With $350k Pre-seed, PaySika Is Constructing A Neobank For The Unbanked In Francophone Africa • •

The workplace all of the sudden felt a lot colder because the younger man took within the departmental officer’s phrases. His dream of being one of many foremost robotic engineers at a prime college within the Francophone world appeared to have ended earlier than it even started as he encountered an sudden drawback.

He had instructed everybody who cared to hear in Cameroon that he was going to the distinguished Toulouse III College – Paul Sabatier in France to review and he had gathered sufficient assets to make it occur. After a tense five-hour flight and barely sufficient relaxation the earlier evening, he didn’t perceive what he was listening to. 

“What did you say?” he requested, simply to make certain.

“I’m sorry you’ll be able to’t pay with money Monsieur,” the officer responded, “You must deposit on the financial institution and make the cost electronically together with your card.” 

Feeling hopeful as soon as extra, he thanked the officer and darted out of the workplace, making a beeline for the closest financial institution, the place he excitedly knowledgeable the cashier of his intentions, and acquired one other shocker. 

“It’s worthwhile to have a faculty certificates to open a scholar checking account and get a card.” 

The younger man was at his wit’s finish. He couldn’t register for his scholar certificates with out paying with a financial institution card, which he couldn’t get with out his scholar certificates. 

It wasn’t his fault that he went to France with money to pay his registration charges and tuition. In any case, he’d left French-speaking Africa, the place barely 20% of the inhabitants have entry to banking companies, in order that was the apparent choice. 

The younger man on this story is Roger Noel Nengwe, Co-founder and CEO of PaySika, a neobank trying to present banking companies to the unbanked in Francophone Africa. PaySika has simply raised $350,000 pre-seed from Angel buyers in France, England, and Nigeria to fund this mission.

Alongside Stezen Bisselou-Nzengue, Co-founder and COO, Nengwe is constructing PaySika on Francophone Africa’s current cell cash infrastructure. It provides banking companies not simply on an app like most neobanks, however on their favorite messaging apps. Assume Fb Messenger, WhatsApp, and Telegram. 

Roger Nengwe, Co-founder CEO, PaySika, and Stezen Bisselou-Nzengue, Co-founder and COO,

Its chatbot helps customers open an account, request free bodily and digital debit playing cards, and make transfers with these messaging apps with out having to obtain the PaySika app or use its web site. 

Whereas the registration necessities for neobanks in Nigeria, for instance, implicitly require you to have already got a checking account, PaySika simply requires the cellphone quantity related to the extensively used cell cash.

This mission has given him the boldness of buyers like Charles Edouard Bouée (former CEO of Roland Berger), Benjamin Chemla (Serial Entrepreneur,  Shares, founding father of Stuart), and several other others.  

Nengwe’s Toulouse expertise was 4 years in the past, in 2017, earlier than he and his co-founder knew methods to construct chatbots and monetary companies functions.

As he sat within the financial institution not understanding what to do subsequent, a sandy-haired middle-aged man with what appeared like a unending smile walked into the financial institution with intentionally measured steps.

Trying round and waving at some acquainted faces, he noticed Nengwe whose fingers lined his face as he tried to calm himself down. 

“What’s mistaken?” he requested Nengwe as he received inside earshot, his perpetual smile nonetheless in place masking his seriousness.

Nengwe glanced at him, uncertain if trusting an entire stranger in another country was his greatest transfer. 

Realising he didn’t have a lot of a selection, Nengwe defined his state of affairs as calmly as he might.  

What adopted was the stuff of desires, the type Nengwe had earlier than leaving Cameroon.

The ‘full stranger’ provided to pay his charges along with his personal card and acquire money. In all probability extra stunning was the person’s seeming familiarity along with his story. 

This man turned out to be considered one of Nengwe’s professors at Upssitech, in Toulouse College. 

This gut-wrenching episode was just about par for the course for Africans migrating to review in France. Bisselou-Nzengue, with whom he would later type a detailed bond, additionally had an identical expertise after he left his residence nation of Gabon.

“In a while, I helped some individuals by offering them with my card and had them give me money again,” Nengwe reveals. 

Nevertheless, he’s fast to state that this isn’t the case for college kids from Germany and even Asia; it occurs to only individuals coming from Africans. 

A seed had been sown, albeit in disagreeable circumstances, and each males would start considering of the way to resolve this drawback, which they figured wanted to be tackled on the roots. 

It was clear that they needed to democratise entry to playing cards and digital funds companies in nations like Cameroon the place, solely 34% of its adults have a checking account, DR Congo (25%), and Gabon (58.5%), to say a couple of. 

Constructing that first MVP

Roger Nengwe, Co-founder and CEO of PaySika

Nengwe quickly started testing a few of his concepts. After graduating in 2019, he shortly determined that working for an organization is just not for him and begins to place his data to good use. 

“I began my first firm, MyMoney, a chatbot that related to customers’ checking account and gave them notifications. However this truly failed due to product-market match. We began engaged on PaySika proper after,” Nengwe says. 

However, constructing PaySika proves to be removed from a stroll within the park. Africa’s monetary companies sector is, maybe, some of the regulated and for a brand new fintech with little to no pedigree, it was all the time going to be a tricky problem. 

Even worse, that’s not the one drawback the younger entrepreneurs are dealing with. Each younger graduates are in dire want of money, to construct the primary MVP for PaySika. 

“We entered French Tech Tremplin, a startup competitors organised by the French authorities to spend money on excessive impression startups. We acquired $23,000 that helped us partially to construct the MVP at first. This plus family and friends, and our personal financial savings in fact,” Nengwe says.

Africa might need a definite lack of senior builders, and native startups battle to maintain them, however PaySika is quickly securing the goodwill of gifted senior builders who skilled related issues themselves when transferring to Europe.

Nengwe additionally reveals that he and his co-founder have made certain to encompass themselves with buyers who perceive the fintech house and the banking house whereas fundraising. 

“I’d say we have been fortunate as a result of we have been capable of get a tremendous community of enterprise individuals that actually helped us perceive how this startup enterprise works,’ he provides. 

“Now we have buyers who’ve a background in banking infrastructure. Now we have some who’re CTOs, we have now some who’re actually good at hiring. We simply surrounded ourselves with people who find themselves educated about key subjects that have an effect on us.” 

A totally-locked MVP offers Nengwe and Bisselou-Nzengue the boldness to search for mature angel buyers. A few of whom would later be part of its just-concluded spherical. However regardless of this funding, there’s an elephant they nonetheless haven’t addressed. 

“We began scouring by means of all the main points and regulatory necessities. We then partnered with some monetary establishments that can assist us implement what we’re attempting to do,’ he says.  

Enterprise mannequin

Picture Credit score: majjed2008 Flickr through Compfight cc

It’s the yr 2020, and Bisselou-Nzengue, COO of PaySika, has determined he must hone his enterprise expertise to enrich his technical background.  He makes the required preparations and leaves for Grenoble Enterprise Faculty in France for a 1-year MBA in Worldwide enterprise.

The brand new enterprise he’s constructing with Nengwe wants refining, however they appear to be headed in a promising path. 

With free bodily and digital debit playing cards and a 1% transaction price on transfers, the startup doesn’t appear like it will likely be making a lot cash. Nonetheless, Nengwe believes it’s child steps. 

Although the startup is but to totally launch, but it surely already has over 20,000 pre-registrations primarily (90%) made up of younger individuals aged 18 – 35. 

“This was gotten organically. We didn’t do any type of aggressive advertising to get individuals onboard. Simply referrals from totally different people who find themselves enthusiastic about what we’re constructing,”

The longer term is inside attain

Nengwe says he needs to make the PaySika buyer onboarding course of extra seamless. Even for these with out cell cash accounts. As soon as it’s capable of type out the banking licence, it plans so as to add a financial savings account service which, he believes, could be a significant money cow. 

“We are going to innovate within the offline house, so our clients also can carry out transactions offline. However positively not USSD.”We’re additionally planning to rent extra skilled builders and construct a advertising workforce.”

PaySika has some attention-grabbing counterparts in Francophone Africa. Ivory Coast’s Djamo is constructing a monetary tremendous app and Julaya needs to assist companies attain the unbanked. Wave, a cell cash service supplier grew to become the area’s first unicorn in September 2021. 

As lately as final yr, it appeared like there wasn’t a lot consideration being paid to french talking Africa, however that appears to be altering. 

For Nengwe and Bisselou-Nzengue, their story with PaySika is simply starting, and we’ll be leaving a number of clean pages to doc what guarantees to be an attention-grabbing journey. 


Author and Narrator.  Tech, enterprise and coverage evaluation is my each day bread.

Seeking to chat? Meet up with me, @eruskkii, on Twitter or ship a mail to emmanuel@techpoint.africa


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