executives from Teachable, Square, Facebook and Nubank — the company disclosed that it serves “tens of thousands” of businesses and is growing 35% month-on-month

  • OurPass, a Nigerian one-click checkout platform, raised a $1M pre-seed round led by Tekedia Capital — OurPass disclosed that it’s processed $500K in transaction value since its May beta launch; it describes itself as the “Fast for Africa”

  • Pezesha, a Kenyan provider of embedded lending infrastructure, raised an undisclosed seven-figure seed extension round from GreenHouse Capital — the company enables non-traditional financial institutions to offer working capital for SMEs/merchants and its partners include Twiga Foods and Jumia; it received previous funding from Consonance Investment Managers and DFS Lab


📚 Reads of the Week: Mobile Money focus

An interesting ‘why we invested’ article from an investor at Founders Fund — FF co-led Wave’s Series A.

“Basically, building a business in this market ain’t for the faint of heart — there are no APIs you can call to build/maintain an agent network of thousands, and there are no playbooks for launching a mobile money business from scratch that isn’t already attached to a mobile network business....Wave is emerging as the only viable challenger in a massive, underserved mobile money market with limitless upside & potential impact. If Wave succeeds, it will become one of the most important consumer fintech brands in the world.”

🥇 “Wave - Building a Cashless Africa” by Everett Randle


A relevant older article from Wave’s CTO that discusses a strategy of building high-quality, high-impact businesses in sub-Saharan Africa and other emerging markets.

“Creating a great product requires two things: being maniacally perfectionist, and deeply understanding your users. To be maniacally perfectionist, you need to be immersed in a culture with really high product standards (for instance, Silicon Valley). To understand your users in Africa, you need to live in Africa. The intersection of these two groups is practically no one.”

Why and how to start a startup serving emerging markets” by Ben Kuhn


This week, M-Pesa announced reaching the 50M active user milestone. Here’s a timely read on M-Pesa’s story which is central to the story of mobile money in Africa.

“In Africa today, mobile money is bigger business than mobile voice or mobile data. And it all started in Kenya fifteen years ago….It’s an exciting time for African fintech right now, and M-Pesa sits at the heart of it. As mobile money outgrows mobile everything else, we may yet get to see it as a stand-alone entity.”

M-Pesa and the African Fintech Revolution” by Marc Rubinstein

🔮 Trend Watching

The race to digitize informal retail is on across emerging markets.

Retail in many of these markets is dominated by informal, neighborhood stores and various innovators are looking to leverage technology to empower retailers, reduce efficiencies, and minimize frictions across a variety of functions.

Just last week, for example, Bangladesh’s ShopUp just raised a $75M Series B round—the largest ever financing round in the country—to digitize the country’s 4.5M mudi dokaans, mom-and-pop shops that account for 98% of the country's retail sector.

And, in Indonesia, startups focused on digitizing these small stores have been on a fundraising spree since the start of the year. GudangAda, for example, raised a +$100M Series B round in July, while BukuKas and BukuWarung raised a $50M Series B and a $60M Series A, respectively, in June.

Across Africa, a similar opportunity exists, and last week saw fundraises from Sabi and Bumpa. Previous weeks saw Alerzo, Omnibiz, MarketForce, and Suplias announce fundraises. Others broadly in the space across the continent include Tradedepot, Sokowatch, Shara, Kippa, Boost, Kudigo, and more. It’s an increasingly long list with real scale underway.

📢 Afridigest is the industry newsletter for Africa’s startup ecosystem.

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📚 Quick Hits
  • 6 Lessons On Finding Product/Market FitFall in love with the problem, not the solution. Pair gut feelings with logic. Bake a multi-layered cake, then cut a single slice. Set aggressive deadlines. Seek out fast feedback cycles. Optimize for learning.

  • Inside an A+ Board Meeting: 5 Rules of a Top CEOGreat board meetings do the following: start before the meeting; focus on what’s concerning or not working; are not a CEO show; have a clear, repeatable structure; and continue after the meeting.

  • The complete framework for gamification & behavioral designGames have spent decades (or even centuries) learning how to master motivation and engagement, so we now learn from games.

  • The future of workCrypto economies have already begun to shape the future of work. They blend how we play, learn, organize, socialize, and create, with ownership and income generation.

  • Crash course in marketing goal setting many marketing leaders don’t have clearly defined goals, but time spent setting goals will avoid wasted work that doesn’t move the needle.

  • 25 business moats that helped shape the world’s most massive companiesToday, the most durable moats are being built on different types of advantages, such as network effects, data, and repeat engagement within a product ecosystem.

  • Andreessen pulls a BezosThe world is awash with capital, and even the most conservative institutional and retail investors are developing an appetite for riskier bets. How do VCs compete in such a world? By doing things competitors don’t.

  • The changing venture landscapeWith the enormous changes to our economies and financial markets, how on Earth could the venture capital market stand still? Of course it can’t.


🙈 Visual of the week
  • In 2020 almost 50% of the world’s 1.2 billion mobile money accounts were in Africa

  • Africa‘s mobile money transaction value topped $495 billion, 65% of the global value.

  • While East Africa is the leading region on the continent in terms of registered accounts, active accounts, transaction volume, and transaction value, West Africa is the leading region relative to the number of live mobile money services.

    Source: GSMA State of Industry Mobile Report 2021 (PDF)

🕵️‍♀️ In case you missed it
  • Julien Barbier, Co-Founder & CEO of computer science training provider Holberton writes “How Africa can lead the financial and crypto revolution
    "The combination of mass adoption of recent technologies in the region, without big monopolies nor outdated infrastructures, creates a never-seen-before opportunity for Africa to create the next disruptive startups ... The regions who will be able to train high-quality engineers, at scale, will be the winners of tomorrow."

  • Henry Mascot, Founder and CEO of AI-powered insurtech platform Curacel discussed whether ‘Africa’s insurance industry is poised for a steep growth Trajectory’ on the African Roundup podcast

  • The Afrobility podcast discussed how mPharma is providing services to pharmacies & patients across Africa

  • Victor Basta, CEO of boutique investment bank DAI Magister, spoke about the ins & outs of mergers & acquisitions in Africa on Stanford’s Grit & Growth podcastTwo things: 1) Victor is a fantastic communicator and 2) the Grit & Growth podcast is worth subscribing to

  • Cryptocurrencies: developing countries provide fertile ground (Financial Times)

  • Letter: It’s time to leapfrog a growth markets trope (Financial Times)

  • Ivorians’ aversion to traditional banks is a boost for mobile banking (Quartz Africa)

  • These open banking startups are driving the next wave of fintech innovation in Africa (Disrupt Africa)

  • The fintech city that is Nairobi (

  • Anthony Azekwoh took a chance on NFTs and made a killing (Techpoint)

🗣️ A final word

“A jack of all trades is a master of none, but oftentimes better than a master of one.”


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Feedback or questions? Or just want to say hi? Feel free to message me on Whatsapp or Twitter (@eajene) or email me.