SA fintech startup Zoona set for DRC, Mozambique expansion

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South African fintech startup Zoona, which enables entrepreneurs to provide financial services to unbanked and underbanked customers, is planning to expand to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Mozambique this year as it closes in on a US$15 million funding round.

Launched in 2009 by Brad and Brett Magrath, two brothers born in Zambia, Zoona enables entrepreneurs to process mobile money transaction, bill payments and other financial services to those traditionally lacking access to banking services.

These entrepreneurs access the Zoona platform through their mobile phone, and earn an income from every transaction. Agents serve more than one million customers every day across close to 1,500 locations in Zambia and Malawi, with Disrupt Africa reporting in April on the startup’s announced it had processed over US$1 billion in transactions since its launch.

Zoona – which in 2012 raised US$4 million in an international Series A round led by Omidyar Network and Quona Capital – is looking to close a US$15 million round this year, which it will use to expand to the DRC and Mozambique by the end of 2016.

Chief communications officer Lelemba Phiri told Disrupt Africa the company was also researching other markets, such as Ghana and Ethiopia, with Zoona aiming to be in 10 African markets by 2020.

She said the startup had identified an important niche for itself and planned to scale geographically in order to provide more financial services to more people.

“Traditional banking does not scale well in Africa’s geographically dispersed and lightly populated areas. The other alternative – mobile wallets – is perceived by many as cumbersome and difficult to use. This meant many people resorted to physically moving money around – sending it to their loved ones by bus or truck,” Phiri said.

“Brad and Brett saw the solution in an over-the-counter model. Mobile phones accessing Zoona’s platform would still process the transactions, but these would be offered as a service to consumers by entrepreneurs acting as Zoona Agents. Some have called this the Uber concept applied to local remittances.”

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Passionate about the vibrant tech startups scene in Africa, Tom can usually be found sniffing out the continent's most exciting new companies and entrepreneurs, funding rounds and any other developments within the growing ecosystem.

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