Francophone Africa, the region in the continent where French is spoken, has its first unicorn and it is in the fintech industry. A US- and Senegal-based fintech, Wave, has grabbed $200M in a Series A funding round. Notably, this is the largest-ever Series A funding round in the region.
Attains unicorn status
With this investment, Wave attained a unicorn status as it is valued the company at $1.7 billion. The investment round was led by Sequoia Heritage, a private investment fund and a subsidiary of Sequoia; Founders Fund; payments giant Stripe; and Ribbit Capital. Also, existing investors Partech Africa and Sam Altman, the former CEO of Y Combinator and current CEO of OpenAI took part in the investment round.
Wave will use the funds to expand into Uganda and Mali and deepen its existing presence in other African markets and enhance its digital offerings and operations.
“From day one, we’ve been relentlessly focused on building mobile money that’s easy to use and radically affordable,” said CEO and Founder Drew Durbin. “We’ve built something people love in Senegal, but that’s only the beginning — our mission is to bring a modern financial network to everyone in Africa.”
Founded by Drew Durbin and Lincoln Quirk in 2014 as Sendwave, the company offers little or no fee payments from North America and Europe to select African and Asian countries. The company became a WorldRemit subsidiary in 2020 when the global fintech paid up to $500 million in both cash and stock for Sendwave.
Later, in 2018, the product was piloted as Wave in Senegal but it was still within the Sendwave ecosystem. While WorldRemit acquired Sendwave, Durbin and his team turned their focus to Wave.
The startup claims to be the largest mobile money player in Senegal and over half of the country’s adults are active users. Eventually, it has between 4 million and 5 million users and wants to replicate this growth in Ivory Coast, its second market where it expanded last year.
Wave’s technology differs from telecom-led mobile money. While incumbents such as telecom operators and banks mostly focus on USSD, Wave is solely app-based. All deposits and withdrawals across Wave’s network are free, and users pay a meager 1 per cent to send money. Even users without a smartphone can use Wave through a free QR card.