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Retail-led microfinance bank, FairMoney expands merchant offerings by acquiring PayForce

FairMoney, a Nigerian fintech company has acquired PayForce, a sub-brand of YC-backed CrowdForce in an undisclosed deal.

Retail-led microfinance bank, FairMoney expands merchant offerings by acquiring PayForce
L-R: Laurin Hainy, co-founder &CEO of FairMoney and Oluwatomi Ayorinde co-Founder & CEO of CrowdForce

In Africa, there are approximately 100 million MSMEs, with 42 million in Nigeria alone. It is estimated that consumer payments in Africa will reach $2.1 trillion by 2025, but currently, only 5% of these transactions are digitised and merchants are faced with the difficulty of collecting payments seamlessly.

To capitalize on this opportunity, coupled with the fragmented nature of the African payment landscape and the need for financial inclusion, banks, fintech firms, and mobile money operators are developing innovative solutions.

As part of these solutions, Nigerian credit-led digital banking platform FairMoney has acquired PayForce (a sub-brand of YC-backed CrowdForce), a merchant payment service that serves small businesses, as the digital lender looks to broaden its financial services proposition to merchants.

According to a statement shared with Benjamindada.com, this acquisition is fuelled by FairMoney's drive to take on the audacious task of rebuilding Africa's money story. "For us, the heroes are the everyday people, small business owners and their customers who get up every day to chase their goals and achieve their dreams. All we want to do is to be part of their success story and offer them the right support and financial products they need '' Laurin Hainy, Co-founder and CEO of FairMoney, said in the statement.

Perella Weinberg Partners served as a financial advisor to FairMoney and Renaissance Capital Africa served as a financial advisor to CrowdForce on this transaction, which is reportedly a cash-and-stock deal in the range of $15 million to $20 million.

PayForce provides merchants with POS devices and allows them to offer cash-in, cash-out, transfer and bill payments to retail customers while supplying liquidity via a network of partners—the company claims to have the largest liquidity among Nigerian agent banking networks, almost ₦1.7 trillion. The fintech, which serves over 10,000 businesses included business banking, finance team tools, B2B payments and virtual cards to this product.

With the acquisition of PayForce, FairMoney has taken on the daring goal of increasing its merchant base to 100,000 merchants in Nigeria, while building a robust network of financial services points to aid small businesses across the country.

"This acquisition revolves around the power of the ecosystem that we are building in Nigeria and Africa as a whole. We started FairMoney as a lender, but we realized that as we grew, the demand and desire of the people we serve were more than just lending, but a more robust platform that will help them tackle all their Financial needs. It became clear to us that the counterparty for our regular users are merchants and small business owners," Hainy added.

CrowdForce charges a 0.6% commission per transaction its partners make across its products, including PayForce. The company says it has been cash positive since 2020 while growing 25% month-on-month to serve 1.9 million unique customers in 25 Nigerian states to date.

The acquisition, Hainy says, will provide incentives for PayForce-acquired merchants who use FairMoney as their primary bank, such as an 18% annual return on deposits, a rate he claims retail consumers are taking advantage of on the platform.

"This development is exciting for us at CrowdForce, it feels good for the team to be welcomed into the FairMoney family. This move is in line with the expansion and growth roadmap of the business. Our focus at the moment is ensuring the best experience for our merchants and customers, and we are excited for what the future holds for them," Oluwatomi Ayorinde Co-Founder and CEO of CrowdForce, stated.

Ayorinde is joining Fairmoney as the head PayForce by FairMoney, the company’s payments business unit.

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Last year, the Abuja-based fintech, CrowdForce raised $3.6 million pre-series-A to increase access to cash for rural communities in Nigeria. The funding round was led by Aruwa Capital Management with participation from HAVAÍC and AAIC.

Fairmoney launched in 2017 as an online lender that provides instant loans and bill payments to customers in Nigeria, the Tiger Global-backed company now provides debit accounts and cards, P2P transfers, and payments to over a million retail customers and small businesses.

The company is one of the licensed digital lenders in Nigeria. In 2021, Fairmoney secured a $42 million Series B raise to diversify its offerings and expand to "become the financial hub for its users".

"We see ourselves as a retail bank, but the line between merchants and retail is often blurry. We’ve thought about the merchant space more and more, and we see a lot of potential synergies between what PayForce and we have built independently," Hainy added. "We know that if we combine both businesses, their merchants will enjoy what our retail customers already enjoy."

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