OPay has been making the rounds in and outside Nigeria’s tech echo chamber. From providing mobile payment to offering bike-, tricycle- and bus-hailing services, quick loans, and food delivery, OPay has become a super app in Nigeria.
Most people became aware of OPay in June 2019, when its bike-hailing service was launched with an outlandish ₦100 promo. But the company's story didn’t start then, neither did it begin in 2019. OPay has been operating since 2010 in the pouch of PayCom Nigeria Limited—a mobile money platform incubated by Telnet (Nigeria) Limited.
After operating for seven years, Opera indicated interest in acquiring PayCom in 2017. They put pen to paper in 2018 and OPay was birthed in August of the same year. So, the company that has been blitzing every startup and sector in Nigeria is barely a year old.
Tidbit: OPay, a portmanteau of Opera and Payment, is also fit to be interpreted as Opera and PayCom.
Meet OPay’s Parents: Opera Group
The parent company of OPay, Opera Group, also owns Opera AS Norway—developer of Opera web browser, Opera News and Opera Ads. To properly understand OPay, it is necessary to examine the vision of Opera Group, especially in Africa.
Tidbit: Golden Brick Capital Private Equity Fund—a Chinese consortium—acquired Opera AS Norway from Opera Software ASA (now Otello) in 2016 for $600 million. The Consortium included Beijing Kunlun Tech and Qihoo 360—a leading Chinese internet company that owns a web browser, antivirus, mobile app store and search engine.
Opera ventured into Africa with the launch of its Opera Mini mobile browser in 2006. And as of August 2019, it has the largest market share of mobile browser in Nigeria with 48.29%, and second-largest in Africa.
Opera’s vision for an open, connected world through technology propels it to build products that eliminate the barriers for people to go online. The company boasts of facilitating the process of bringing half of Africa’s internet population online. Out of the 464,923,169 internet users in Africa, Opera says up to 120 million people use its browsers and mobile applications.
In 2017, Opera earmarked $100 million (~ ₦36 billion) to invest in Africa’s internet ecosystem. This has led to the launch of some value-added services, including web and mobile payment (OPay) in Kenya and Nigeria, Opera News standalone app, and Opera Ads.
Opera, in simple terms, is positioning itself to be the internet for the next generation of Africans that will be online, just as Facebook and Google are pivotal platforms to the present generation of digital natives. It is good to note that Opera is managed by Chinese because its interplay fits into the love affair between Africa and China.
The Making of Nigerian Super App: OPay, ORide, OFood, OTrike, OBus
The mission of OPay is financial inclusion, all other business verticals are additions. The company focused on the first part of its operations—agent business—for 11 months before launching ORide in June 2019.
To appreciate the phenomenal growth of ORide, you must recognize the fact that Opera had succeeded in building a brand with OPay in the agent market, Iniabasi Akpan, Country Manager for OPay in Nigeria, told benjamindada.com. “But if you want to engage the consumers, you must provide solutions people can explore. It is good to have a payment system, but people need to have things they can pay for.”
Hence, the goal of other OPay services is to provide solutions the financially excluded and people in the informal sector can pay for. So, there is ORide providing fast transportation via motorbike, OTrike providing three-wheel transportation (in Aba and Kano), OBus is another transportation service via bus, and OFood offering food delivery service. There is also OKash and OWealth, which offer quick loans and investment options for users. All these services can be accessed and paid for with the OPay app.
While OKash, Owealth and OBus are still in beta phase, ORide, OFood, OTrike are already in full operations. Akpan explains that OPay provides people who are interested in doing bike-riding business with government-approved bikes, trains them, and provides insurance for both the drivers and riders.
Side note: Since 2012, Lagos state government has banned motorcycles with engines below 200CC (Cubic Centimeter of combustion Cylinder) from operating within the state metropolis. Therefore, OPay has ORide Green, which uses 200CC motorbikes to service long-distance trip requests, and ORide Street, a lighter offering to cater for shorter trips.
Speaking on why the company is expanding to other parts of the country, namely Abeokuta, Ibadan, Aba and Kano, Akpan, who was also the executive director at Telnet Limited that incubated PayCom, said: “Lagos is a saturated market. And because our aim is to drive financial inclusion, we need to expand to other parts of the country. Moreover, our agent business is already across the country.”
A survey carried out by benjamindada.com revealed that ORide drivers are given the bikes on a hire purchase arrangement. They are to remit ₦3,000 daily for 12 months before the bikes can become theirs. The Country Manager of OPay confirms this, he said: “Anything they make atop the ₦3,000 is theirs during the 12 months. Once the bike becomes theirs, they are to remit only a small percentage of their earnings.”
What is OPay next move?
I think the market will decide where we go [next]. But one thing you can count on is that wherever we see opportunity, we will play. We are constantly taking feedback from our customers and innovating.
According to a report released by Enhancing Financial Innovation & Acess (EFInA), 36.6 million Nigerian adults are financially excluded—lack access to financial services. In addition, the PoS mid-year analysis done by the Nigeria Inter-Bank Settlement System (NIBSS) shows that the use of PoS is concentrated in urban areas, and Lagos accounts for the highest volume of transactions.
In view of this, OPay's mission of driving financial inclusion and supporting the informal sector provides ample opportunity for growth. With the $50 million (~ ₦18 billion) raised in July, OPay can finance its two-pronged approach, which is to provide a payment platform and the services people can pay for, in achieving its mission.