MFS Africa, a pan-African FinTech company, has announced a US $4.5 million Series B funding round led by LUN Partners Group, a China-based global investment management group. Goodwell Investments, an Amsterdam-based investment firm focused on financial inclusion, fintech and inclusive growth, as well as several angel investors completed the round.
MFS Africa is the first African FinTech to receive funding from a China-based global investment management group. The investment is in-line with China’s ‘Belt and Road’ strategy, and follows wider interest from global investors in African FinTech, which took nearly a third of African VC funding in 2017.
MFS Africa operates the largest digital payments network in Africa. The company connects over 170m mobile wallets through 100+ partners, including Airtel, Ecobank, MTN, Orange and Vodafone across 55 markets. By providing a single access point for global organisations to reach and transact with millions of African consumers and businesses across networks, across borders and across currencies, MFS Africa aims to drive financial inclusion and accelerate the continent’s digital economy.
As part of the deal, MFS Africa will work with LUN Partners Group, its portfolio companies, and investor base to boost financial inclusion in countries targeted by China’s ‘Belt and Road’ initiative. The Belt and Road initiative is an ambitious economic strategy that aims to disseminate China’s services, investment, and infrastructure at a global level. LUN Partners will work with MFS Africa to help Chinese and other Asian enterprises, especially FinTech and ecommerce firms, drive financial inclusion and trade more easily in Africa by providing a single access point to scale and monetise digital services across the continent using mobile money networks.
“China is home to some of the most exciting and fastest growing technology firms in the world, and Africa is the birthplace of mobile money. At the same time, the continent remains fragmented with no single network able to serve the region. Organisations that want to transact with African consumers and businesses need to secure agreements with each and every provider, stunting competition and growth,” said Peilung Li, Founder and Chairman of LUN Partners Group. “MFS Africa has spent years connecting these mobile money services to create one Pan-African network which can substantially boost cross border trade and open up new opportunities for Chinese as well as global firms.”
By connecting African mobile wallets to each other and the formal financial economy, MFS Africa can drive financial inclusion across the region. Its digital payments hub – accessible via one API – exceeds industry standards in terms of performance and compliance, allowing mobile operators and financial institutions to deliver a range of essential and sophisticated services to underserved individuals.
“At Goodwell Investments, we’re exclusively focused on companies that can generate good financial returns and high social impact at the same time,” said Wim van der Beek, Founder and Partner of Goodwell Investments. “MFS Africa plays a key role in our investment strategy. It is uniquely placed to accelerate the speed and scale of delivering financial services to those that need them most across Africa and beyond.”
The investment will fuel the expansion of MFS Africa’s network in Africa and beyond and help unlock new capabilities including a merchant services offering. This offering will allow major retailers and internet companies to accept payments from consumers via their mobile wallets. The investment follows the appointment of industry luminaires Michael Joseph, widely credited with spearheading M-Pesa, and Reg Swart, leader at mobile money pioneer, Fundamo, to evolve and expand its capabilities.
“The pioneering funding round, and strategic nature of the investors, is a testament to MFS Africa’s performance and unique potential,” said Dare Okoudjou, Founder and CEO of MFS Africa. “By connecting mobile money users to each other, we have effectively built the biggest digital payments network in Africa and we’re now perfectly positioned to drive financial inclusion, accelerate the African digital economy, and connect millions of African consumers and businesses to the global economy.”
MFS Africa operates a major digital payments hub on the continent, connected to over 170 million mobile wallets in Sub-Saharan Africa, offering unparalleled reach for services providers. The company allows merchants, banks, mobile operators and money transfer companies to take advantage of the ubiquity of mobile wallets as safe, convenient, and cost-effective transaction channel. The company works in close partnership with players across the ecosystem to bring simple and secure mobile financial services to un- and under-banked customers.
LUN Partners Group is a global investment management group that operates multiple investment vehicles, including venture capital and private equity funds. The company also operates financial services firms that provide wealth management and financial advisory services. LUN Partners and its funds primarily invest in cutting edge, rapidly growing high tech innovations overseas. The Company’s distinctive approach is to help multiple portfolio companies navigate their entry into the Chinese market and collectively create an ecosystem of complementary businesses.
Goodwell Investments is an investment firm focused on financial inclusion, fintech and inclusive growth in sectors providing basic goods and services and income generation opportunities to the underserved. Since 2006, Goodwell has raised three funds with over US $120 million in capital. Goodwell has invested equity in early stage businesses in financial services and technology companies in India and Africa, ranging from classical microfinance to mobile payments, rural banking, affordable housing finance to merchant payment networks and public transport technology.
Goodwell’s 25 portfolio companies have reached over 28 million households with more than 2.1 billion in financial products and services, and employ over 32,500 employees. African portfolio companies in the fintech field include Paga (Nigeria), Nomanini (South Africa) and Musoni Systems (pan-African), and in mobility tech WhereIsMyTransport (pan-African).