Mobile lending app Branch International has just completed a USD 170 million funding round, considered one of the largest ever Series C funding rounds by an African startup. Led by Foundation Capital and Visa, other participants included Andreessen Horowitz, B Capital, Formation 8 and Trinity Ventures.
Branch International provides its services to over 3 million users in the African continent, across Kenya, Nigeria and Tanzania, while extending services as far as India and Mexico. It uses a unique combination of data collected by smartphones, from GPS, call logs, contact lists and even bank balance messages and payment receipts to determine the credit capability of users. From this, it provides loans from as little as USD 2 to USD 700, with payment schedules of up to 68 weeks. In Nigeria and Tanzania, interest rates are up to 21% while in Kenya it goes up to 14%.
This unique model has proven to be successful in developing markets as borrowers continue to face difficulties obtaining credit from traditional banks. The World Bank’s Doing Business Report 2019 still lists credit access as the second most important problem among 10 parameters in doing business in sub-Saharan Africa.
The funding round follows a recent announcement by the lending app firm that it would partner with Visa to offer preferential loan terms to African merchants who accept Visa on mobile. This would enable the firm’s borrowers to access approved funding from local ATMs using virtual credentials via Visa, even without a bank account or debit card.
The recently concluded Blockchain Africa Conference 2019 also recognized the many challenges in banking and financial technology in the region. Speakers stressed the importance of real-world application and pragmatic approaches to regulating emerging tech such as blockchain.
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