Tech & Innovation July 30, 2021 at 09:00 am

Julaya – Meet the million-dollar Ivorian fintech that is blowing up

Nii Ntreh July 30, 2021 at 09:00 am

July 30, 2021 at 09:00 am | Tech & Innovation

Julaya, a finance firm located in the Ivory Coast, has raised $2 million in pre-Series A investment to extend its offerings across West Africa. Photo: Julaya

According to the GSM Association, mobile money transactions exploded worldwide in 2020, with Sub-Saharan Africa accounting for 43% of all new accounts. For several years, Africa has been the fastest-growing region for mobile phone growth.

According to the GSMA, a London-based umbrella group for the mobile industry, the continent continues to rely on mobile money technologies to deal with the region’s socioeconomic difficulties.

“Sub-Saharan Africa has been in the forefront of the mobile money sector for over a decade,” according to the GSMA’s State of the Industry Report on Mobile Money 2021. With 43 percent of all new accounts in 2020, it continues to account for the majority of the increase.

The number of registered mobile money accounts in Africa increased by 12% to 562 million in 2020, while monthly active accounts increased by 18% to 161 million, according to the study. Total transactions hit 27.5 billion (up 15%) valued at $495 billion (up 23%). There are 171 active mobile money services in the region.

Globally, there are about 1 billion mobile money accounts. Africa, owing to M-Pesa, which is mostly utilized in East Africa, leads the way in terms of transaction value and volume. Other parts of the continent are also seeing rapid growth.

In West Africa, the Francophone country of Ivory Coast has a mobile money account for 75% of its people, compared to 20% who have a bank account. The disparity is mind-boggling, demonstrating the region’s insatiable need for the service.

While telecom companies have mainly dominated mobile money services in much of Sub-Saharan Africa, a few entrepreneurs are attempting to shift users’ perceptions about mobile money. Julaya, a finance firm located in the Ivory Coast, has raised $2 million in pre-Series A investment to extend its offerings across West Africa. 

Julaya firm works in the business-to-business (B2B) payments sector, providing an internet platform for African enterprises and government organizations to send payments via mobile money and mobile banking wallets. Julaya has two offices: R&D and IT teams in Paris, France (also working remotely), and a regional office in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire. Across all offices, it employs 16 people.

Julaya has customers ranging from small businesses to major corporations to government agencies. Jumia, SODECI, Ministry of Education, Ivory Coast, and the World Bank, according to the firm, are presently processing approximately $1.5 million each month for 50 of these clients.

Julaya received a $250,000 pre-seed investment in 2018 and a $550,000 seed investment a year later, both from angel investors. However, in its pre-Series A round, the company brought in venture capital companies. Corporate venture capital firms Orange Ventures and MFS Africa Frontiers are among them, as are VC firms Saviu Ventures, Launch Africa, and 50 Partners Capital, as well as several African and European angel investors.

Mathias Léopoldie and Charles Talbot founded Julaya in 2018. They worked at French payment firm LemonWay on their business in Mali and Burkina Faso before founding Julaya.

Julaya, a project to digitize trade payments, began in the Ivory Coast rather than Mali or Burkina Faso. By automating payments to workers and suppliers instead of depending on cash, the platform allows businesses to simplify their bookkeeping and enhance operational efficiency.

The company assists African companies and organizations with mobile money and mobile banking wallet payments. It accomplishes this by collaborating with regional telecom carriers and financial firms. 

“Mobile money is coming to a mature stage where business and public institution use-cases provide new growth opportunities for the sector. The pandemic has opened up minds about the urge to digitize payments. Fintech competition in West Africa is making digital finance more affordable for consumers, and technical integrations with telecom operators are becoming more reliable,” Talbot said in a statement. 

These collaborations, however, have not been without their own set of difficulties. For one thing, payments technology in Francophone Africa is still extremely fragmented, and telecom APIs are still in their infancy and can be unstable.

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