This month, one of Africa’s biggest payment platforms within the blockchain ecosystem has made another bold move towards its relentless global expansion. Bitpesa, based out of Nairobi and operating in eastern and western African nations, acquired the Spanish online money transfer company TransferZero, for an undisclosed amount. This was a strategic deal for BitPesa. TransferZero was the first fintech company to be licensed by the Spanish central bank as a regulated online payment services platform, and it is compliant with the second payment services directive, a set of regulations imposed by the European Union for operations within its borders. TansferZero is also partners with Spain’s third biggest bank, Bankia, and has promoted several innovations within the Fintech sector since its debut in 2016.
With the move, BitPesa is eyeing European markets, where the demand for blockchain-based payment services has been growing strongly. TransferZero will allow for the Kenyan company to tackle the massive remittances market from Europe to Africa. BitPesa was already a licensed Authorised Payment Institution by the U.K.’s Financial Conduct Authority, but this acquisition far expands its European capabilities.
According to Bitpesa, the acquisition of TransferZero will effectively double the company’s infrastructure and number of bank accounts. The Spanish start-up trades in over fifty different currencies in over two hundred countries around the world.
Bitpesa’s growth since its inception in 2013 has been nothing short of meteoric. Based out of Nairobi, the company now operates in Nigeria, Tanzania, Uganda, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Ghana, and has partnerships with over sixty African banks. It offers seven different mobile wallet services. Ironically enough, BitPesa is not allowed to service Kenyan customers, as the Kenyan central government has imposed very strict regulations in 2015, which forbid Bitpesa from cooperating with Kenyan banks or service the local market, even though the company is allowed to be based and pay taxes in Kenya.
Now, Bitpesa plans to expand to Africa’s biggest fintech market, South Africa, by the second quarter of this year, in another demonstration of the company’s panafrican consolidation.
These strong pushes for rapid expansion are turning Bitpesa into one of the biggest players in the payment services sector between Europe and Africa. To be sure, over the last couple of years, the company has seen an astonishing 24% growth per month. If in 2013, Bitpesa handled around USD$100 thousand per month in payments, by the end of 2017 their monthly turnover volume was hitting USD$18 million.
The company is now very well positioned to take over the market as cryptocurrencies grow in popularity across Africa, and in particular in Nigeria. After lagging behind Kenya, South Africa and Ghana in crypto adoption, Nigeria has risen between the leading adopting African countries. This week, a study revealed that Nigeria entered the top 5 of biggest Bitcoin holders in the world. This opens an exciting market for BitPesa, which is seeing its best established markets grow consistently. The only key market missing is its own home turf, Kenya, but that will likely come to change in the relatively near future.
By João Gaspar Marques