‘Our common DNA is the financing of value-creating businesses in Africa’

Moustapha Ibrahim Malloum, deputy regional director for West Africa at PROPARCO, tells Edem Gadegbeku why the French development agency backed the 6th Ecobank Fintech Challenge.


This article is sponsored by Ecobank

What does supporting the organisation of the Ecobank Fintech Challenge 2023 mean for PROPARCO?

PROPARCO’s involvement alongside the Ecobank Group as sponsor of the Ecobank Fintech Challenge 2023 is obvious, as our two institutions have a long-standing business relationship. We share a common DNA which is to contribute to the financing of value-creating businesses in Africa, and more particularly SMEs. For nearly 15 years, we have been supporting the Group through financing, guarantees and advisory services to help it achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

It was therefore natural that we decided to respond when Ecobank asked us to support them in this initiative to promote African fintechs. Since 2018, PROPARCO has opened its mandate to venture capital investment and has invested in several fintechs including Jumo, Julaya and Moneyfellows. This approach, which is part of a strategy to invest in African entrepreneurship, is in line with the “Choose Africa” initiative launched by the President of the French Republic, Emmanuel Macron.

What do you think of the innovations in African fintech promoted by the eight finalists in the Ecobank Fintech Challenge 2023?

The solutions put forward by the eight finalists in the Ecobank Fintech Challenge 2023 are very interesting. The solutions proposed are very different from one another, and each addresses a crucial issue for our continent, for consumers, businesses and even public authorities.

Let’s take the example of Koree, the Cameroonian fintech that won in 2023. It addresses the problem of the lack of currency among traders in Africa, whether taximen, shopkeepers, etc., and offers practical solutions for monetising outstanding sums by digitising them. “Koree” also offers a cashback system to build user loyalty.

Another solution like “Rubyx” (a Senegalese start-up, also a finalist in this 2023 edition) enables all start-ups and banks to make better use of their data to analyse and offer credit ratings and banking history to economic agents who do not have them, and who therefore have difficulty accessing credit. “Rubyx” offers SaaS credit rating software based on banking and commercial data collected from its customers in microfinance institutions, banks and start-ups in order to facilitate credit decisions and thus financially include players who would not otherwise be included. 

Beyond the Ecobank Fintech Challenge 2023, how does PROPARCO interact in general with the African fintech ecosystem via the “Choose Africa” initiative?

PROPARCO invests in start-ups and particularly fintechs in Africa. We are a provider of patient capital (i.e. with a longer presence in the capital than commercial investors).

As such, we invest in very interesting start-ups such as Julaya (which offers a mass payment solution for businesses) in West Africa. We are also investors in Moneyfellows, an Egyptian start-up. Fintechs are therefore an integral part of a continuum of players in the financial sector that PROPARCO addresses alongside banks and microfinance institutions.

In addition to financing start-ups directly, we also invest in venture capital funds, which in turn invest in start-ups. This is the case of Partech Africa, which was one of the first funds to support the fintech Wave, the biggest fundraising in West Africa to date. This business is set to grow, particularly in West Africa.

Finally, it’s important to remember that we provide non-financial support to these companies. Our added value is also the network we have on the continent and our ability to create links between our customers.