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Home Startups AZA Finance, BitPesa parent firm, raises $50m, acquires remittance firm Exchange4Free to launch in SA

AZA Finance, BitPesa parent firm, raises $50m, acquires remittance firm Exchange4Free to launch in SA

by Milcah Lukhanyu
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AZA Finance, the financial group that runs Nairobi-based BitPesa, has acquired South Africa’s cross-border payments firm Exchange4Free in an expansion move.

The acquisition follows a combined Series B debt and equity funding round in which AZA Finance raised $35 million for expansion of operations in the Middle East and North Africa over the past 18 months, including a $15 million debt facility with the Development Bank of Southern Africa (DBSA) to build its activities in the region.

“This acquisition moves us further towards our goal of opening up intra-African and frontier market FX flows,” said Elizabeth Rossiello, CEO and founder of AZA Finance. “Exchange4Free’s ethos and innovative solution is a great fit for AZA Finance in helping to build the digital infrastructure of the future that brings innovation and efficiency to meet corporate treasury and FX needs in frontier markets.”

The acquisition enables AZA Finance to leverage Exchange4Free’s own platform for their services, including its set of APIs that provide companies with the FX, treasury, and regulatory compliance services they need to make cross-border payments into South Africa from more than 100 countries. AZA Finance expects the deal to more than double its transaction volumes to $2.5 billion in 2021 through synergies and leveraging cross-selling opportunities, and help it reach to 115 countries spanning Africa, Europe, the Middle East, Asia-Pacific and North America.

AZA Finance provides an A to Z full suite of corporate treasury and FX products from the start to the “last-mile” for enterprises operating in frontier markets. With offices in Nigeria, Ghana, Senegal, Uganda, South Africa, Kenya, Spain, the UK and the Single Euro Payments Area (SEPA), AZA Finance’s partnership network includes money transfer operators (MTOs) like Western Union, World Remit, Azimo and IDT (Boss Revolution).

Exchange4Free is the largest South African non-bank currency broker and a top money transfer and payments technology provider serving over 50,000 private and corporate clients worldwide. The platform allows users to send and receive free money transfers 24/7 to 100 countries, accept EFT and alternative payments from friends, family and customers worldwide, as well as send instant airtime to friends and family in over 130 countries. Exchange4Free also provides online trading and execution in over 70 major and exotic currencies, as well as white-label solutions for remittance, FX and payments.

“Exchange4Free has built technology to streamline FX and cross-border payment flows across a truly global transaction network,” said Mark Lawson, co-Founder and CEO at Exchange4Free. “The acquisition by AZA Finance will enable us to reach the scale we need to optimise this technology to deliver highly customisable solutions for our clients.”

Last year, AZA hired Meryem Habibi as its Chief Revenue Officer in a major expansion of operations across Africa, the Middle East and Asia. The Moroccan-born executive oversees revenue growth through sales, strategic partnerships and expanded marketing.

Meryem Habibi

Meryem also drives further growth through hiring top leadership, sales and business development positions, with particular focus on Africa, the Middle East and Asia, along with strengthening existing operations in Nigeria, Kenya, Ghana, Uganda and Senegal.  At the time of her appointment, AZA was in the final stages of establishing an office in Egypt, where it sees significant demand from partners on the ground. AZA sees strong growth potential across the Middle East and North Africa market.

“AZA is opening up intra-regional trade opportunities in emerging and frontier markets by tackling inefficiencies that companies have typically viewed as simply too overwhelming or entrenched to confront,” said Meryem. “In Africa and beyond, there are no limits to applying AZA’s technology to intrinsically improve the way that cross-border trade happens.”

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