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LatAm unicorn Ebanx expands operations to Africa

Ebanx, the Brazilian payments unicorn, announced this week the expansion of its operations to the African continent after acquiring an essential presence in 15 Latin American nations over the last decade.

The fintech plans to accelerate its entrance to the region its executives consider will be the next big growth frontier for digital payments in the coming years.

The Latin America Summit, an event held annually by the company — and hosted this year in Mexico City —served as a stage for the announcement.

João Del Valle headshot
João Del Valle

According to Ebanx CEO João Del Valle, the company’s African operation is already underway in the three largest regional economies: South Africa, Kenya, and Nigeria.

Ebanx intends to become the bridge that unifies online sales networks and big global companies in these countries, implementing their payment methods alongside some of the most popular payment services in each nation.

Company to accept M-Pesa

A clear example of this is the project for the South African operation, in which Ebanx will process payments for the Instant EFT solution, the second largest local online payment method.

Also, in Kenya, the fintech company will accept M-Pesa, a mobile banking service aimed at the unbanked population. And in Nigeria, the LatAm company will accept USSD transactions, a payment protocol that uses the GSM signal.

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This ambitious expansion plan outside Latin America comes after a turbulent time for the fintech. Since the crisis in the technology sector hit the continent earlier this year, Ebanx was one of the first companies to reformulate its strategy and make personnel cuts. In June, the company dismissed 340 employees — about 20% of its workforce — closing several projects to focus on its core business: international payments. 

But for Del Valle, “the worst has been left behind.”

The executive believes the company will continue to be more vital for the next year, growing, and with more “sensibility about the [macroeconomic] moment.”

For Paula Bellizia, Ebanx’s president of global payments, the African expansion was well studied and planned for the last couple of years, taking into account several studies of local challenges and potential. Bellizia, who formerly worked at Google, joined the company in February to develop new internationalization plans. 

Massive digital economy

According to a report by Endeavor with McKinsey, there is currently a $115 billion digital economy in the region, which has resulted from a growing young and digitally savvy population. In a statement, Bellizia affirmed: “We are diving into Africa to provide local payments solutions that will help build the digital economy at a rapid pace, drive broader financial inclusion for its population, and provide greater access to a variety of goods and services from global companies interested in building their market share in the region.”

Del Valle believes Africa could potentially become the new focus of economic growth for technology solutions, as Latin America was at the turn of the 2010s.

“Africa’s fast-growing digital economy is just beginning and is projected to grow further and consolidate over the coming decades. Alongside global players, Ebanx will be a catalyst for the many benefits of an accelerating digital economy,” said the CEO.

Entering the African market, the fintech now operates in 18 countries, serving more than a thousand global clients. Companies such as Amazon, Shein, Shopee, Spotify, and Uber currently use Ebanx’s payment services.

  • Jorge C. Carrasco is a Cuban journalist and writer based in Brazil. He has contributed to several publications, such as Foreign Policy, The Spectator Australia, Estadão, Época, Washington Examiner, and Quillette, among others.