What Happened in Fintech is a series on Fincra that summarises all the happenings in African fintech in a blog post.

It has been an interesting week in African fintech, with virtual dollar cards blackout the most dominating piece of news.

However, a Nigerian startup made an acquisition that caught our eyes and a couple of raises.

Virtual dollar cards blackout

Virtual dollar card users in Nigeria were distressed after several fintechs suspended their virtual dollar card service. A virtual dollar card is a virtual card with all the features of a regular credit or debit card. It has all the functionality of a physical card and allows you access to your bank accounts. You can make transactions with a virtual card just the way you use your physical cards.

The virtual dollar card has been helpful to digitally-savvy Nigerians who use it to beat restrictions on international e-commerce as they cannot spend above $20 or $50 a month on their regular cards.

Barter by Flutterwave (Nigeria), Busha (Nigeria), PayDay (Rwanda) and Eversend (Uganda) are issued notices of the suspension of their virtual dollar card services. Via Bater, many other startups using the company’s white-labelled virtual card service for their customers were also affected.

In the statements from the fintechs, they all attributed the suspension to an update from the company’s card partner. It was confusing at first who this card partner was before several media reports linked Zambian startup Union54.

Writer Benjamin Dada in an issue of his newsletter gave a breakdown of how Union54 became a Mastercard Principle member, which allowed them to issue and acquire card transactions. Union54 became a Banking as a Service (BaaS) provider, and with its API, fintechs started issuing debit cards.

Dada had speculated that the high rate of chargeback fraud had caused Union54 to halt its virtual dollar card service and the company, in a memo, confirmed this to its clients, as reported by TechCrunch.

Union54 claims that they have discovered that cardholders were increasingly attempting to defraud merchants by requesting chargebacks after merchants had fulfiled orders. International merchants like Facebook, Google and AliExpress have been contesting these chargeback claims and demanding that the issuing bank (Union54) reverse the chargeback.

Ever since we launched, there’s been a consistent increase in fraud cases emanating from our Bank Issuing Number (BIN). During one of our conversations with Mastercard, they declared that never in their history has there been such frequent instances or cases of card fraud from this region.

Union54, in another memo, explained that Mastercard, the card company it uses-Mastercard- has not been satisfied with its effort to redeem the situation. Union54 hopes a resolution is soon, but people are already turning to other solutions.

Chipper Cash has gone heavy with ads for their virtual cards, which are from Visa. Other alternatives include virtual dollar cards from ALAT-ALAT, a digital-only bank by Wema bank- Wallets Africa and Fundall, a Nigerian digital bank.

An acquisition

Nigerian Banking as a Service (BaaS) infrastructure provider Bloc has acquired payment company Orchestrate, formerly known as Getwallets. Getwallat used to issue wallets before they pivoted to become a company that facilitates payment methods for fintech.

So Bloc, which was founded in 2021, offers BaaS to customers with a set of tools to help them increase their value. These tools include licences, compliance, capital etc. In acquiring Orchestrate, Bloc will continue with its core offerings while its new company will provide infrastructure with its payment API.

According to Disrupt Africa, the 1000% acquisition is a combined cash and equities deal, with Orchestrate remaining a standalone entity led by founder and CEO Jerry Enebeli.

Fundings

Nigerian fintech Swipe, a credit-focused software startup, got $500 000 in pre-seed funding. Swipe supports businesses across Africa with credit solutions and plans to increase the use of credit cards with Cards as a Service (CaaS) products. Swipe also wants to play in the Buy Now Pay Later market with its Swipe Card.

In another raise, Africa-focused fintech Zazuu, which aggregates cross-border and remittance platforms for customers, raised $2m in a new venture round.

The global tech downtime is making investors nervous, but that has not stopped African startups from getting funded.

Interestingly, startups in Africa have raised more than $3 billion in the first half of 2022 and recorded their most robust June, Q2 and H1 ever.