Flutterwave CEO: African Consumers Need Faster and Secure Payments to Thrive in the Digital Economy

Flutterwave, Nigeria, global payments

Nigeria, Africa’s largest economy, has all the tools for success in today’s connected global economy. But despite its economic prowess, restricted access to foreign currencies remains a major hurdle that is hampering international transactions, curtailing investments, and limiting individuals’ abilities to tap into global opportunities. 

“There’s almost no legitimate way you can go through today to buy [dollars], so obviously there’s a lot of underground market transactions happening as people have real needs,” Flutterwave CEO Olugbenga Agboola told PYMNTS, pointing to individuals who are left struggling to pay for a flight ticket, book a holiday abroad or even pay for their child’s tuition at a foreign institution. 

To plug that hole, Flutterwave, a payments technology company in Africa, launched a digital foreign exchange (FX) solution called Swap earlier this month, in partnership with Wema Bank and Kadavra BDC. The solution is backed by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN). 

And while it’s too early to talk about numbers, Agboola said Swap couldn’t have come at a better time for individuals who want to convert their Nigerian naira into U.S. dollars in a secure, simple and fast manner to wire those funds safely to recipients abroad. 

“We’ve seen people who wanted to pay for a conference in the U.K. or pay for a flight ticket now able to do so because Swap exists. […] It’s becoming a very stable platform for the average Nigerian looking to make currency conversions,” Agboola said.  

In July, Flutterwave launched Tuition to help African users pay tuition fees to educational institutions both within and outside Africa using their local currencies. The product — which Agboola said was the first step in Flutterwave’s Swap journey — has contributed to eliminating the need for currency conversions and reducing the pressure on the dollar.

And just last month, the Africa-focused FinTech company announced the rebrand and expansion of its mobile remittance product, now Send App by Flutterwave, to make money transfers from individuals in the diaspora to their peers back in Africa faster and more cost-effective.

According to Agboola, the move, which enables money transfers from the U.S. and Canada to Africa, is another customer-led growth strategy targeted at the millions of African migrants eager to close the geographical gap and stay connected with their homeland.

There is a massive African migrant population all over the world, and they’ve got needs. They want to send money back home. They’ve got families to support. They have bills to pay back home, and there hasn’t been any product that has been able to solve that problem for Africa like we’ve been able to do,” he said. 

Facilitating Bank Transfers

On a continent where access to financial services is constrained by persistent banking infrastructure challenges, individuals still encounter significant hurdles when making simple everyday payments such as shopping for clothes or paying for a Netflix subscription service online. 

This is why Agboola said their pay-with-bank transfer service, which enables customers to make secure payments by activating a virtual dollar card number online, has grown rapidly in a relatively short amount of time. 

“For the very first time, that payment service, which is less than four years old, has surpassed card payments on our platform. The fact that we’ve got more pay-with-bank transfer volumes in Nigeria than we have card transaction volumes is amazing,” he remarked. 

With pay-with-bank transfer, there’s also a reduced risk of fraud compared to card payments, he added, as customers can easily verify their logins and authenticate payments before a transaction is approved. 

The recent launch of a pay-by-bank transfer solution has also facilitated easier account-to-account (A2A) payments between millions of U.K. bank accounts and individuals and merchants via Flutterwave’s Send app, further accelerating open banking adoption in Nigeria.  

Overall, Agboola said the different product launches speak to Flutterwave’s mission to streamline domestic and international payment transactions for today’s convenience-driven African consumer. 

“Our goal is that everywhere the consumer has got money, be it on a business card or in a bank account, as long as you’re using Flutterwave, we’ll give you access to the easiest way for you to pay,” he said.