Ijara, an investment app that allows Cameroonian fintech users to buy and save crypto through a decentralized wallet, has raised $8 million in Series A investment.
London-based venture capital firm Anthemis co-led the growth round with crypto-focused fund Dragonfly Capital. Antimis led the fintech’s $2 million seed round announced last October and is a follow-on investor in Ejara.
VC firms participating in this new financing include other legacy investors Mercy Corps Ventures, Coinshares Ventures, and Lateral Capital–and new investors such as Circle Ventures, Moonstake, Emurgo, Hashkey Group, and BPI France. Blockwalks founder Jason Yanowitz is one of the angels in the round.
Ijara “seeks to democratize access to investment and savings products in the region using blockchain technology.” While its recently launched savings product is one way to tokenize government bonds, it’s the crypto product that’s been key to the two-year-old startup raising $10 million in less than 18 months.
By offering users in Francophone Africa the option to buy, sell, exchange and store their crypto investments, CEO Nellie Chatou-Diop and her co-founder Baptiste Andrieux saw an opportunity to increase crypto activity in the region. However, unlike most crypto platforms in Africa that provide users with escrow wallets, Ijara offers its customers the option of a non-custodial wallet to store their keys with ownership. That decision has paid off, especially now that the failure of FTX and other crypto firms is underscoring the need for clients to prioritize privacy and ownership when dealing with crypto and tokenized assets.
“While everyone else is taking the other route and building centralized exchanges, we’ve always thought, if you want to own crypto, you have to own your keys. And that’s what saved us in a time of chaos,” Chateau-Diop told TechCrunch on a call.
Ejara Crypto’s access to financial products has caught on quickly with users in a highly informed and affluent region. In addition to linking their mobile money accounts and accessing crypto, users can make cross-border transactions through Stablecoins. As a result, users on the platform have grown exponentially over the past 14 months. Last October there were 8,000 users from Cameroon, the first market and others including Ivory Coast, Burkina Faso, Mali, Guinea and Senegal. Now, it counts more than 70,000 users in nine Francophone African countries.
Chateau-Diop – which says Ijara has seen 10x revenue growth and 15% month-on-month transaction volume growth since last October despite the crypto meltdown – expects users on the platform to reach 100,000 by the end of the year. Ijara said its savings product was the first of its kind in the crypto world to get there. “In an ecosystem where many people around the world are trying to find use cases for blockchain technology, Ijara has shown that startups in emerging markets can pioneer many innovations in Web3. The company added.
With this product, he asserts, Cameroonian fintech users do not need to set up a bank account to access savings products, but instead can start their journey with Ejara by downloading the application and depositing as little as 1,000 CFA francs (~$1.5). Users can earn up to 10% interest on two-year deposits on the platform, Chatto-Diop said, adding that Ijara is coming with this product to traditional financial institutions.
“Treasury bonds compete with traditional asset managers and banks. And given the way they are structured, they mainly target high-net-worth individuals and institutions such as other banks or insurance companies,” she commented. “No one earns a living from a woman who sells groceries or a man who drives a motorcycle. Because we structure the product the way we do it, you can save up to 1000 CFA francs every day, so we have brought many people to our platform.
Both leading investors in this round recognize Ejara’s need to be a financial super app for users in French-speaking Africa and for people in the diaspora who send money back home and invest. Dragonfly’s partner, Mia Deng, imitated China’s Alipay and WeChat payments in the early 2010s to mimic the growth of two popular Web2 super apps and help the Francophone region achieve Web3’s financial growth in the coming years.
“Recognizing the challenges in the region, Ejara is not aiming to position itself as just a crypto app, but rather to be a one-stop shop for products tailored to the needs of Africans: a one-stop shop for financial products, at their fingertips with no crypto knowledge required,” said Ruth Fox, partner at Antimis, about Ejara’s potential. Blader said.
Ijara’s journey to one million users is somewhat dependent on how quickly its target audience catches on to crypto, savings and investments. That’s one reason fintech is developing two non-profit startups to educate the public, especially women, girls and orphans, about crypto, savings, investments (Fraction Investments is about to launch its product) and financial education. For her growth.
“The initiative we started for women and orphans and girls is to improve their financial literacy and computer skills. When I think of Ijara, I think of ecology and as a step to unite the community, whether they are in Africa or the diaspora, the elite or the poor. The CEO. Ejara mentioned that he recently received a license to serve the French-speaking diaspora in Europe.
Last week, Djamo, an Ivorian fintech announced what appears to be the largest equity round in the country. At $10 million, Ejara is one of the most funded companies in Cameroon (if not the most funded). That’s two similar events in different Francophone markets in quick succession. While it’s too early to tell, the market seems to be embracing innovation, and the ecosystem — largely comprised of a tight regulatory landscape — is becoming increasingly attractive to foreign business capital despite the current global recession.