Zimbabwean fintech startup Payitup targets new verticals after $13m funding

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Zimbabwean fintech startup Payitup plans to scale its operations and move into new verticals after raising US$13 million in funding from the UK-based Thawer Fund Management.

Launched in 2017, Payitup began life processing payments for DStv, broadband and airtime, but has its eyes on a much larger prize.

“Our goal is to build a more connected financial life for the African people and beyond. Through our mobile and web applications our customers will be able to pay for various goods and services, access loans, investments, insurance and a wide range of financial products,” chief executive officer (CEO) Aretha Gonyora told Disrupt Africa.

“We will be working towards financial inclusion for all and maximising on technology. A lot of people still do not have access to basic financial services, while the people with access to banking services are not fully capitalising on the power of technology.”

Payitup is now well placed to roll out these products and work towards its goals after it recently secured a US$13 million funding round, by Disrupt Africa’s reckoning the largest ever raised by a Zimbabwean tech startup. The impressive amount of funding, which values the business at US$20 million, will initially be devoted to system development and operations, but Gonyora said it has grand plans.

“A significant amount has been allocated to grow the business in terms of awareness campaigns, rebates offered to customers, and other strategic products to gain traction and usage on the app,” she said.

The startup is now working on recruiting partners across various verticals, and stands to benefit from its relationship with Thawer Fund Management in more ways than just the obvious financial one.

“Apart from funding our investor brings vast knowledge they have accumulated in building hundreds of successful startups in various sectors, with an expertise in insurance, banking, investments and other related fintech areas, which makes them a great fit for us,” Gonyora said.

Payitup has secured seed funding in the past, but faced challenges in securing this larger round.

“We had been engaging our investor for over a year. The startup ecosystem in Zimbabwe is not that vibrant at the moment, and the current economic condition makes it difficult to get funding. There is still hope. What saw us through in the back and forth of the last 15 months was a combination of having a strong vision and finding people that believed in us,” said Gonyora.

The startup will remain focused on Zimbabwe for now, but does plan to open its platform to customers in several southern African countries, and ultimately the rest of Africa in the next five years. Its revenue model will be based on transaction and service fees, and premium subscriptions on selected goods and services, with Gonyora having faith in Payitup’s app-based approach in spite of challenges.

“Not everyone in Zimbabwe uses a smartphone, which has made USSD preferable over mobile applications. This combined with how expensive data has become in Zimbabwe means that our users’ access to the application may be a barrier. Fortunately, we saw this coming and have put in place favourable measures to buffer all our customers to have access to our services,” she said.

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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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