Meeting Michelle Obama inspired this Nigerian to start fintech letting customers in Africa make payments with their face

Abu Mubarik June 27, 2022
Sisan Dorsu. Photo credit: ThisDay

Sisan Dorsu is the founder of Nigerian-based startup Torche, which aims to improve payment solutions in Africa with its biometric payment systems. The fintech enables customers to make payments and other transactions with their fingerprint or face through biometric POS terminals. The founding of the startup follows the millions of Africans who are unbanked or underbanked.

According to estimates, only 8 percent of Nigerians use debit cards as many avoid the technology due to card fraud, low literacy levels, POS failure rates, and so on. This means that these people are missing out on the benefits of the digital economy.

On the back of this, Dorsu is building Torche to “give people the opportunity to evolve and achieve their full potential by making financial services accessible by simply being identified through their biometrics,” she said. With just the face, fingerprint or palm, one can pay for items.

“The mission is to see a society where everyone is able to play as themselves,” she told ThisDay. “Not everyone has a card, bank account, or high literacy levels but they do have faces, fingerprints, and palms.” 

She continued: “I think when you overlook a massive population, instead of digging deeper into building solutions for their problems, we won’t be able to uncover many situations that will also be applicable to the rest of the world.”

The founding of Torche by Dorsu means she now adds to the growing number of women taking the lead in Nigeria’s tech scene. In April, her startup was among the 12 companies selected for the Techstars New York (Techstars NYC) Class of Spring 2022, where founders undergo 12-week training and get to be mentored by other seasoned entrepreneurs.

Before returning to Nigeria to co-found Torche, Dorsu spent her early years in the United States. At the age of seven, she moved to America but never forgot the difficulties of many Nigerians, particularly children.

This fueled her dream to build an Africa where children would be able to achieve their full potential. As an adult, her worries then extended to exploring ways to enable the unbanked population in Nigeria to get access to financial services.

What also inspired Dorsu to create solutions for Africa was her encounter with former U.S. first lady Michelle Obama in 2009, following Obama’s visit to the Children’s National in Washington D.C where Dorsu battled kidney failure. 

“I watched carefully as she signed my pillow – ‘Dream Big Dreams’,” Dorsu recalled. “Since that day, I’ve always reflected on how my fate of recovering might not have been so lucky if I was treated within our broken health systems back in Nigeria.”

“Since that day, I’ve been on a mission to building an African continent where all children have access to systems allowing them to not just live and survive, but to also dream big dreams and achieve their full potential.”

Dorsu’s biometric-enabled solution is currently available in Lagos, Nigeria, and will be expanded to other supermarkets, petrol stations, cafés, and other locations soon. The tech CEO said her startup is also collaborating with several Nigerian banks to deliver its products to customers and businesses.

Last Edited by:Mildred Europa Taylor Updated: June 27, 2022


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