Mali: Sama Money fintech seeks €60m for regional expansion

By David Whitehouse
Posted on Thursday, 1 December 2022 11:58

Vegetables are prepared to be taken to market in Katibougou, Mali. The government uses Sama to pay agricultural subisidies. REUTERS/Annie Risemberg

Mali-based fintech Sama Money is seeking to raise around €60m to fund expansion and improve financial inclusion in West and Central Africa.

The fundraising is being led by SouthBridge investment bank and a roadshow is about to begin, Sama non-executive director Birama Sibidé tells The Africa Report at the Africa Financial Industry Summit (AFIS) in Lomé, Togo.

Sama aims to use mobile money to improve financial inclusion and believes populations that have been ignored by banks can be profitably served.

Users have access via a smartphone to services such as money transfers and withdrawals, and payment of utility bills.

The service can be used without Internet access. Mali’s government is a major source of revenue as it uses Sama to make payments such as student grants, pensions and agricultural subsidies.

The company is majority owned by CEO Daouda Coulibaly who, according to McKinsey, is one of 10 entrepreneurs who will shake up French-speaking African fintech markets.

Sama, which is already profitable, will start to enter new markets in 2023 if the fundraising is successful. The markets being targeted are Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea, Burkina Faso, Senegal, Cameroon and the Central African Republic.

  • Sama started operating in Mali in 2020. The company is preparing its international business plan with KPMG and is in the process of setting up business in Burundi.
  • The company’s main banking partner in Mali is Nigeria’s United Bank for Africa, which will accompany Sama into new markets.
  • Sama is finalising agreements with Banque Nationale du Mali and Banque de Développement du Mali, the country’s largest banks, and is keen to find more banking partners, Sibidé says.
  • There’s a “natural convergence” between commercial banks and fintech,” he says. “It’s a win-win combination.”
  • Most of the money to be raised will be in equity with some debt. So far Sama has no long-term debt but some short-term borrowing.

State fragility

The company has one million users in Mali, a figure that has doubled in 2022.

According to Bertelsmann Stiftung’s BTI project, the country’s political and security situation has hardly improved since 2012, with two-thirds of the country’s territory outside the state’s control despite international community intervention since 2013.

The national poverty rate is estimated to have increased from 42.5% in 2019 to 44.4% in 2021, with 375,000 people falling into extreme poverty.

The BTI says persistent failures to integrate remote populations such as Tuareg communities in Mali’s northeast have threatened nation-building since independence.

Extreme poverty and fragile state frameworks are closely related. The World Bank says by 2030, up to two-thirds of the world’s extremely poor may be living in conditions of fragility, conflict, and violence.

The Consultative Group to Assist the Poor (CGAP) in Washington says the number of active mobile money agent outlets relative to the population in fragile countries is six times lower than elsewhere, and that more investments in distribution networks are therefore needed.

  • A solution such as Sama’s platform, Sibidé argues, can have maximum impact in fragile countries.
  • He sees fintech as a “missing link,” or a way for governments and large banks to reach poor and distant populations with whom it can otherwise not engage.
  • The money that is sent, he argues, helps rebuild social cohesion as it is used to pay for services. “A government without fintech can’t do it.”

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