The company has a license to operate in Ethiopia. As yet there is no date to start operations there, but Oviosu hopes it will be in the first half of the year. He does not expect “full-scale civil war” to break out in Ethiopia, where the company has about 40 people on the ground. Fighting between government forces and the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front “won’t impede our plans.”
Founded by Oviosu in 2009, Paga claims to be Nigeria’s leading mobile payment service. It counts Jim O’Neill, former chairman of Goldman Sachs Asset Management, and venture capital investor Tim Draper among its backers. The company now has 19 million users across its businesses and has seen a “dramatic acceleration” in transactions on its platform this year, Oviosu says. He defines the company’s long-term goal as providing “a payments ecosystem for Africa.”
- The company is currently analysing African countries outside Nigeria where it could enter the crypto space. A launch is likely in 2022, Oviosu says.
- In Nigeria, Paga has secured a microfinance banking license, and plans to start offering deposit and lending products next year. Oviosu also aims to scale up the Nigerian digital wallet business in 2022.
- Paga plans to launch a Visa debit card in Nigeria in the first quarter with the necessary integration process now complete, Oviosu says. This will “democratise” the use of Paga accounts, he adds.
- The company is likely to seek to raise new equity next year to finance its various expansion plans. No decision has yet been taken on the amount or timetable, Oviosu says.
- Paga also aims to scale up the use of its platform by third parties next year. “The infrastructure and licenses that we have are powerful tools for other tech companies to leverage.”
- The company’s previous idea of seeking to enter Mexico has now been shelved.
Visa and Paga have been partners since March 2020. In November this year, they agreed a partnership with Doroki, a platform focused on digitizing small-to-medium sized businesses (SMEs), which make up 90% of Nigeria’s economy.
The “Business Connect and Grow” platform is initially focused on Nigeria and will offer digital payment collection methods and business support solutions. More than 5,000 merchants in Lagos have signed up already. Visa’s QR codes allow payment acceptance, while Paga supplies the ledger, accounts, and payment rails.
The application lets customers pay via cards, QR codes, bank transfers or USSD. The plan is to expand the offer to allow SMEs to manage their payrolls, build credit histories, receive micro-loans, and manage working capital.
- “Businesses in Nigeria struggle to sell efficiently,” with their problems compounded by Covid-19, Oviosu says.
- “Our goal with Doroki is to leverage the payments infrastructure of Paga to solve their problems.” Oviosu wants to scale up the Doroki collaboration in 2022.
Paga risks dividing its attention between its Nigerian business and new ventures in Ethiopia and crypto.
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