The Rise Fund owned by private equity firm, TPG Growth, has led a $47.5 million investment in Cellulant, an African digital payments provider with operations in Kenya and Nigeria.
The deal which includes Endeavour Catalyst and Satya Capital and was announced on Monday, May 14, is the first of its kind in Africa. It is the largest involving a fintech company that does business in Africa. The last time a fintech company from Nigeria received equity investment exceeding two digits was in 2017 when Flutterwave secured over $10 million.
“This accelerates the company’s goal of becoming the number one digital payments and financial services provider,” Bolaji Akinboro, co-founder and CEO of Cellulant Nigeria said on Twitter on Monday morning.
Ndubuisi Ekekwe, a technology expert, told BusinessDay that the deal further confirms that digitizing African payments is the future of economic growth.
“It is clear there is only one path; moving to digital payment. That is why they are putting money in payment. it is a growth area,” Ekekwe said.
He noted that 98 percent of consumer-to-consumer transactions are still cash-based, representing opportunities ahead to be tapped.
“If they can move from 2 percent digital payment penetration to 50 percent of the $301 billion, they would be earning about $4.5 billion on fees if the average commission is 3 percent.
Cellulant was established in 2004 by Ken Njoroge (Kenyan) and Bolaji Akinboro. Initially, the founders focused the company in providing music and news content on mobile to consumers in Kenya and Nigeria. The company began to diversify into mobile money services in 2005. It was awarded a mobile payment license by the Central Bank of Nigerian in 2014 which helped to facilitate its partnership with the Nigerian government to supply fertiliser to farmers using a mobile wallet scheme.
Cellulant has operations in 11 countries including Ghana, Tanzania, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Uganda, Liberia, Malawi, Botswana, and Mozambique, with 94 banks and seven mobile money platforms that have a combined potential customer base of 130 million.
Much of the new investment will go into expanding Cellulant’s most popular mobile platform, Agrikore. Agrikore is a blockchain-based mobile platform that serves more than 7 million farmers across the African continent, connecting them to the market and helping them easily sell their products to a broader spectrum of buyers.
“We are scaling up our existing payments products in the agriculture sector, digital banking and internet payments; as well as introducing consumer-focused products to complement the enterprise products we already have,” Akinboro said, “This will allow us to increase access to payments for the millions of Africans who are still unbanked, despite the financial inclusion revolution.”
In 2017, Cellulant revealed that Agrikore has partnered with the Afghanistan Ministry of Agriculture as part of its bid to expand operations in Asia.
“With Agrikore, the financier is insulated from the intricate system consisting of farmers, aggregators, off-takers, agro-dealers, insurers, and commodity buyers that create value in the form of produce, from agricultural inputs because the technology provides the transparency, integrity and immutability that grows the confidence of remote actors in the system,” the firm explained in a statement.
For The Rise Fund expanding easy-to-use and low cost mobile banking offers immense potential for impact across Africa.
“We are excited to invest in African entrepreneurs like Ken and Bolaji, to help them grow their businesses and expand their impact on society,” Bill McGlushan, CEO and co-founder of The Rise Fund said, “Cellulant is a perfect partner for The Rise Fund’s first investment in Africa.”