Payments for the Next Billion

When I started building NALA back in 2017, we set out on a mission to Increase Economic Opportunity for Africans worldwide.

A lot has evolved since then. The African population is growing at a breakneck pace, and payment solutions are more urgent than ever. When we started our consumer remittance product in 2021, our team was less than 7 people and equipped with a bullish belief that remittances are not finished. I recently wrote about why that’s still the case and what NALA’s doing about it.

Today, there we just under 80 employees at NALA. As we’ve scaled across multiple countries, it’s been made clear payment reliability across Africa still needs a lot of work to do.

The African payments space has a plethora of problems, we as NALA won’t be able to solve them alone. As we reflect, the cost of payments to Africa is still the highest of any region in the world, and in order to serve our customers really well, we need to focus on two things:

  1. Getting the best FX rates — to save people money on hidden costs and lost fees.
  2. Payment reliability — which is very underdeveloped in most African countries.

Solving these problems can only go as far as the limitations that underpin cross-border payment infrastructure.

To unlock NALA’s next growth phase, we’re building our own payment rails, not by choice, but by the nature of the market.

Building at an infrastructural level is a long-term play, a major element of which is acquiring new licenses to unlock innovation.

In 2023, NALA acquired Payment Service Provider licenses in several countries, including, as recently announced, Tanzania and Rwanda. We also directly integrated with banks and telcos, like our partnership with M-Pesa. Increasingly, these allow us to enhance NALA by building more elements of the value chain internally.

How can we serve a global world of trade?

A few years ago, we started getting requests from businesses who wanted to ‘use NALA’s rails’ for payments. These businesses wanted to build on top of our infrastructure we had built for our consumer business.

Africa’s development over the coming decades will require many more solutions than a single company can build. For us to help unlock this potential at scale, we need to start with a strong, reliable infrastructure to create favourable environments for other multinational companies or homegrown organisations to thrive.

That’s why, in 2024, NALA will be announcing something new to bridge this gap and enable seamless payments for companies around the world directly into African mobile money and bank accounts.

So what’s next?

NALA has always been about increasing economic opportunity for Africans globally. As we firm up our understanding of what this means for individuals and businesses on a macroeconomic scale, we need to refine and focus our vision on how to deliver these outcomes. This means improving payments for people sending money home but also going beyond to address the challenges businesses face at scale.

Payments in Africa are still #1PercentBuilt.

NALA is rising to meet this challenge, and we are updating our mission to deliver: Payments for the Next Billion.

Let’s build.

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