Kenya’s Kwara raises $4m seed round to roll out credit union-powered neobank

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Kenyan startup Kwara, which is helping to turn traditional savings cooperatives into modern digital banks, has raised a US$4 million seed funding round to further develop its neobank app ahead of its upcoming release.

Founded in 2018 by Cynthia Wandia and David Hwan, Kwara has built a digital banking platform designed to help unbanked and underbanked individuals to build wealth together in a frictionless way. It offers a management platform to drive efficiency and automation at the cooperative staff level, and also has a neobank-style mobile banking app for end-clients, alongside alternative channels. 

Meanwhile, Kwara connects the savings cooperatives with banks, payment gateways and other third parties through an open API. This all comes in one software-as-a-service package, meaning cooperative clients pay for their usage and get a single end-to-end solution. The multi-accelerated startup already serves over 60,000 members and handles up to US$40 million in monthly transactions on its platform. With credit union clients in Kenya, South Africa and the Philippines, Kwara is growing its credit union customer base by 40 per cent month-on-month. 

Kwara has now announced a US$4 million seed round secured from investors across Africa, Asia, Europe and the United States (US). It was led by Breega, and also includes SoftBank Vision Fund Emerge, Finca Ventures, New General Market Partners, Globivest, Do Good Invest, Rabacap, Launch Africa, Norrsken Impact Accelerator, Future Africa, Samurai Incubate and DOB Equity, as well as several fintech executives, including founders of Meltwater, The Flex Company and ComplyAdvantage, and executives from Salesforce and PayPal.

The round follows rapid sales growth, and comes in advance of the upcoming launch of its neobank app. The startup will use these funds to further develop its app in order to enable credit unions in emerging markets to digitise and bring financial services to millions of people. 

“We are building a solution for people – an estimated one billion – who do not currently have access to personalised banking services. This is the result of a gap in banking-grade technology and the lack of neobank-like experiences for the end clients. We’ve been thrilled to see the excitement around the Kwara brand among credit unions and their members, which is fast becoming synonymous with a superior user experience and the future of banking,” said Kwara CEO Cynthia Wandia. 

“Thanks to our investors, we will now be able to offer an end-client experience that is 100 times better than what they previously had access to.”

Ben Marrel, founding partner at Breega, said there was increasing interest in how to build wealth through community, as well as a shift in consumer preferences towards digital-first banking.

“Kwara’s unique approach is a catalyst for a new way of retail banking through digital-first credit unions. We are both proud and excited to be helping this outstanding team scale across Africa and other emerging markets,” he 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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