Francophone Africa has its first unicorn, and if you’ve been following tech on the continent, you will be very unsurprised to hear that it’s coming from the world of fintech.
Wave, a U.S. and Senegal-based mobile money provider, has raised $200 million in Series A round of funding. The investment is the largest-ever Series A round for the region, and it values Wave at $1.7 billion.
Four big-name backers jointly led the round — Sequoia Heritage, a private investment fund and a subsidiary of Sequoia; Founders Fund; payments giant Stripe; and Ribbit Capital . Others in the round include existing investors Partech Africa and Sam Altman, the former CEO of Y Combinator and current CEO of OpenAI.
The mobile money market in sub-Saharan Africa is growing exponentially . This past year, up to $500 billion has moved through the accounts of 300 million active mobile money users in the region. But despite being one of the largest alternative financial infrastructures known globally, this represents only a fraction of the overall market.
The International Monetary Fund says that as of 2017, only 43% of adults in sub-Saharan Africa were “banked” by way of a traditional bank or mobile money account. When it comes to growing that proportion, however, m obile money — based on simpler technology and with an easier onboarding process — wins out, and it is set to capture more market share faster than traditional banking in the region . And this has investors, especially foreign ones, excited and looking to get on board.