South Africa’s fintech startup uKheshe has raised its first seed investment round 10 months after launching its financial inclusion platform. The startup has raised the undisclosed funding from Fitech Ventures and the Ocean on 76 Group.
Clayton Hayward, co-founder of uKheshe, says that financial inclusion remains the overriding imperative of the service: “Having access to a transaction account is the first step towards broader financial inclusion. Since launching, we have seen, through tremendous uptake, that these services are not only needed but will significantly impact the overall financial inclusion of unbanked and underbanked South Africans.”
uKheshe mobile applications allows South Africans to pay and receive payment by scanning an uKheshe QR code. Cardholders can also withdraw cash and check balances after scanning the code. It also allows users to withdraw funds at Pick n Pay stores across South Africa.
Seed investor, Chris Lister-James from Fitech Ventures says that while it is difficult to accurately value early-stage fintechs, uKheshe’s current trajectory has justified the initial valuation of R100m: “The market opportunity is enormous and we are excited about our investment and the role we will play in providing sustainable financial services. Having invested in several early-stage fintech start-ups, we have some great complementary companies and look forward to playing both a financial and strategic role in the growth of uKheshe.”
Digital migration is a reality and Prins Mhlanga, CEO, Ocean on 76 Group, another uKheshe seed investor, says that services like this will significantly improve financial inclusion as it offers an easy-to-use, affordable alternative: “Usage and the subsequent sustainability of the platform will ensure that as the world continues to embrace digital transformation, the majority won’t be left behind.”
Lister-James says that while most countries in Africa remain largely cash-based, with majority low-income earners, who are wary of banking fees and distrust financial service providers, there is immense opportunity: “The significant cell phone penetration enables fintechs, such as uKheshe, to develop convenient, cost-effective, digital financial services solutions that can circumvent the existing financial services providers. We view this disruption as not only positive, but necessary.”
He says that the uKheshe investment will typically extend between three to five years, which given the nature of the rapidly changing environment, is a realistic timeframe.
Hayward says that the next funding round for uKheshe will be series A, but the timing of this investment is yet to be determined.