There’s a modern axiom that says we’re all living in a global world, where the internet has empowered citizens of every nation in the world to connect with each other instantly. But for many individuals and businesses in Africa, that’s never been true. But Olugbenga Agboola is changing that.
As the founder of Flutterwave, a Nigeria-based fintech platform that provides payment services to businesses in Africa, Olugbenga Agboola is bringing the reality of global connections to entrepreneurs all across the African continent. And with those connections come opportunities. Small business owners and individual entrepreneurs in Africa now have the ability to peddle their wares on the global stage.
“This is transformational,” he said. “At Flutterwave, we’re making an impact because what we do is to allow a small business that has previously sold to customers based only in Lagos, Nigeria, to now sell to everyone all over the world without having to do anything extra. That’s why we work hard. That dream requires us to do our job as a company very well to make that work.”
If Olugbenga Agboola sounds especially excited about helping startups, it’s because he knows a few things about the space. Since he first launched Flutterwave in 2016, the company has gone on to break nearly every record possible, quickly amassing a valuation of $1 billion. As the company has expanded across national borders and into other continents, it has continued to raise the bar. Its most recent valuation clocked in at just over $3 billion.
Agboola believes that similar successes can come for other African startups, especially now that Flutterwave has made it faster and easier for them to move money around. “Depending on how you look at it or the lens through which you look at it, Flutterwave can make a truly impactful transformation for Africa’s entrepreneurs,” he said. “So, while we are working hard to create the best company and the best service we possibly can, we are also helping to create a new wave of African entrepreneurs who see what we’ve done, and they can become inspired by that. They can think, ‘I am going to try something as well.’”
Flutterwave not only allows entrepreneurs the ability to send and receive payments quickly and securely, but it has also launched several auxiliary services that benefit entrepreneurs by giving them easier access to foreign capital and a ready-made.
For example, its most recent product is called Send. It’s a remittance service focused on the African continent. Now, for example, people living in Ghana can receive money instantly from relatives or supporters in the UK. Or take their digital store, which provides an online marketplace for African creators to sell their goods to people across the globe.
Prior to the launch of Flutterwave, most African companies had no access to immediate payment options. Even if the company was international and used a bank with branch locations in two different countries, payments to workers, suppliers, and others would take days to process.
Olugbenga Agboola jokes that it was often faster to withdraw cash from the bank, board an airplane, and then distribute physical payments after landing than it was to wait for payments to clear the SWIFT system African countries used.
African entrepreneurs faced grave disadvantages when competing for funding, both on the continent and abroad. To create a better system, Agboola not only had to create a functional and easily adaptable payments platform. “One of the problems I noticed while I was working for a bank in Africa was that I knew, technologically, it was possible to transfer money across national boundaries in just a few seconds, but we were not allowed to by national regulations unless we used the SWIFT for that transfer, which would cost a premium,” he said. “So, the pressing thing was to build a payment system that could connect every payment type together, so that companies could literally make that transfer in seconds, and have it be as cheap as a local transfer.”
And that’s exactly what Olugbenga Agboola did. Drawing on his experience at fintech companies like PayPal and Google Wallet, he created a fast-processing system that could transfer money securely between African banks, companies, and individuals. “For me, a big piece of the work is helping companies and entrepreneurs who are in Africa and who want to come to Africa,” he said. “All these companies who are global who want to do payments in Africa, we can become a service for them to use, just as we are a service for local African companies to use. We wanted to make it possible for businesses to grow and expand all across Africa, and that’s exactly what we’ve done.”