last February, Let’s go announced it was accepted in Y Combinator, the first from Ivory Coast. Months later, the two-year-old fintech has raised $14 million in funding from the famed accelerator, as well as three lead investors – Enza Capital, Oikocredit and Partech Africa – and other participating investors, including Janngo Capital, P1 Ventures, Axian and Launch Africa.
As with most fintechs across Africa, Djamo, launched by Director Bamba and Hassan Bourgi last year provides financial services to the unbanked and unbanked population. The focus is on francophone markets where less than 25% of adults have a bank account. One of the reasons this is so is that banks focus on high net worth clients and clients they consider profitable for business. But as banks slackened, mobile money from the region’s telcos filled the gap, and in the past 10 years their wallets have reached more than 60% of the population – a testament to how many millions of French-speaking natives have been starving for financial services.
Today, this mobile money infrastructure and reach enables startups like Djamo to build on their existing payments infrastructure to democratize financial access in the world of banking and mobile money. Djamo’s app ensures interoperability between banks and mobile money, meaning its customers in Ivory Coast can send money from their bank accounts to mobile money wallets, and back; it has leveraged this characteristic to build a full suite of financial services.
Djamo’s first product is a Visa-powered debit card that allows users to make online purchases on sites such as Amazon, Alibaba or Netflix. Other products include virtual accounts for peer-to-peer transactions, a product to collect salaries, and an auto-save product that provides guidance on clients’ financial goals. Kuda, Telda, PiggyVest, TymeBank and Koa are some examples of similar products across Africa.
“Before Djamo, it was a real challenge for an average customer to receive paychecks digitally because they weren’t integrated into the banking system,” CEO Bourgi told TechCrunch over the phone. “We found the right partner to launch that product and any company can pay salary to employees with a Djamo account. When you look at Djamo, among other products, we want customers to better manage their money and help them plan for their future. We don’t necessarily need to digitize cash, such as mobile wallets. We are here to work on the personal finance side.
According to Bamba, the company’s chief product officer, customers see so much value in the various use cases Djamo has collected so far that the fintech still relies on word of mouth to scale in Ivory Coast. The platform currently has more than 500,000 customers registered, an increase of more than 5x from the 90,000 customers Djamo had on board in February 2021.
“In our region, users pay some of the highest rates in the world, but they don’t always receive adequate service in return, which can be extremely frustrating. The only thing we want to achieve is to offer a product where customers really get value for their money,” says the CPO. “The app has been growing organically like crazy and for us to get numbers like this in a short period of time in a market like this is proof that we are making the overall user experience good and building something really relevant to users.”
While they did not provide an update on the 50,000 monthly transactions recorded during the February interview, the founders say the fintech platform has processed more than $400 million since its inception. Djamo is also experiencing 20% to 25% month-over-month revenue growth, spurred by a price plan change that includes a free option and two premium options with different services: $2/month and $3.5/month. They say these options are 80% cheaper than other bank accounts offered by financial institutions – including microfinance banks that Djamo considers to be in direct competition due to their use of digital channels to provide financial services – in Ivory Coast.
Bourgi said 60% of Djamo customers have never used a Visa debit card before joining the platform. It is an achievement of which the CEO is proud and which is considered crucial in Djamo’s effort to make financial services accessible to the masses, including outside the Ivory Coast. The $14 million in financing capital, which is claimed to be the largest equity round ever for an Ivory Coast startup, will help the startup advance to two other countries in French-speaking Africa before the end of next year and expand its product offerings with investments and lending.
Tidjane Deme, the general partner at Partech Africa, spoke about the investment: “Francophone Africa offers a large integrated market, with [a] rapidly growing demand for hassle-free services from a new cohort of digital-native young adults. We are excited to join forces with high caliber local investors who bring industry and regional expertise to enable Djamo to capitalize on this opportunity.”