There are a few happenings in African fintech that caught our eyes. Airtel Money split from its telecommunication company, while a new licencing is a big deal in Ethiopia and a few funding news items.

Airtel Money is now a standalone company

In Kenya, Airtel's fintech arm is breaking away to become a standalone company, according to the company. Airtel's Money will now be known as Airtel Money Kenya Limited, although Airtel confirmed that its mobile money service and its telecommunication service will continue to share data.

Although Airtel Money is the second-most popular mobile money platform, it has not been as impactful as Safaricom's M-PESA. Unlike M-PESA, which generates more than half of Safaricom's revenue, Airtel's money service generates way less for the company.

The reason Airtel made this move is not yet apparent, although there have been legislative efforts to make telecoms split their money services from their companies. Safaricom has insisted that it will not spin off its mobile money service as it benefits from the existing synergies with its telecommunications offerings.
Mobile Money is big in Kenya, with a 2020 report by American research firm Boston Consulting Group (BCG) ranking the country as the most prominent mobile money market in Africa and second in the world after China.

Nigerian Senate passes Startup Bill

Remember the Nigerian Startup Bill (NSB) we discussed here; the Nigerian Senate has approved the bill, which will now move to the lower chamber of Nigeria's bicameral National Assembly, the House of Representatives (HoR). If the HoR passes and approves the bill, it will return to the President for his assent before it becomes law.

Learn more about the NSB here.

Umba acquires MFB

United States-based digital bank Umba which operates in Nigeria and Kenya, has acquired a majority stake in Daraja, a Kenyan deposit-taking microfinance bank. The acquisition is for an undisclosed amount, and Umba says it is to fast-track Daraja's digitisation.

The partnership between Umba and Daraja with this acquisition is not new in the fintech space. As Microfinance banks (MFBs) are permitted to offer some banking services, fintechs have partnered with them to provide them. It is almost the same for Umba; Daraja will give the digital bank a more substantial presence in Kenya while also helping the MFB to gain a strong footing in lending and deposits.

Tymebank's acquisition

In another acquisition, South African digital bank TymeBank is acquiring Retail Capital, a firm that provides loans to small and medium businesses. There are several reasons for acquisitions, either for expansion or entering new markets. For TymeBank, the digital bank wants to use this acquisition to expand its business banking operations and acquire new users.

Kacha's licence

Still, on mobile Money, Ethiopian mobile money provider Kacha has become the first private company in the country to get a Mobile Money licence from the National Bank of Ethiopia. This development is a big deal and let's explain why;

There's tight state control over the private sector that has prevented the industry from being quick to adopt new technologies, unlike in Nigeria, where evolution in financial technology has been private sector-driven. Mobile Money is relatively new in Ethiopia, with Telebirr, the fintech arm of Ethiopia's state-owned telecommunication provider, Ethio Telecom, leading the way.

To encourage the transition to mobile Money, the Ethiopian government is encouraging private sector participation, and Kacha is the first private company to get a licence from its apex bank.

Fundraising

There were a host of fundraising news items from African fintechs;

From Sudan, fintech Bloom announced a raise of $6.5m in a seed funding round with investors from Y-Combinator, Global Founders Capital and Goodwater Capital, and angel investors like Dropbox co-founder Arash Ferdowsi and football stars like Kieran Gibbs and Blaise Matuidi. Bloom is a mobile banking app that allows users to save in dollars and also has a feature where users can receive remittances free of charge from several countries.

YouVerify, a startup that helps fintechs with identity verification in Ghana, Côte D'Ivoire, South Africa, Uganda and Kenya, has raised $1m in seed extension.