The carpet-bombing business

Zoona: How ‘Big Telco’ Disrupted Africa’s First True Fintech Success Story

By  |  September 14, 2021

It was about this time some nine years ago when one of the very first institutional fintech investments happened in Africa. At a time when tech, venture capital and the bubbly startup hubs of Nigeria, Egypt, South Africa, and Kenya, were nowhere near as alluring as they are today on the continent, one of Africa’s earliest startup funding breakthroughs came from unlikely quarters.

It might seem like a lifetime has passed since it happened, but there’s no denying that the unprecedented happened when Zoona; a fledgling fintech enabling ‘bankless’ over-the-counter money transfers in far-flung regions of Zambia, Malawi, and Mozambique, closed a USD 4 Mn Series A in 2012. And Zoona did take over the market.

At first, not even the pushy mobile money plays of the local subsidiaries of deep-pocketed telecom companies like MTN and Airtel could slow Zoona down - the startup seemed well on course to perfect a growth strategy that was key to its billion-dollar ambition. But that was until the ground suddenly collapsed from under its feet.

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