Softbank backed OPay Eyes North Africa After Nigeria Success

 OPay, a Nigerian fintech start-up founded by Opera, plans to expand its payments service operations to North Africa early next year after Covid-19 restrictions led to a spike in transactions on its platform.

The volume of monthly settlements on the OPay platform grew almost fourfold to $1.4bn in November from $363m in January, as people sought alternative payments services during coronavirus-induced lockdowns, the company’s MD, Iniabasi Akpan, said.

“We plan to reach transactions value of about $2bn by the end of this year,” Akpan, who is also the country head, said. The company will leverage its network of 300,000 offline agents to deepen the adoption of its payments service in the next six months, he said.

The company is planning to enter the North African market after its success in Africa’s most populous country, Akpan said. “The process has begun and we will see how the first quarter turns out.”

The Lagos-based start-up, which has shareholders including Softbank and China’s Meituan, said it attained financial self-sufficiency in June and still has enough cash in the bank to fund its expansion plans.

Previous plans to expand to SA and Kenya, after raising $190m in funding last year, have been put on hold due to the disruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic. In February, OPay suspended part of its operations including the ride-hailing and the logistics businesses to focus on the payments business.

Digital overdraft

The financial service provider is piloting a digital overdraft product for its mobile wallet customers who have short-term funding needs. Users will be able to borrow from 5,000 to 100,000 naira and have a window of 30 days to repay. The overdraft attracts 3% interest for the first seven days and 1% every day after that.

Through the product, which is called CreditMe, “we will be lending to working class people in their mid-20s and 30s, like students and small business owners, who have a source of income”, Akpan said. He expects to launch the credit platform in the first quarter subject to approval from the central bank.

The mobile-payments company acquired an international money transfer licence last year and plans to partner with WorldRemit to process remittances into Nigeria. New regulations from the central bank are delaying the launch, Akpan said. The service will take off as soon as there is clarity on what operators are allowed to do, he said.

OPay processes about 80% of bank transfers among mobile money operators in Nigeria and 20% of non-merchant point of sales transactions, Akpan said.

The company is exploring partnerships with firms that have complementary services, he said. “We have a large customer base of about 7-million we can offer unique

financial products.”