Okra, the first API fintech “super-connector” in Africa, was launched in January 2020 by Fara Ashiru Jituboh and David Peterside. The fintech company was inspired by Fara Ashiru Jituboh’s desire to solve the problems she had with linking her Nigerian accounts with her foreign ones. She recognised a gap that could be filled. And in trying to do this she realised that no organisation in Africa has access to real-time banking data.
Now Okra has received a major investment boost in its project to create a framework for the next breakthrough for fintech in Africa. This project was conceived to facilitate the exchange of real-time financial data between banks, customers, and applications.
Okra’s pioneering solution involves removing existing obstacles such as transparency and responsibility in handling customer data. The process of verification and registration of new customers will now enjoy the seamless synergy between the various institutions.
Direct beneficiaries of this project are players in the real estate sector, finance sector, and many more. All of Nigeria’s commercial banks already do business with Okra, with companies like Renmoney, Branch, Travelstart, AIICO Insurance PLC, Bamboo, and others also coming on board. The effect of the Coronavirus pandemic has seen Okra enjoy a 175% increase in demand for their services between January and March 2020.
“Our thesis is simple — financial innovation cannot exist without the proper infrastructure, which is data. Essentially, how far the African fintech sector can grow is intrinsically tied to the success of an 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” said Fara Jituboh, who will juggle both CEO and CTO roles going forward. She went on to say: “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.”
The execution of the project has benefitted from the engineering experience of its co-founders Fara Ashiru and David Peterside. David also works as the Chief Operating Officer of the team, bringing his experience from his days at Fashion Map and UCML Capital. He explains what to expect from Okra: “When we started Okra last year, our priority was to help African fintechs and banks build the best in class technology and solve problems for their customers. This investment marks the next chapter of this mission. For too long, 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. Our aim is to make these processes as seamless and pain-free for our clients so they can focus on their core services.”
TLcom brings decades of experience investing across Africa to the table. This agreement between TLcom and Okra will see two of TLcom’s partners join the Okra board. They are Andreata Muforo and Ido Sum (who will serve in an observatory capacity).
TLcom has not invested in financial technology before now. Andreata Muforo shares some insight on this: “We are always looking for startups with the potential for high value-generation and Okra’s technology provides the foundation for new fintech solutions in Africa for years to come. Equally, it was important for us to know that their leadership had the entrepreneur-led focus which is crucial for execution. Fara’s background was vital here — she’s an expert in over 20 programming languages, worked with multiple Fortune 500 companies and is a great example of why we’re committed to investing in more female founders. She leads by example and we have seen her and David build a really exciting business, in a little under a year, we’re excited to help them grow further.”
Okra makes a bold statement as a Nigerian fintech signing this $1 million deal, taking this step to join companies like Yodlee and Plaid in offering these services. The evidence suggests that it has worked elsewhere. We look forward to seeing Okra maximise the benefits of these open Banking initiatives which continue to unfold in Africa.