OPay raises $120M from Chinese investors

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Lagos-headquartered fintech Opay has sealed $120 million in a series B financing round from a host of high-profile Chinese investors.

Founded in 2018 by web browser developer Opera, OPay — which focuses on developing digital payments solutions to promote financial inclusion — had previously raised $50 million in June of this year, according to what Opera’s spokesperson told Cointelegraph.

Opay to extend payments solution across Africa

According to a Nov. 18 report from Techcrunch, Opera’s OPay reportedly intends to use the new Series B $120 million round to scale and extend its digital payments solution beyond Nigeria to Kenya, Ghana and South Africa.

The round reportedly included big-name venture capital investors Sequoia China and Softbank Asia, IDG Capital, alongside Meituan-Dianping, GaoRong, Source Code Capital, BAI, Redpoint and GSR Ventures.

Since its Series A $50 million round, OPay’s business in Nigeria has grown to 140,000 active agents and hit $10 million in daily transaction volume.

There are a couple of quick takeaways. Nigeria has become the epicentre for fintech VC and expansion in Africa. And Chinese investors have made an unmistakable pivot to African tech.

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Opera’s activity on the continent represents both trends. Norway based, Chinese (majority) owned company founded OPay in 2018 on the popularity of its internet search engine.

Opera’s web-browser has ranked No. 2 in usage in Africa, after Chrome, the last four years.

The company has built a hefty suite of internet-based commercial products in Nigeria around OPay’s financial utility. These include motorcycle ride-hail app ORide, OFood delivery service, and OLeads SME marketing and advertising vertical.

“Opay will facilitate the people in Nigeria, Ghana, South Africa, Kenya and other African countries with the best fintech ecosystem. We see ourselves as a key contributor to to…helping local businesses…thrive, from…digital business models,” Opera CEO and OPay Chairman Yahui Zhou, said in a statement.

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Opera CFO Frode Jacobsen shed additional light on how OPay will deploy the $120 million across Opera’s Africa network. OPay looks to capture volume around bill payments and airtime purchases, but not necessarily a priority.  “That’s not something you do ever day. We want to focus our services on things that have high-frequency usage,” said Jacobsen.

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Those include transportation services, food services, and other types of daily activities, he explained. Jacobsen also noted OPay will use the $120 million to enter more countries in Africa than those disclosed.

Since its Series A raise, OPay in Nigeria has scaled to 140,000 active agents and $10 million in daily transaction volume, according to company stats.

Beyond standing out as another huge funding round, OPay’s $120 million VC raise has significance for Africa’s tech ecosystem on multiple levels.

It marks 2019 as the year Chinese investors went all in on the continent’s startup scene. OPay, PalmPay, and East African trucking logistics company Lori Systems have raised a combined $240 million from 15 different Chinese actors in a span of months.

OPay’s funding and expansion plans are also a harbinger for fierce, cross-border fintech competition in Africa’s digital finance space. Parallel events to watch for include Interswitch’s imminent IPO, e-commerce venture Jumia’s shift to digital finance, and WhatsApp’s likely entry in African payments.

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