Fintech with Start OA: Building a Fintech start-up in Africa – 5 things to consider


We get a lot of founders coming to us to understand the Fintech market and how they can become industry participants. Due to the popular request, we put together this article for new entrants and existing players to understand the dynamics and some key considerations as they embark on their Fintech journey.

The Fintech industry has been one of the fastest-growing sectors globally over the past few years. It gained more momentum and wider adoption during the pandemic as people came to the realisation that individuals and organisations could access financial products and services without requiring any physical contact. The pandemic paved the way for innovators across the globe to find creative solutions to bring financial solutions closer to people, especially in underserved areas.

Emerging markets like Africa, LATAM (Latin America) and Asia & Pacific benefitted from the evolution of finance bolstered by technology. These markets long-suffered from wide financial inclusion gaps that existed due to the inadequate physical and technical infrastructure to bring financial products and services closer to the underbanked, underserved and underrepresented. As of 2021, the global account stood at 76 percent, and 71 percent in developing countries (This means the number of banked population), according to the World Bank. This indicates the strong impact of Fintech on the global economy.

The opportunity presented gave rise to notable players in the Fintech space, cutting across payments down through personal finance like Stripe, Square, Klarna, Paystack, Flutterwave, Wave, among many other notable names in the industry.

The Fintech industry has long benefitted from a funding bias against other industries with huge valuations and increased investments. Fintech start-ups have raised a total of US$970.4billion so far globally since 2010, and US$11.5billion in Africa since 2019.  The number of Fintech start-ups continues to increase with some speculating fears of a possible bubble. Should that be a point of concern? Probably a discussion for another day.

As a newbie wanting to get into a bit of saturated industry, how should you go about this? We identified 5 core areas to consider as you embark on your journey into this interesting industry.

Identifying your niche:

Fintech is generally broad as it continues to gain traction and momentum, and innovators continue to explore untapped niches. In order for your Fintech to be unique and outstanding, you first need to identify your niche. There exist niches you can choose from, like payments and remittance, insurance, lending, personal finance, trading and investment, SME-focused, among many other niches you can explore.

Identifying your niche would help you stay focused and build a great product that meets the specific needs of your users. In identifying your niche, observe and speak to customers to explore their pain points and the goals they seek to achieve – what they are willing to pay for, and how much they are willing to pay for it? This gives you a fair idea of how to tailor your product to meet the needs of the users based on the gaps that exist. Your niche could be personal finance for the working class and insurance for small businesses. This helps you to leverage your limited resources to provide the best product for your users.

Understanding the regulatory landscape

One mistake founders make is that they go on to build solutions without referencing the regulatory and compliance requirements of their current markets and potential markets they intend to explore. They end up building solutions that end up not meeting the regulatory requirements, and therefore, would have to exit completely.

In Ghana for instance, there exist regulations that guide how financial technology companies operate. Companies that fail to meet these initial requirements are forced to shut down or seek the necessary licenses to operate the type of services they want to operate. The Central Bank of Ghana, under the Payment Systems and Services Act, 2019 (Act 987), is mandated to regulate Fintech activities in Ghana.

In ensuring that the activities of Fintechs are effectively monitored, and new and emerging Fintechs being absorbed into the licensing framework, the Central Bank of Ghana has set up the Fintech and Innovation Office. They partnered with notable regtechs like EMTECH to introduce the Regulatory Sandbox Programme for Fintechs. The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) also took the same direction.

Understanding the regulatory landscape of the industry will help shape your product and give you more credibility to operate, provided you meet all the initial requirements.

Know your competitors

Knowing who you are in bed with is really important. This is important because the current Fintech market looks a bit saturated; therefore, in order for you to stand out, you need to build a strong value proposition and competitive advantage over your competitors. You are entering a space where there are a lot of incumbent financial institutions and Fintechs in other markets expanding to your market; therefore, you need something strong to survive the heat in the market.

Identifying technology stacks to build upon

Building a great Fintech product requires a great understanding of what tech stack to use and which integrations to plug into. This is important because of how highly sensitive the industry is to ensure that the product is more secure, user-friendly, and flexible but safe enough to integrate into third-party platforms.


Now that you know what you want to build, it’s time to go out there to hire your superstars to help you build this product. The global talent economy is quite competitive as big Fintechs and multi-corps fight for the few available talents to help them build Fintech products. Finding affordable talents can be very difficult, especially for well-experienced developers who need to build complex payment systems and gateways for your products.

One might ask: “So how then do I attract the right talent to my team with minimum or no initial cost”? First treat these guys as investors (they technically are) as they will have to buy into the idea to invest their talents and time into building it. In exchange, you offer equity stake in your company. How do you find these talents?

  • Reach out to some of them on LinkedIn
  • Attend tech events where you get the opportunity to meet them
  • Speak to industry professionals for recommendations
  • Also identify some young but talented developers with minimum experience to join in your team a bit early
  • You can find these talents on platforms like Codeln

Bootstrap and raise

The dynamics of Fintech can be interesting. At the very earliest stages, it is advisable for start-ups to bootstrap their business, at least, for some time before raising funding. Why? Due to the current global market downturn, VCs are doubling down on valuations, and are tightening oversight on the sustainability of Fintech models against future market dynamics and a possible bubble. These are investors’ ways of protecting their investments.

After bootstrapping for a while and achieving product-market-fit with a great number of recurring users, you can meet with investors to invest in your start-up.

StartOA partners with Fintechs at their very earliest stages to help them navigate their Fintech journey and prepare them to become market and investor-ready.

In conclusion, the opportunity presented by the Fintech industry to provide innovative financial products and services to the underserved, underbanked and underrepresented is huge, as well as the return on investment it brings to investors and founders in this industry. In order for Fintech founders to deliver great and high-impact driven products, a great understanding of the markets and adequate information coupled with preparation is imperative for their long-term growth and sustainability.

About Start OA

Start OA collaborates with founders across Africa to deliver and deploy high impact-driven solutions for people and businesses on the continent. We achieve this through constructive engagements with founders regarding, but not limited to, access to capital, strategic partnerships and market expansion.

The Start OA Accelerator programme is a comprehensive launchpad for founders in Africa to scale their businesses through multiple growth pipelines.

We believe that funding is the least of a start-up’s problems when:

  • Customer needs and product-market-fit are not taken into consideration
  • The legal and corporate governance structures for growth are unsustainable
  • The sales and distribution strategies for revenue generation are ineffective
  • Founders possess limited knowledge of relevant industry players

We partner with founders who are building unique products and services that solve everyday complex problems in very innovative ways. We bring on-board a wide range of expertise and networks to drive founders to become well-structured and investment-ready. You can reach Start OA on [email protected] or [email protected]

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