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After putting a pause on China deals amid regulatory uncertainty, Masayoshi Son’s SoftBank makes a big bet on a Chinese-founded fintech company in Africa. Photo: Reuters

SoftBank invests in Chinese-founded fintech start-up OPay after Masayoshi Son puts pause on China deals

  • OPay was founded in 2017 in Nigeria by Chinese billionaire entrepreneur Zhou Yahui
  • The company says it now has 160 million active users and has processed transactions worth US$490 billion
A mobile payment start-up in Africa founded by Chinese billionaire entrepreneur Zhou Yahui has announced a fresh round of funding led by SoftBank, the Japanese multinational’s first big bet in Africa after CEO Masayoshi Son said he would pause investments in China amid regulatory uncertainty.
OPay – an e-commerce and fintech start-up based in Nigeria – said in a Monday statement that it has raised US$400 million (HK$3.1 billion) from a consortium of companies led by SoftBank’s Vision Fund 2, pushing its valuation to US$2 billion.
Zhou Yahui, founder of Beijing Kunlun Technology and currently co-CEO of Norwegian web browser company Opera, said OPay “wants to help emerging markets to improve the financial efficiency in emerging markets and reach faster economic development”.

China’s tech giants are driving a quiet revolution in Africa’s fintech

DragonBall Capital, an investment fund backed by Meituan, Sequoia Capital China, and Redpoint China also took part in this most recent round of financing.

“We are excited to partner with Zhou Yahui and the OPay team,” said SoftBank managing director Kentaro Matsui. “We believe our investment will help the company extend its offering to adjacent markets and replicate its successful business model in Egypt and other countries in the region.”

OPay is one of many Chinese companies, including Huawei Technologies Co, to capitalise on the growing demand from Africa’s unbanked for financial services.

The company’s mobile payment service, launched in 2018, now has 160 million active users in Africa and has processed transactions worth US$490 billion, according to the company.

SoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son attends a news conference in Tokyo, Japan in 2018. Photo: Reuters

OPay said it will use the proceeds to strengthen its positions in Nigeria and Egypt, and fuel expansion across the Middle East, where it has seen robust growth in the past five years.

The company has raised a total of US$570 million to date, according to data from PitchBook, a platform that tracks private equity deals.

This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: Fintech firm secures funds from SoftBank