Nigerian fintech platform Okra on Monday said it has secured a $1 million pre-seed fundraise from pan-African VC firm TLcom Capital, strengthening the company’s bid to build the infrastructure for fintech innovation in Africa.

Okra’s “super-connector” creates a secure portal and process to exchange real-time financial information between customers, applications, and banks. This helps developers and organizations in Africa to solve problems with the onboarding and verification of customers created by a lack of access to real-time banking data. Launched in January this year, Okra is looking to bridge this gap, delivering improved transparency between organizations and users in the lending, personal and corporate finance as well as real estate sectors. 

“Simple financial tasks like budgeting, internal reconciliations, and credit assessments have been additional stressors for businesses and we’re filling a long-standing gap in the market,” Co-Founder and COO, David Peterside explains, adding that the aim is to make the processes seamless for clients so they can focus on their core services.

“Our thesis is simple – financial innovation cannot exist without the proper infrastructure, which is data,” Co-Founder and CEO Fara Ashiru Jituboh said. “Essentially, how far the African fintech sector can grow is intrinsically tied to the success of infrastructure like Okra and with our core market in Nigeria, we’re opening the door to another level of innovation in Africa’s largest market.” 

Okra’s Co-Founders, Fara Ashiru Jituboh and David Peterside.

Being a pioneer API in Africa to retrieve real-time financial data from a bank account to any web or mobile app, Okra plans to use the investment in scaling its team and operations as they cater to a growing client base, the company said in a press statement.

With the capacity to onboard new clients in under 24 hours, the startup has seen a 175 percent rise in demand since March 2020, it said, as more companies digitize their services due to the coronavirus pandemic. It has already connected with most of Nigeria’s commercial banks as well as the likes of Branch, AIICO Insurance PLC, Travelstart, and Renmoney and is seeking to expand across Africa.

“There are approximately 125mn banks accounts in Nigeria alone – but over the course of the next two years, we will see that figure rise exponentially, which presents huge opportunities for growth. Our role within this is to deliver ease, speed, and transparency to key players within the fintech space so they can get back to driving our continent forward,” adds Jituboh.

The $1 million investment in Okra marks TLcom’s first investment in the fintech sector and as part of the deal, Andreata Muforo, Partner at TLcom, will join Okra’s board. Ido Sum, also a Partner at the VC firm, will join as a board observer.

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