Ghana’s Most-funded Fintech Startup Amidst Most Unexpected Disruption
That was the name of the tech company who, last week, announced a fundraiser that almost broke records on the ever-busy African funding scoreboard. A fintech out of Ghana, Dash secured a rather surprising USD 32.9 M in a seed round led by New York-based PE and VC fund, Insight Partners.
The oversubscribed investment was not only the largest round in the Ghanaian fintech startup scene but also the second-biggest of its kind [fintech seed rounds] in Africa; PalmPay’s USD 40 M funding back in November 2019 still leads the fleet. Meanwhile, Dash’s milestone momentarily stole the African fintech spotlight away from Nigeria, where lies the sector’s biggest regional hub.
So it does come off strange that barely a week after Dash’s near-record capital injection, the Bank of Ghana—the country’s apex or central bank—has ordered for the immediate cessation of the startup’s operations.
According to a letter from the head of fintech and innovation at BoG, it has been noticed that Dash is currently offering consumers some services without obtaining the necessary approval. Such services, as highlighted by the central bank, include wallet creation, cross-border payments, float balance holdings and utility payments.
Dash’s approach to banking is based on a system of connected wallets, one which creates a financial ecosystem where banks, MNOs and mobile money platforms can transact.
On the consumers’ end, it is about being able to use a single channel for financial transactions while moving across the continent. Basically, the startup exists to facilitate interoperability among the continent’s fast growing mobile money markets.
From the looks of it, Dash was founded in 2019. has been operational in Ghana since then, but is headquartered in New York The company raised USD 500 K in pre-seed early last year and is currently taking part in Techstars Toronto, a widely sought-after accelerator program based in Canada. In some reports, Dash is billed as “the AliPay for Africa” due to its play with connected wallets.
Ghana’s central bank, apart from requesting a halt in the company’s operations, has also directed the other financial services providers who partner with Dash.
Recall, the fintech specializes in an ecosystem of connected wallets, where platforms such as Kenya’s M-PESA, MTN Momo in Ghana, and debit/credit card accounts are catered to.
Naturally, Dash’s customers are in Ghana, Kenya, and Nigeria, and they can interconnect their conventional bank or mobile money accounts to do everything from paying utility bills to sending and receiving money to and from others; It has a multi-currency feature which enables this. Meanwhile, there has been no publicly shared response from Dash.
Given the role mobile money plays in the African fintech boom, there is bound to be potential in the market Dash is building for. Besides the often-told success story of Safaricom’s nearly immortalized M-PESA, mobile money has led to the birth of Senegal’s Wave, the first-ever unicorn out of Francophone Africa. After all, mobile money is more popular in Africa than anywhere else.
Ghana’s tech scene is nascent yet increasingly basking in investor attention, with fintech at the helm of the industry’s venture capital affairs. Names such as Float, OZE, and Zeepay have recently taken early-stage money from investors.
According to our report, out of the USD 28.35 M raised by Ghanaian startups in 2021, fintech accounted for 9.81 M—making it the country’s second-most funded sector, after only agritech.
While this is the first time the BoG is making such a move, fintechs in Ghana’s closest West African neighbor seem to have it good with the central bank.
On different occasions, Flutterwave and Chipper Cash—both of whom are already unicorns—have extolled the management of the Central Bank of Nigeria for the friendly policies and cooperation which aided their success. In this market, wealthtech and crypto are the markets the authorities seemingly address with iron fists.
Dash has been asked to apply for approval in order to resume operations, else the company risks playing beyond the purview of the nation’s financial regulation.
In a somewhat related spin of events, it remains a conundrum how a large batch of African tech startups were unceremoniously disrupted from utilizing the services of Mercury Bank, a United States-based digital bank for startups. So far, Mercury has been vague as to why the accounts of these local companies were restricted.
Featured Image: Squarespace