Africa's Small Merchants the Big Winners in PayPal-Flutterwave Deal

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Flutterwave’s new integration agreement with PayPal solves a longstanding problem in Africa. For many solopreneurs and small merchants, it was nearly impossible to get paid via PayPal. That may not have been a huge problem for trade within Africa, but for those looking to get paid from customers outside of Africa, it has been a significant challenge. 

The deal is will provide a significant boost to cross-border and intercontinental eCommerce in Africa, given PayPal’s massive reach of 377 million global users, This will be particularly helpful to African sellers, or freelancers, who often struggled to get paid by clients or buyers who prefer using PayPal. 

We spoke this week with Omosalewa Adeyemi, Flutterwave’s Global Head of Partnerships, for Episode 12 of the BIG5D Podcast. Omosalewa’s team was at the center of the PayPal deal, so no one is in a better position to discuss what it means to the African payments ecosystem.

“We're enabling African businesses to accept PayPal as a payment method. So let's say there is a business in Mauritius, for example, that sells a product or service, they can now accept PayPal as a payment method,” Omosalewa explains. “Which means it's easier for me as someone who's based in the United States to transact with that business. Where in the past, my U.S. issued card might have been rejected on their platform, I can easily opt to pay that business with my PayPal account. So that's really what that partnership is about.”

Omosalewa noted that one group, in particular, will benefit from the deal. Africa’s talented freelance software developers are in high demand among U.S. companies. But getting paid has been a long-running challenge for African freelancers with international clients. 

“This is a big, big change in how they're able to monetize their skills,” Omosalewa said.  

“Also, if you look at it from the business perspective, I'm an African business. I rarely ever get customers trying to make payments to me from outside Africa because I just don't have the means to transact with these people. Now, all of a sudden, those millions of PayPal users are within my reach. The focus now has to be on making my business visible to people outside Africa. Because now the payments, friction has been taken out of the equation.”

Here are some more highlights from our conversation with Omosalewa.

On Flutterwave’s latest funding round and newfound ‘unicorn’ status

“I joined Flutterwave almost four years ago straight out of my MBA program. And at the time I had a lot of friends and classmates who asked me if I'd lost my mind for deciding to work for a company at the time that only had operations in Nigeria. Fast forward to today and we've been able to achieve unicorn status, raise three funding rounds, and close partnerships with some pretty significant names in the payments industry. So while it's very exciting to see the list, it's even more so gratifying to just see that all the hard work that we've put in over the last few years is panning out. And I'm really excited for our future and the impacts that we can continue to have on the digital payments ecosystem, particularly in Africa, but in other parts of the world.”

On the importance of partnerships

“One of the things we like to say at Flutterwave is ‘payments is partnerships’. It's complicated, and it's very difficult to try to do it all on your own. That's why our partner network is very important to us. And it’s something that we've invested in over the last few years. Being able to simplify payments for endless possibilities, which is our mission statement, involves a lot of collaboration, not only with payment partners but also with financial regulators across markets.” 

On Flutterwave’s relationship with financial regulators 

“I think that the important thing is to engage, engage, engage. I don't think there's any financial regulator out there who is against making financial services more available to their constituents or is against making it easier to access digital financial services. 

“I think the key thing here is to communicate, educate, come together as a public sector entity and a private entity to build solutions that can really advance financial inclusion across markets. Because the more people you have participating in a financial ecosystem, the better it is for a country.”

On Flutterwave’s global ambitions 

“Africa will always be our primary focus. Over the last four or five years, we've focused on building a presence across Sub-Saharan Africa. This year, with the help of the new round, we're really looking to establish a presence In North Africa, because that's one area that we haven't covered over the last few years. 

“Beyond that, we understand that we truly believe that Africa is the next frontier. And in order to ready ourselves for Africa becoming the next frontier, we know that we have to enable Africa to transact with the rest of the world and enable the rest of the world to transact with Africa. And that's why, even though we consider ourselves an African company when it comes to building a payment infrastructure, we're focused on building a global payment infrastructure. Because we really want to unlock the value of trade, across borders, and across continents.”

On Flutterwave’s culture

“If you call any of my colleagues right now and asked, ‘What is our mission?’ Not even the mission statement, just ‘What is it we are we trying to accomplish?’ The answer is so crystal clear to everybody. Everyone will tell you the same thing, maybe in different words, but will tell you, in essence, ‘The digital payments infrastructure in Africa is broken. We're trying to fix it.’ 

“So if I had to describe our culture, in a few words, I would say it's a culture of clarity. It is a culture of respectful communication. It is a culture of being innovative. It is a culture of always putting our customers first when thinking about the problems that we have in the payment space and coming together to resolve those problems.”

Listen to the full podcast here:

The BIG5D Podcast · Episode 12: Omosalewa Adeyemi, Flutterwave


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