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Top 5 Fintechs of 2019

It’s been a great year for fintech in Nigeria. There’s been plenty of investment (with up to $400 million injected into companies and startups), tremendous growth, and more media coverage of this emerging sector than ever before. The players in the space are doing so well, even the banks are starting to launch their own fintech subsidiaries.

In this article, we’re shining the spotlight on the sector’s biggest winners from 2019, and running through some of the big headlines they generated this year.

Read more about Fintechs in Nigeria

These were some of the top performers in Nigeria’s financial technology space over the past twelve months:

5. Lidya

When Lidya launched its digital banking service in 2016, there was hardly a hint of the rapid growth that it would undergo in the years to follow. But this October, the company announced that it was expanding into Eastern Europe, with two new offices to be set up in Poland and the Czech Republic.  

Lidya seems to have found the situation with SMEs in Eastern European somewhat similar to what small businesses back in Nigeria have had to deal with. In both regions, even the most financially healthy enterprises struggle to get loans from regular banks. Lidya wants to fill this role for SMEs in Poland and the Czech Republic- something that it’s already doing in Nigeria.         

4. Cowrywise

In just two years, Cowrywise has gone from being just another fintech idea in beta mode to sitting at the top of the digital savings and investment niche of Africa’s largest economy. It’s a position they currently share with PiggyVest, another startup that’s been pulling punches in recent times.

This year, Cowrywise gave its users the option of investing in dollar denominated assets. This package specifically allows them to buy Eurobonds which are special bonds issued in a foreign currency. The new investment option gives Nigerians the chance to hedge against inflation over the longer term, and do so without visiting a formal financial institution.

3. Flutterwave

Flutterwave, an indigenous electronic payments platform, continues on its impressive growth trajectory.

The three year old startup struck a deal with Alipay, the fintech company under the Alibaba Group which gives merchants on the former’s platform the chance to receive payments from clients in China. This effectively opens up a market of billion potential customers to African businesses, an achievement that Flutterwave hasn’t failed to harp on.    

Also this year, the startup was named among 100 most valuable companies to have passed though Y Combinators’ bi-annual incubation program. The Silicon Valley based accelerator valued Flutterwave at over $150 million

2. Interswitch

Interwsitch is one of Nigeria’s oldest fintech companies. It’s also the country’s biggest. And in November, it became a member of the prestigious club of uniorns.

This is thanks to the acquisition of a 20% stake in the company by Visa, an American payments giant. That stake was secured for about $200 million- meaning that Interswitch as a whole is now valued at $1 billion

Just before this, Interswitch had taken a 60% stake in eClat, a local healthcare startup. The controlling share gives the fintech firm some room to expand its services to more healthcare institutions.       

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1. OPay

If there’s been any huge winners from the recent wave of investments in fintech this corner of the world, it’s OPay.

Launched in 2018 by the internet browser company Opera, OPay has been buoyed by the financial backing it’s gotten from recent investment rounds. In July, it received $50 million from Chinese VCs to ramp up operations in Nigeria, and in November, it secured an additional $120 million from a larger group of investors, also from China.

All this support has enabled OPay to embark on a ferocious expansion campaign beyond its primary engagement with fintech. It has since launched several verticals: ORide, OTrike, OCar, OLeads  OList, and OBus. They have even secured a license from the CBN to begin an international money transfer business to rival the likes of Remita and Western Union in Nigeria.  

Featured image source: Cowrywise

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Ikenna Nwachukwu holds a bachelor's degree in Economics from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. He loves to look at the world through multiple lenses- economic, political, religious and philosophical- and to write about what he observes in a witty, yet reflective style.

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