International Finance Corporation, a member of the World Bank Group has invested €90 million in Wave, Francophone Africa's first unicorn to spur financial inclusion and support economic growth in Senegal and Côte d'Ivoire.
The €90 million comprises a €25 million loan from IFC's own account, B Loans of a combined €41 million from Symbiotics, Blue Orchard, responsAbility, and Lendable, as well as parallel loans of €24 million from Finnfund and Norfund.
This investment from IFC and other lenders will help Wave will grow its operations in Côte d'Ivoire and Senegal, by deepening its product offering and expanding its customer base for mobile money accounts and quality payment services.
Wave was founded in 2018 by Drew Durbin and Lincoln Quirk (who co-founded Sendwave in 2014). Wave offers free deposits and withdrawals via its mobile application and applies a fixed transaction fee of just 1% for money transfers between individuals. Unlike its competitors, Wave passes additional fees on bill payments from users on to businesses. For users without a smartphone, it provides a free QR card to transact with agents, who are able to open accounts, receive deposits, and execute withdrawals
IFC's partnership with Wave will help meet the soaring growth in demand for digital payments and mobile money in West Africa in part spurred by the COVID-19 crisis. Access to digital financial services remains limited in the region with only 24% of active mobile money accounts compared to 34% in East Africa in 2020.
"Wave's vision of making Africa the first cashless continent, by building affordable and user-centric solutions, matches IFC's ambitions of universal financial inclusion," said Coura Sene, Wave Mobile Money's Regional Director for the West African Economic and Monetary Union (WAEMU).
Sene added that "this investment by IFC and other lenders helps us offer a diversity of financial products, encouraging users to stay within the formal financial sector, deepening financial inclusion in the region."
In addition to helping to finance the companies' operations, IFC's support will help establish a mobile money environment where customers are able to transact more often thanks to a simple fee structure and lower transaction costs. This will foster a higher frequency of transactions, new payment methods and the growing overall value of payments processed by the users, particularly among lower-income customers.
In the fiscal year 2021, IFC committed a record $31.5 billion to private companies and financial institutions in developing countries, leveraging the power of the private sector to end extreme poverty and boost shared prosperity as economies grapple with the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. IFC has invested or mobilized more than $1.25 billion in the African technology ecosystem over the past six years.
"Supporting access to financial services for low-income, unbanked populations is a key priority for IFC," Aliou Maiga, IFC's Regional Director for West and Central Africa stated in a statement seen by Benjamindada.com. "Our investment in Wave will not only promote inclusive finance, but it will also significantly contribute to further advance digital economy solutions in West Africa."
Wave, Francophone Africa's first unicorn
In September 2021, IFC invested $5 million as a co-investment with Partech Africa as part of the Series A funding round in Wave Mobile Money Holdings Inc, the Senegal-based company valued at $1.7 billion after this round, making it the first unicorn in Francophone Africa.
- Sendwave has not become Wave as we previously stated in the article. They are two different companies (still existing separately), even though both were founded by the same individuals. Wave was founded in 2018 by Drew Durbin and Lincoln Quirk who co-founded Sendwave in 2014.
- In 2021, WorldRemit acquired Sendwave (not Wave)