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OZÉ secures $3M to transform Africa’s small businesses

Funding news sometimes gives the impression that everything happens in Europe or the US. But Africa, with a population that outstrips both combined, is starting to flex its startup muscles. And the latest, OZÉ, hopes to power many more African businesses to success.

OZÉ has secured a $3 million pre-Series A funding round. Led by SpeedInvest, who were joined by Cathay AfricInvest Innovation Fund, Savannah Capital and several angels. OZÉ offers a holistic service to businesses, helping them with record-keeping and providing access to business tools. The funding will help OZÉ expand their capabilities and offer to West African businesses.

A continental opportunity

Meghan McCormick, the co-founder and CEO of OZÉ, spotted the opportunity while a graduate student at MIT. “I was flying back and forth between Cambridge and Ghana. One day, I would be buying things at the market, the next, sitting in a lecture theatre with the technologists building the future of finance,” she said. She recognised that while the Northern Hemisphere was saturated with apps and platforms to support businesses, African businesses struggled.

OZÉ currently operates in Nigeria and Ghana, where McCormick and her co-founder and COO Dave Emmett, estimate there are around 100 million small and medium businesses, mostly operating with just pen and paper. And, because business information and data is universal, the lack of tech might be a major barrier to economic growth.

Speedinvest principal Philip Specht noted it as one of the reasons behind their investment, saying, “there has been a lot of interesting the digitisation of SMEs in Africa. We believe there is tremendous potential in building the financial operating systems for African MSMEs.”

OZÉ’s complete package

Although many competitors operate in single areas, like record-keeping or financing, OZÉ is unique in offering both, and more. McCormick says it’s “a platform that leverages advanced technologies and maintains a deep understanding of customer needs on the ground.”

The most obvious benefit is in access to finance. Businesses that use OZÉ will, just in the course of operating, collate a significant amount of business data. By partnering with commercial banks, OZÉ can use this to help them gain access to loans, using machine learning to provide an accurate credit risk assessment. And the whole process can be managed within the app, simplifying the administration for the business owner, so they can focus on growth.

The platform, essentially, takes care of almost everything for the owner. Helping them keep on top of incoming and outgoing payments, track their customers, and even access business coaching to help them develop as entrepreneurs. And, above all, it helps the business owner better understand their business and its performance.

Powering OZÉ’s own growth

The value of the service is perhaps best demonstrated by the growth OZÉ have seen. Over the last year, they have seen the number of monthly active users grow by 1,200%, while the number of loans granted increased by 200% in the last quarter of 2021.

And businesses using OZÉ have found similar success. The company reports that, among their active users, a staggering 97% are growing or profitable. That statistic will not only bolster OZÉ’s growth, but also the regional economy, which is one of OZÉ’s goals. “Our role,” says McCormick, “is to build a platform that works for 100 million-plus businesses today and supports the creation of the future of commerce in Africa.”

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