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Nigerian Digital Lender Brass Gets $1.7m to Support SMEs

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Brass

By Ashemiriogwa Emmanuel

Provider of premium banking services for African Small/Medium Enterprises (SMEs), Brass, has raised the sum of $1.7 million in a funding round to strengthen its financial services rendered to local entrepreneurs, traders, and fast-growing businesses across the continent.

Investors who participated in the round included the co-founder of Flutterwave, Mr Olugbenga Agboola, co-founder of Paystack, acquired by Stripe, Mr Ezra Olubi, Hustle Fund, Acuity Ventures, Uncovered Fund, and Ventures Platform.

Brass’ past investors have included Olumide Soyombo of Voltron Capital, Leonard Stiegler, Fola Olatunji-David, Yemi Lawani, and two senior executives from major Nigerian banks.

With the fresh funding, the Nigerian digital bank is set to launch a number of new product categories, which will lead to expanding its credit market presence.

Even as the startup is looking at broadening its customer base, the new financial capacity will facilitate its plans to accelerate its expansion into other African countries such as South Africa and Kenya.

Explaining further on the significance of the fundraising, the Co-Founder and CEO of Brass, Mr Sola Akindolu, who is a former Head of Product at Kudi Bank, noted that the contributions made by these investors, together with their expertise, will not only play a vital role ahead of Brass’s expansion into South Africa and Kenya, but also in the future ambitions outside of the continent.

“The basic needs of Africa’s SMEs are just as significant and unique as those of the customers they serve each day and now more than ever, we need innovative and world-class financial services solutions that meet their expectations.

“These local businesses have supported our economies for decades, forming the backbone of Africa’s success to date, and now is the time to bet on them.”

“At Brass, we’ve made some great strides over the last year in tackling one of Africa’s most critically underserved customer bases but with an estimated $5.1tn credit gap globally, our work is far from over,” he added.

Expressing excitement over the investment, Mrs Elizabeth Yin, General Partner at Hustle Fund, one of the investors, said “We believe Africa’s entrepreneurial ecosystem, and fintech sector is witnessing an unprecedented shift, and Brass is at the forefront of that, supporting local businesses and professionals with banking technology to supercharge their growth. We are excited by their vision, and honoured to be joining them on their journey.”

Founded in July 2020, Brass offers full-stack, commercial-grade banking solutions to SMEs cutting across different business classes, allowing them to gain greater clarity and control over their money operations.

Brass online platform provides a wide range of business banking needs, including credit and payment services, payroll and expense management, Application Programming Interface (API) support, and other essential business services.

Having disbursed over $2 million in credit to business since inception, Brass’s recent solution which is ‘Brass Capital’ helps thousands of businesses scale up with its cash-flow financing design.

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Banking

Oyo Catholic Diocese Gets Licence to Operate Microfinance Bank

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Microfinance Banks

By Adedapo Adesanya

The Catholic Diocese of Oyo State has obtained a licence in principle from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to operate Ave Maria Microfinance Bank and provide financial services to about 1.5 million residents in the Iwajowa Local Government and the entire Oke Ogun area of the state.

The diocesan coordinator of the Justice, Development and Peace Movement (JDPM), Rev Fr. Gabriel Adeleke, said the financial institution will allow individuals and businesses to have access to affordable financial products and services that meet their needs in a responsible and sustainable way.

The non-existence of commercial banks in the Iwajowa Local Government had denied the people the right to pursue their dreams to the full because they were excluded from the formal financial sector. This lack of access to financial tools impacts the socioeconomic mobility of the population.

The Oyo Catholic Diocese explained that it came up with an idea to float a microfinance bank that can give people in the Oke Ogun area access to basic financial services such as formal bank accounts, insurance, transaction services, loans, and other permissible services.

Fr. Adeleke expressed delight with the reception of the Approval in Principle license from the central bank.

He disclosed that the proposed bank will bring a series of impactful interventions in the lives of the people in Iwajowa Local Government area and of the Oyo Diocese at large irrespective of religion, race, or gender.

According to him, the services the people will enjoy from the proposed bank include deposits including savings, time, target and demand from individuals, groups, and associations; except public sector deposits; provision of credit to its customers, including formal and informal self-help groups, individuals, and associations; as well as the promotion and monitoring of loan usage among its customers by providing ancillary capacity building in areas such as record keeping and small business management.

Others are the issuance of redeemable debentures to interested parties to raise funds from members of the public with the prior approval of the CBN; collection of money or proceeds of banking instruments on behalf of its customers including clearing of cheques through correspondent banks; agency services for the provision of mobile banking and micro-insurance services to its clients; and provision of payment services such as salary, gratuity, pension for employees of the various tiers of government.

It will also provide loan disbursement services for the delivery of the credit programme of government, agencies, groups, and individuals for poverty alleviation on a non-recourse basis.

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Banking

Afreximbank, APPO to Establish African Energy Bank

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Special Energy Bank

By Adedapo Adesanya

A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for the establishment of a multi-billion dollar African energy bank has been signed between the African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank) and the African Petroleum Producers Organization (APPO).

The institution will scale up private sector investment in African oil and gas projects and will not be a substitute for private investment but serve as a catalyst for Africa-directed investment.

As per terms of the MoU, the bank will provide critical financing for new and existing oil and gas projects, as well as energy developments across the entire value chain.

This will help strengthen the continent’s energy sector which has been further weakened by international oil company divestment and the shift in global investment trends.

The MoU was signed by Mr Rene Awambeng, Director & Global Head, Client Relations, Afreximbank, and Mr Omar Farouk, Secretary General of APPO, in the presence of Mr João Lourenço, President of the Republic of Angola, APPO Ministers and Mr NJ Ayuk, African Energy Chamber (AEC) Executive Chairman.

The proposed African Energy Bank will operate in the same way as the APPO-created Africa Energy Investment Corporation – a developmental financial institution created to channel resources towards the development of Africa’s energy sector.

“The African Energy Chamber has been pushing for the creation of an African Energy Bank, one that is African-based and Africa-focused, and I am proud to announce that the Afreximbank and APPO have taken the first steps towards its creation.

“The bank will be critical for Africa’s energy sector, serving as a catalyst – not a substitute – for private investment in African energy. This is a practical strategy for prosperity and a pragmatic vision that must be embraced by all who want to make energy poverty history and fight climate change.

“Why should our pension funds go to European banks who say they will not finance Africans and call us risky? We need to use that money to finance oil and gas,” Mr Ayuk said.

Based in Africa, the bank will operate as an independent entity, regulated and led by experienced professionals that know and understand Africa’s energy needs.

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Banking

NowNow Unveils New Features to Boost Contactless Payments

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NowNow

By Adedapo Adesanya

A leading African fintech startup, NowNow Digital Systems Limited, has launched a first of its kind fully integrated near field communication (NFC) enabled wallet which allows complete contactless payments on the platform.

This new function provides fast, easy, and safe cashless payments for NowNow customers using android smartphones, automated teller machine (ATM) cards, and point of sale (POS) devices.

The most innovative feature of this technology turns smartphones into digital point of sale terminals for micro to small-sized businesses including individuals, agents, and merchants.

With the NFC integration on NowNow wallets, the company’s new Tap & Pay and SoftPOS features enable the acceptance and performance of seamless contactless transactions without the need for any additional hardware.

The Tap & Pay feature allows wallet to wallet transactions on NowNow, while the SoftPOS feature allows ATM card to wallet and wallet to POS transactions.

Speaking on the new NFC wallet integration, Mr Mahesh Nair, Co-Founder and Chief Operating Officer, NowNow Digital Services, expressed excitement at the feat and affirmed that the new feature highlights NowNow’s commitment to enabling seamless financial services in Nigeria.

“We are excited to be the first fintech wallet in Nigeria to launch a fully integrated NFC wallet for our users that enables them to perform contactless payments. The Tap & Pay and SoftPOS solutions represent our dedication to providing seamless digital payments in Nigeria.

“As a leading fintech, it is important for us to provide services that promote financial inclusion. Today, our customers, agents, and merchants can make smooth contactless payments on our platform. Using the feature is easy with no hardware or maintenance required coupled with a simple onboarding process,” he said.

The new NowNow NFC enabled Tap & Pay and SoftPOS solutions provide customer-to-customer (C2C) and customer-to-business (C2B) services, including agent-to-customer offerings.

These options enable NowNow merchants and individuals to use payment solutions that are secure and easy to set up.

NowNow’s mission is to deliver best-in-class financial services having built an ecosystem for seamless digitized payments for customers.

The NFC integration on NowNow wallets will further enhance NowNow’s existing services for consumer banking, agency banking, and merchant payment, driving financial empowerment and inclusion for micro to small businesses and individuals alike.

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