Last February, Djamo announced that it got accepted into Y Combinator, the first from Ivory Coast. Months later, the two-year-old fintech has raised $14 million in funding from the famed accelerator, as well as from three lead investors — Enza Capital, Oikocredit and Partech Africa — and other participating investors, including Janngo Capital, P1 Ventures, Axian and Launch Africa.
As with most fintechs across Africa, Djamo, launched by Régis Bamba and Hassan Bourgi last year, provides financial services for the underbanked and unbanked population. Its focus is on French-speaking markets where fewer than 25% of adults have bank accounts. One reason why this is so is that banks concentrate on affluent customers and those they deem profitable for business. But as banks slacked, mobile money from the region’s telcos filled in the gap, and in the last 10 years, their wallets have reached more than 60% of the population — proof of how many millions of French-speaking natives were hungry for financial services .
Today, this mobile money infrastructure and reach allows startups like Djamo to build upon their existing payment infrastructure to democratize financial access across banking and mobile money spheres. Djamo’s app allows for interoperability between banks and mobile money, meaning that its customers in Ivory Coast can send money from their bank accounts to mobile money wallets, and back; it has leveraged this characteristic to build a full suite of financial services.
Djamo’s first product is a Visa-powered debit card that lets users make online purchases on sites such as Amazon, Alibaba, or Netflix. Other products include virtual accounts for peer-to-peer transactions, a product to receive salaries, and an autosaving product that offers guidance into customers’ financial goals. Kuda, Telda, PiggyVest, TymeBank and Koa are a few examples of comparable products across Africa.
“Before Djamo, it was a real challenge for an average customer to receive salaries digitally because they weren’t integrated into the banking system,” CEO Bourgi told TechCrunch over a call. “We found the right partner to launch that product and any company can pay salary to employees with a Djamo account. When you look at Djamo, alongside other products, we want customers to be able to better manage their money and help them plan for their future. We’re not necessarily to digitize cash like mobile wallets. We are here to work on the personal finance side.”
Customers see so much value in the different use cases Djamo has assembled so far that the fintech still relies on word of mouth to scale across Ivory Coast, according to Bamba, the company’s chief product officer. The platform currently has registered over 500,000 customers, a more than 5x increase from the 90,000 customers Djamo had onboarded as of February 2021.
“In our region, users pay amongst the highest fees in the world but do not always receive adequate service in return and that can be extremely frustrating. The one thing that we want to achieve is to offer a product where customers get real value for their money,” said the CPO. “The app has been growing organically like crazy and to get such numbers in a market like this within a short period, is proof that we’re nailing the overall user experience and building something very relevant for users.”
While they did not provide an update to the 50,000 monthly transactions recorded during the February interview, the founders say the fintech platform has processed over $400 million since inception. Djamo is also experiencing a revenue growth of 20% to 25% month-on-month, spurred by an amendment to its pricing plan that includes a free option and two premium options with varying services: $2/month and $3.5/month. They say these options are 80% cheaper than other bank accounts offered by financial institutions — including microfinance banks that Djamo views as direct competition due to their adoption of digital channels to provide financial services — in Ivory Coast.
Bourgi said 60% of Djamo customers have never used a Visa debit card before joining the platform. It’s a feat the chief executive is proud of and deems crucial in Djamo’s bid to make financial services accessible to the masses, including those outside the Ivory Coast. The $14 million in funding capital, which it claims to be the largest-ever equity round for a startup in Ivory Coast, will help the startup advance into two other countries across Francophone Africa before the end of next year and expand product offerings to include investments and lending.
Tidjane Deme, the general partner at Partech Africa, speaking on the investment, said, “Francophone Africa offers a large integrated market, with [a] fast-growing demand for frictionless services from a new cohort of digital-native young adults. We are excited to join forces with high-caliber local investors who bring sector and regional expertise to enable Djamo to unlock this opportunity.”