The Next Billion: NALA’s $40m Announcement

Our journey begins with a bold mission: build payments for the next billion.

Africa is currently home to 1.3 billion individuals, and according to the New York Times, by 2050, this number is expected to double to over 2.5 billion, making it the world's largest population and workforce. This immense potential inspired us to take on the challenge of building a reliable and efficient payment system for this rapidly growing continent.

The next billion doesn’t just include Africa but a majority of the worlds emerging markets NALA is looking to serve.

In 2021, with limited budgets, we focused on doing a few things exceptionally well for those who believed in us. 

Our early customers were pioneers; they picked up the phone, installed our app, and tested sending money from the UK to Africa. 

Fast forward just over 24 months, and our product has launched in the UK, US, and EU, enabling people to send money to 11 African countries.

Today, we announce we have raised $40m:

The new funding will accelerate our global ambitions building two things:

  1. Expanding NALA’s consumer business beyond Africa to build services for the global migrant diaspora.
  2. Building Rafiki, our B2B payments platform designed to lay the payment rails for the next billion users, ensuring reliability, managing treasury directly, improving error mapping, reducing user costs, and streamlining payouts and collections. Similar to how dLocal revolutionized payments in Latin America and AirWallex transformed the Asian market, Rafiki is set to build a robust payment infrastructure for Africa.

Our Milestones and Achievements

The past 12 months have been filled with remarkable achievements and significant challenges. Our team has gone above and beyond to make things happen, and I am very proud of them. Our growth team, for example, consisted of just four people who stretched themselves to hit our goals:

Here’s a snapshot of our growth:

  • 10x Revenue Growth: In the past 12 months, we have seen our revenue grow tenfold.
  • Profitability: For the first time, we became profitable and cash flow positive.
  • 34x Volume Growth: Over the past 20 months, our transaction volume has increased by 34 times.
  • Team Expansion: Our team has grown from just 7 members to nearly 100.
  • Customer Base: We now proudly serve nearly 500,000 customers worldwide.
This has been the growth since we started cross border payments.
This has been the growth since we started cross border payments.

These milestones reflect our commitment and the trust our customers have placed in us. However, similar to others, we know very well, no journey is without its challenges.

These challenges are a reality for every payment company operating on the African continent and will persist for decades to come.

Payments are broken, and we can’t just complain about it.

To fellow founders and builders:

Many people think NALA started two years ago, but it actually didn’t. I started working on NALA when I was a student in graduate school in 2016.

I was 22 turning 23, on a full scholarship at the Stanford Graduate School of Business for my MBA.

I had all the reasons why I should NOT be a founder:

  1. Not enough work experience.
  2. Not enough money.
  3. Never built a company before.
  4. Not the best idea.

My classmates challenged and pushed me to start, always asking, “Why not?”

Here is one of the first pitch decks from June 2016: NALA “empowering the next generation of Tanzanians.”

I didn’t come from a family of tech founders, nor did I know many tech founders. My sister and I were the first in our family to attend university, as our parents never had the opportunity to go.

I was privileged to receive scholarship opportunities and knew I had to do something about it. My faith also reminds me: to whom much is given, much is required — Luke 12:48.

I was completely green on building companies when I had started.

Someone recently shared with me this chart below showing how long it took from idea to product-market fit.

Similarly to NALA, our journey reflects the same.

What most people don’t know is that I decided not to take a high-paying tech job after my Stanford MBA and instead flew back to Tanzania to start building NALA.

  • 2016 — Testing out various ideas during school.
  • 2017 — Graduated — moved back home to Dar es Salaam, no funding, early testing.
  • 2018 — Convinced a co-founder to join, built a domestic payment service in Tanzania, received cease and desist letter from biggest telecom mobile money service in Tanzania.
  • 2019 — Got into YC (after 5 attempts), then my co-founder quit one week before demo day. Struggled to raise pre-seed money but a few people bet on us.
  • 2020 — No product market fit, covid pandemic — pivot the business. Shut down old business. Do layoffs.
  • 2021 — Running out of money, pivot the business again. Started building cross border payments. Some investors told us this would never work. Running out of money.
  • 2022 — New NALA consumer cross border fintech business live, growing fast.. Raised $10m seed round.
  • 2023 — Present: Scaled to, 500K users, 10x revenue growth and profitable.
  • 2024 — Raise $40m Series A. One of the largest Series A in African tech history.

While many read the round announcement news and assume it’s been an easy journey, this is just a highlight reel of the journey we’ve been on.

We ran out of money four times.

I had friends like Jack who I had to borrow money from to make payroll. I did side gigs to cover salaries.

This journey has given me a lot more empathy for founders. It has also made me even bolder and more ambitious.

Understanding the problems in the global payments space made me realize the market is truly only #1PercentBuilt.

. . .

The Journey Ahead: From $40 Million to 100x Growth

It’s just day 1 at NALA. We are just getting started.

The big work is ahead.

We’ve got some ambitous plans we are excited about executing.

Sometimes, no matter how many hours you put in, things still don’t go according to plan. I can still remember when the NALA team was in New York preparing to launch in the US Market.

Just hours before we went live, I tried to make the first payment from the US, but let’s just say things didn’t quite go to plan. Here’s some behind-the-scenes footage.

Our first attempt at a payment from the US to Tanzania.

We tackled everything head-on, never lost perspective and had fun doing it. Today, USA is #1 for us for transaction volume and revenue. We only have 1 employee in the US.

This funding is a testament to the hard work of our team and the trust our investors have in our vision. It marks a new chapter in our journey to revolutionize payments for the next billion.

“The chef doesn’t celebrate getting the ingredients.”

While raising $40 million is a remarkable achievement, it is just one milestone in our long-term vision. We’ve made great progress, but the work is far from done.

Our ambitions are bold — we aim to 100x this business, and the path to achieving that is paved with hard work, innovation, and relentless dedication.

A Heartfelt Thank You 🩵

Our journey wouldn’t have been possible without the unwavering support of many. I want to extend my deepest gratitude to:

Our customers:

Thank you for your feedback, patience, and support. We wouldn’t be where we are without you. Thank you to the early adopters and to all of you who trusted us to send money home.

NALA Community met up, Athens, Greece (June 23)

To the NALA and Rafiki Teams:

None of this would have been possible without your hard work and dedication. Your passion, drive and love for our community have inspired me personally.

I am equally proud of the team we have built as I am of the products and features we have created for our users. I look forward to taking on the next challenge with all of you.

I know, NALA isn’t a place for everyone to work. To succeed here, you need to be customer-obsessed, build with a sense of urgency, and possess an ownership mindset. These qualities define our team.

If you only knew the countless nights we stayed up to make payments work or to solve fires, I could write many books.

I’d like to thank Nico CTO and Ngosha COO, I’ve officially been working with both of you for over 4 years. We’ve been through a lot of highs and lows together and I wouldn’t have been able to build the latest chapter of NALA without you.

Join the team. Be a part of the next chapter: If you are ambitious and want to be part of a team building payments for the next billion, we have a bunch of roles we need to fill as we scale our global operations across both NALA and Rafiki. Check out our careers page.

To Our Partners and Investors:

To the 200+ Mobile money, bank partners, regulators and investors, your support has been invaluable to us in enabling fast and secure payments cross border payments.

Press conference announcing NALA’s partnership with CRDB Bank. Tanzania. June 24

The road ahead will undoubtedly bring new challenges, but with our relentless team and the support of our customers and partners, we are confident in our ability to overcome them.

Our work is far from over; in fact, it’s just beginning.

I recognise, if we don’t take responsibility, we take orders. That is a principle of life.

We’re committed to continuing our mission to build payments for the next billion. It’s time to build a better financial future for Africa and beyond.

Give us a couple of years, we’ve got some big plans.


Benjamin Fernandes

Founder & CEO, NALA.

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