There is a new fintech unicorn in town, and it's coming from an unlikely source - a Francophone African country. Regarded as the biggest Series A round in Africa, Senegal-based fintech, Wave, closed a $200 million round at a valuation of $1.7 billion, making it the third unicorn in Africa this year.
Wave joins OPay and Flutterwave as the newly minted unicorns in Africa this year — that is, startups valued above $1 billion — and the fourth African unicorn after Interswitch. Other billion-dollar companies include publicly-traded Jumia and Egyptian fintech Fawry.
The monster Series A round was jointly led by Sequoia Heritage, a private investment fund and a subsidiary of Sequoia; Founders Fund; payments giant Stripe; and Ribbit Capital. Others in the round include existing investors Partech Africa and Sam Altman, the former CEO of Y Combinator and current CEO of OpenAI.
According to Partech's general partner Tidjane Deme, the investment will help Wave improve its service.
Since 2018, we've supported Wave because we were convinced mobile money is still an unsolved problem in Africa," he said in a statement. "Wave has great product design, stellar execution, and a strong financial trajectory. We are proud to see it become the first unicorn from Senegal."
Wave is a spinoff from Africa-focused remittance provider Sendwave, and Drew Durbin, and Lincoln Quirk founded both companies. Wave was founded in 2014, while Sendwave was founded in 2018.
When Wave was launched, it operated within the ecosystem of Sendwave but later became a standalone firm following the acquisition of Sendwave by WorldRemit.
The startup claims to be the largest mobile money player in Senegal and that over half of the country's adults are active users.
According to TechCrunch, "that pegs the number of users between 4 million and 5 million, and Wave wants to replicate this growth in Ivory Coast, the second market it officially expanded to last year."
Following this fundraise, Wave will deepen its presence in Senegal and Ivory Coast and grow its already 800-strong team across product, engineering, and business. In addition, Wave will expand into other markets it feels are regulatory-friendly, like Uganda.
Senegal in focus
GDP: $24.911 billion in 2020 compared to $23.306 in 2019
Population: 16,743,930 in 2020 compared to 16,296,362 in 2019
GDP per capita: $1,487 in 2020 compared to $1,430 in 2019