(Ecofin Agency) - Francophone Africa can now boast of its first unicorn. With a capitalization of $1.7 billion, the U.S - and Senegal-based fintech Wave has become the region’s first Unicorn.
The company has raised $200 million in a Series A financing round that saw the participation of renowned backers such as Founders Fund, Stripe, Sequoia Heritage, and Ribbit Capital. The operation thus values the fintech at $1.7 billion.
"We saw an opportunity to make a bigger impact. We are trying to build a better mobile money service that is much more affordable than the one telecom operators are building in sub-Saharan Africa," said Drew Durbin, CEO of Wave.
Wave's fundraising comes at a time when the mobile money market is growing rapidly in sub-Saharan Africa. According to several sources, up to $500 billion was transferred via 300 million active accounts in the region by 2020. Traditional banks are increasingly losing ground on the continent.
Wave operates almost the same way as PayPal but does not require the user to have a bank account. It runs a network of agents using their cash to serve users; the latter only have to pay 1% of the cash to be transferred in transfer fee. The app-based company says this rate is 70% lower than that applied by other telecom operators.
For users who do not have a smartphone, Wave also provides a free QR card to allow transactions.