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Mergers and Acquisitions in African Fintech

On 1st of April, as I was publishing my Unicornization of African Fintech piece1, Mastercard was busy announcing their $100 million investment into Airtel Money (Airtel Africa’s mobile money subsidiary) to acquire a minority position – half what TPG Capital did2. Even though I had gotten wind of the transaction knowing that Mastercard was already in bed with Airtel Money3 – some part of me thought of it as an April fools joke.On the 12th of April 2021, Mobile Telecom Network (MTN) announced the valuation of their mobile money business at $5 billion making it the 7th African fintech unicorn with plans to bring in minority shareholders before going public4. Given that Visa is already in bed with MPESA (Vodacom and Safaricom’s mobile money business)5, it is a matter of time before Visa also invests. The unicornization of African fintech is the first trend but the second, topic of today, are the mergers and acquisitions in the sector.Mergers and acquisitions are slowly taking shape in the African fintech sector but, unlike the unicornization, they are manifesting on two interrelated tracks that may or may not eventually converge. The first track is maturing fintechs are acquiring smaller and earlier stage ones to grow their market share and establish territorial presence as Andrew Takyi-Appiah, CEO of Zeepay, told me. On the 28th of April 2021, two headlines made the news; AZA bought Exchange4Free6 whiles Ajua acquired Wayawaya7. Zeepay had earlier acquired Zambia’s Mangwee Mobile Money8 and MSF Africa had acquired Beyonic last year9. In 2018, Emergent Technology acquired Interpay Africa in Ghana10 and back in 2016, Interswitch acquired Vanso11 – the infographic below gives you more details. The second interrelated and accelerating track that has the African banks at the center of it.Some of the big banks in Africa have realized that if they are not careful, African fintechs would take over what used to be the domain of banking. This has led some of them to establish ways to gain visibility into the market so that they can make snap acquisitions and strategic investments to protect their interests. The first evidence of that came through on the 24th of March 2021 when First National Bank (FNB), South Africa’s most innovative bank acquired 100% of local fintech firm Selpal12 to gain access to their community and township based “mom and pop” businesses.

Sources: Further Africa

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