Over the past five years, high-profile visits to African tech ecosystems by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, Google CEO Sundar Pichai and Alibaba founder Jack Ma have been signposted as marks of validation.
Now, Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon and the world’s richest man, can be added to the list of global tech leaders drawn to the promise of African technology startups.
Chipper Cash, a cross-border, peer to peer payments service, has raised $30 million in a Series B funding round led by Ribbit Capital with participation from Bezos Expeditions, Jeff Bezos’s personal venture capital fund. It’s the first investment in an African startup for Bezos’ fund which has also backed global tech brands including Uber, Twitter, and AirBnB.
The company, which was founded by Ugandan Ham Serunjogi and Ghanaian Maijid Moujaled in 2018, has since deployed its payments service in seven African countries—Ghana, Uganda, Nigeria, Tanzania, Rwanda, South Africa, and Kenya—and reached $100 million in monthly payments processed last June. Chipper Cash’s latest funding comes after it raised $13.8 million in a Series A round six months ago.
Having already notched 3 million users and an average of 80,000 daily transactions, Chipper Cash is now looking to expand to more countries and also widen its products suite. In response to demand, CEO Serunjogi says Chipper Cash’s new products will include allowing users buy and sell cryptocurrency as well as invest in US stocks. Cryptocurrency trading is booming across the continent despite a lack of regulation as users utilize digital currencies like bitcoin to facilitate trade as a workaround for stifling economic policies. Facilitating investment in US stocks also follows a visible trend as young Africans with a longer-term investment outlook are increasingly seeking opportunities to invest in dollar-priced assets.
Bezos’ investment in Chipper Cash sees him join a list of high-profile individuals that have bet on an African tech startup. Former US vice-president Al Gore and 23-time tennis Grand Slam champion, Serena Williams as well as Mark Zuckerberg, through the Chan Zuckerberg initiative, have all invested in Andela, a developer outsourcing firm that connects African software engineers to global clients.
For Bezos this is a tiny investment relative to his recent outlays. This month he became the world’s biggest donor to climate activism from with $10 billion “Earth Fund” backing climate change-related causes and groups. But this could signal Bezos going a step further beyond dipping his toes in the waters in Africa’s fast-growing tech hubs.
Even small investments like Bezos’ are likely to drive global interest even higher as Africa’s tech startups showed resilience with a wave of multimillion-dollar exits recorded so far this year, despite initial fears of the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. Last month, Nigerian payments startup Paystack was acquired by US giant Stripe in a deal reportedly worth $200 million.
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