"Chinese-backed" Africa Company OPay Completes Series A Funding Round
COVID-19 and China
Photo credit: Adrianna Van Groningen from Unsplash

Africa-focused mobile payment startup Opay raised USD 50 million in Series A round of funding on July 10, 2019. Investors include Sequoia China, IDG Capital, Meituan-Dianping, Source Code Capital and Opera, the Norwegian-based founder of Opay.

The company planned to use the capital primarily to grow its digital finance business in Nigeria -- Africa’s most populous nation and largest economy.

Founded in 2018, OPay not only provides a mobile-based platform for payment, but also offers motorcycle ride-hail service on app ORide and food & grocery delivery service on OFood, and other services in everyday life.

According to Techcrunch, OPay in Nigeria has scaled to 40,000 active agents and USD 5 million in daily transaction volume.

"OPay’s VC haul also has significance vis-à-vis digital-finance in Nigeria. In tandem with other trends, it could support the shift of Nigeria surpassing Kenya as Africa’s digital payments leader," said  Jake Bright from Techcrunch. "For years Kenya has outpaced Nigeria in P2P digital payments volumes and digital financial inclusion, largely due to the rapid adoption of mobile-money products."

As OPay said on its website, the company is delivering the promise of financial inclusion in Africa today to safely connect people with the places, opportunities, and experiences. That is based on the fact that over 60% of people in Africa remain unbanked and can’t access the most basic financial services.

Besides its business, it’s hard to ignore the obvious Chinese background of this round of investment team. Opera, an Internet search engine which founded OPay due to the web-browser’s popularity (its web-browser has ranked second after Chrome in Africa), was acquired in 2016 for USD 600 million by a consortium of Chinese investors, led by Qihoo 360 and Kunlun Wanwei. The current Opera CEO Yahui Zhou is a well-known name in China’s VC market.

There’s not a lot of statistical data on the value of Chinese VC investment in Africa, but Africa is absolutely another Cape of Good Hope for Chinese investors.

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