Zambian fintech startup Zazu has launched Union54, a correspondent network of fintech platforms that seeks to facilitate real-time payments across Africa and offers each member equity.
Launched in October 2015, Zazu originally allowed farmers with extra produce to connect with new markets, but pivoted into the digital banking space in 2017. Its mobile wallet allows customers – even those without a bank account – to send, receive, pay and save money digitally.
The startup, which raised US$1.4 million in funding late last year, has now announced the launch of Union54, a member-owned association of fintechs across Africa. Zazu has built a digital banking app connected to a debit card, with the startup’s contribution to Union54 being the product. Members will operate the product and issue Union54 debit cards in their markets.
Perseus Mlambo, chief executive officer (CEO) of Zazu, described the initiative as a union of fintechs across Africa all operating the same product, and each owning equity in the union.
“If successful, the move promises to effect a properly pan-African challenger bank capable of real-time cross-border payments,” he said. “We have been directly approaching members for a while now, and we now have just under 10 under serious consideration – contracting will be happening later in the year.”
Founding members are given equity in Union54, meaning they are incentivised to stay for the long run. Slated to launch with a multi-currency debit card, Union54’s app will allow customers to create joint accounts, including saving groups, and perform real-time cross-border payments, along with other features to be expected from a financial services app.
“With Version 2 of the product, our goal is to leverage that scale by looking at turning cardholders into merchants and opening up our product suite to any business in Africa to integrate into our vast payment APIs,” Mlambo said.
BY TOM JACKSON ON