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Cameroonian crypto and savings platform Ejara raises $8 million led by Anthemis and Dragonfly • londonbusinessblog.com

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Ejaraa Cameroonian fintech offering an investment app that allows users to buy and save crypto through decentralized wallets has raised $8 million in Series A investments.

London-based venture capital firm Anthemis led the growth round along with crypto-focused fund Dragonfly Capital. Anthemis is a follow-on investor in Ejara, which also spearheaded the fintech’s $2 million seed round announced last October.

Participating VC firms in this new funding include other follow-on investors Mercy Corps Ventures, Coinshares Ventures and Lateral Capital – and new investors such as Circle Ventures, Moonstake, Emurgo, Hashkey Group and BPI France. Blockwoks co-founder Jason Yanowitz is one of the angels in the round.

Ejara wants to “democratize access to investment and savings products across the region using blockchain technology.” While the recently launched savings product, tokenizing government bonds, is one of the ways it uses blockchain, so is the crypto product that was pivotal to the two-year-old startup raising $10 million in less than 18 months.

By providing users in francophone Africa with an option to buy, sell, trade and store their crypto investments, CEO Nelly Chatue-Diop and its co-founder Baptist Andrew saw an opportunity to increase crypto activity in the region. However, unlike most crypto platforms in Africa that provide custodial wallets to users, Ejara offered customers the option of non-custodial wallets so that they could own and store their keys. That decision has paid off, especially during this period when the collapse of FTX and other crypto organizations continues to underline the need for customers to prioritize privacy and ownership when dealing with crypto and tokenized assets.

“When everyone went the other way and built centralized exchanges, we always thought that if you want to own crypto, you have to own your keys. And that’s kind of what saved us in turbulent times,” Chateau-Diop told londonbusinessblog.com on the phone.

Ejara’s crypto product has quickly caught on with users in a region where access to financial products is limited to the most informed and wealthiest. In addition to linking their mobile money accounts and accessing crypto, users were also able to transact cross-border via stablecoins. As a result, the users on the platform have grown by multiples over the last 14 months. Last October, it had 8,000 users from Cameroon, the first market, and others including Ivory Coast, Burkina Faso, Mali, Guinea, and Senegal. Now it has more than 70,000 users in nine francophone African countries.

Chateau-Diop — who noted that Ejara has seen 10x revenue growth and posted 15% month-over-month transaction volume growth since last October despite crypto’s crisis — expects users on the platform to reach 100,000 by the end of the year. The savings product, which Ejara described in a statement as the first of its kind in the crypto world, was launched to get it there. In an ecosystem where many people around the world are trying to find use cases for blockchain technology, Ejara has shown that emerging market startups are likely to pioneer many such innovations in web3. the company added.

With this product, the Cameroonian fintech claims that users will not need to create a bank account to access savings products, but instead can start that journey with Ejara by downloading the app and depositing a minimum of 1,000 CFA Francs (~$1.5) to deposit. Users can earn up to 10% interest on their two-year deposits on the platform, Chateau-Diop said, adding that this product puts Ejara against traditional financial institutions.

“The competition for government bonds is with traditional asset managers and banks. And given the way they are structured, they mainly target high net worth individuals and institutions such as other banks or insurance companies,” she noted. “No one focuses on the woman who sells the markets or the man who rides a motorcycle. And because we structure the product this way, many people come to our platform because they can save up to 1,000 CFA francs every day.”

Both lead investors in this round recognize Ejara’s ambition to be a kind of financial super app for users in francophone Africa and even for users in the diaspora sending money home and investing. Mia Deng, a partner at Dragonfly, said Ejara is well positioned to replicate the growth of China’s Alipay and WeChat Pay, two prominent web2 superapps, in the early 2010s and help the French-speaking region take a financial leap in the coming years to make progress in the field of web3.

“Aware of the challenges across the zone, Ejara does not intend to limit itself to a crypto app, but rather to become a one-stop shop for products tailored to the needs of Africans: a store where a range of financial products will be accessible at your fingertips, without any knowledge of cryptocurrencies, says Ruth Foxe Blader, partner at Anthemis, of Ejara’s potential.

Image Credits: Ejara

Ejara’s journey to one million users is somewhat dependent on how quickly the target audience understands the nuances of crypto, savings and investing. It’s one of the reasons why the fintech is championing a number of non-profit initiatives to educate the public, especially women, girls, and orphans, about crypto, savings, investing (it has yet to launch its fractional investment product), and financial education while preparing the market for its growth.

“The initiative we launched for women and orphans and girls is to improve their financial literacy and computer skills. When I think of Ejara, I think of an ecosystem and as a leveler to bring the community together, whether they are in Africa or the diaspora, whether they belong to the elites, whether they are in the poorer layers of the community “said the chief executive who also mentioned that Ejara recently obtained a license to expand its offerings to the French-speaking diaspora in Europe.

Last week, Djamo, an Ivorian fintech, announced what appears to be the country’s largest equity round. At $10 million, Ejara is one of Cameroon’s most funded companies (if not the most funded). These are two similar events in different French-speaking markets that take place in quick succession. While it is too early to say, it appears that the market is embracing innovation and that the ecosystem – which for the most part embodies a strict regulatory landscape – is becoming attractive to foreign venture capital despite the current global downturn.

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