African mobile money provider Wave has raised $200m in Series A funding round, which values the firm at $1.7bn.
The round was led by Sequoia Heritage, Founders Fund, Stripe and Ribbit. They were joined by Partech Africa and Sam Altman, CEO of OpenAI.
The US and Senegal-based fintech firm plans to use the funds to expand into Uganda and Mali, strengthen its presence in the existing markets, develop its product portfolio and expand operations.
The Wave app runs a network of small local businesses/agents who service the company’s users through their hands-on cash. It offers free deposits and withdrawals at Wave agents and users pay 1% to send money.
Additionally, users who do not have a smartphone can use QR-cards to transact with an agent.
Wave CEO and founder Drew Durbin told TechCrunch that this is 70% cheaper than telecom-led mobile money.
Altman added: “I think the company is solving the most important problem around money transfer in Africa and fixing the inefficient agent networks.”
Partech general partner Tidjane Deme said: “Since 2018, we’ve supported Wave because we were convinced mobile money is still an unsolved problem in Africa. Wave has great product design, stellar execution, and a strong financial trajectory. We are proud to see it become the first unicorn from Senegal.”
Last month, another African fintech Pngme, a financial data infrastructure and machine learning-as-a-service platform, raised $15m in its Series A funding round led by Octopus Ventures.