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Nigerian digital banking startup, Umba, raises $15m in Series A funding to reach wider African markets

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A Nigerian digital banking startup, Umba, has secured a $15 million Series A funding to address the underserved markets in other African countries, after beating other contenders for the top prize.

Umba was in the Series A contest with the likes of Costanoa Ventures, Nubank, Monzo co-founder Tom Blomfield, and previous investors like Lachy Groom and ACT Ventures, Lux Capital, Palm Drive Capital, Banana Capital, and Streamlined Ventures.

Founded in 2018 by the duo of Barry O’Mahony and Tiernan Kennedy, Umba regards itself as an “African digital bank that offers consumers free bank accounts and financial services.”

The winning pitch by Umba which was given by Kennedy did the magic for them.

“In both banking and mobile money sectors, we created fundamental banking systems from the ground up and can give a tailored experience for the consumer at the drop of a hat,” Kennedy said.

“We can take all of that open financial data and underwrite it at scale with these various fragmented payment and data types,” he added.

“In practice, this means we’re multi-currency, multi-country, and capable of handling a wide range of payment types. And all of this takes time. Then there’s the capacity to move really quickly against opponents.” Kennedy said.

Following a $2 million seed fund in 2020, the latest funding for Umba brings the total amount it has raised since inception to $17.5 million.

With the new capital, the company said it will be able to test an “interoperable digital banking experience across African markets, as well as its services in Egypt, Ghana, and Kenya.”

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Ethiopia’s Awash Bank partners Mastercard to launch international prepaid cards

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Ethiopia’s leading private financial institution, Awash Bank S.C, has partnered with global payments company, Mastercard, to launch the Awash international prepaid cards.

Yohannes Merga, Senior Chief, Marketing Officer for Awash Bank, who announced the partnership on Thursday, said the launching of the Mastercard-branded international prepaid plastic card “marks a significant milestone in Ethiopia’s card business, as the cards enable customers and merchants to make and receive payments online from anywhere in the world.”

He added that the plastic card would offer added flexibility and convenience to customers as it was enabled to make contact or contactless transactions on ATMs and POS machines.

“This innovative offering is a testament to Awash Bank’s commitment to delivering convenient and secure financial solutions to our customers,” said Merga.

“Awash Mastercard empowers travelers with the freedom to manage their finances seamlessly while exploring the world.

“Along with the card, the bank will also introduce Mastercard’s Payment Gateway Services (MPGS) which will diversify and expand Awash Bank’s service offering.

“Mastercard’s Payment Gateway allows local merchants that have mobile applications or websites to integrate with it and accept international payments online. Customers from all over the world can place online orders and reservations and pay merchants that are integrated with MPGS using their cards.

Also speaking in the partnership, Shehryar Ali, Senior Vice President and Country Manager for East Africa and Indian Ocean Islands at Mastercard, said:

“This collaboration with Awash Bank is driving our commitment as Mastercard to enable financial inclusion across Africa.

“Our technological advancements in the payments landscape, enable consumers to be connected to endless possibilities, when transacting, in a safe, secure, and simple manner, which places power and convenience in their hands.”

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M-PESA partners IFC to increase financial inclusion for farmers in Mozambique

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Mobile money transfer and payment service provider, M-Pesa, has entered into a partnership with the International Finance Corporation (IFC) aimed at boosting financial inclusion for small-holder farmers in Mozambique.

The agreement will see IFC cooperating with Vodafone M-PESA Mozambique to support M-PESA in several key areas, including revamping and strengthening its existing agent network and conducting comprehensive countrywide training for M-PESA’s sales team and agents.

IFC will also assist M-PESA to review and expand its merchant acquisition and management strategy in Mozambique, and support M-PESA’s activities across different regions.

Sergio Gomes, Director of Vodafone M-PESA Mozambique, who announced the partnership, said the IFC and M-PESA Mozambique will “work together to explore and pilot new ways to expand mobile money services in rural areas, with the aim of increasing financial inclusion for smallholder farmers.”

“We have seen very positive results since M-PESA was launched in Mozambique in 2013 having paid about 9 billion Meticais ($142 million) in commissions to agents just in the last 5 years,” said Gomes.

“The new phase of M-PESA will focus on expanding our value proposition and use cases to limit the use of cash in the economy. One important vertical where we want to intervene is in agriculture where payments are dominated by cash.

“We believe that through this partnership with IFC, we can have an impact on farmers by digitizing their value chains beginning with payments received for their produce and moving out to developing more sophisticated products like insurance,” he added.

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