First E-Money License Issued To West African Fintech


The new permit will allow Wave to offer a wide range of services without relying on a legacy finance institution.

Wave’s new e-money license in West Africa is redefining fintech in the region, as the Senegalese and US incorporated firm is the first non-bank and non-telco company to land such a permit. The new permit will allow Wave to offer a wide range of services without relying on a legacy finance institution.

The Central Bank of West African States (BCEAO) granted Wave an e-money license in April. According to the fintech, the e-money license allows it to “directly offer its current suite of financial products to customers” by roping in “services like merchant payments, savings, credit and remittances.”

Jamelino Akogbeto, West Africa director for AfricaNenda—a payments systems advisory company—tells Global Finance that the e-money licensing for Wave heralds “a new era in the digital finance sector” through recognition “of fintech capabilities to contribute to catalyzing financial inclusion” in the West African Monetary Union.

Member states include Côte d’Ivoire, Benin, Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger, Senegal, Guinea-Bissau and Togo.

“This license opens the door to many other fintechs as potential new entrants in the e-money issuing market and will contribute to galvanizing the payment landscape in the region, as fintechs will no longer need to integrate with banks and telco platforms to address mass-market segments,” says Akogbeto.

Wave is the dominant fintech provider in Senegal, with six million users. With a $1.7 billion valuation, in 2021 it raised $200 million in a financing round led by venture capitalists Stripe and Sequoia Heritage, among others.

“Competition from fintechs such as Wave is forcing traditional mobile money operators and banks to innovate,” says Rashmi Pillai, head of Public Policy for Wave. He says banks are being “forced to rethink their legacy business models” and adopt “new approaches, pricing” and product development.

“We now have the option to offer bank-to-wallet transactions, which essentially means allowing customers to pull funds from their bank account to the Wave wallet for all banks in the region. We can offer credit and savings in partnerships with any financial institution of choice and virtual cards for online payments,” Pillai adds.

Remittances are another area Wave will be able to wade into after the latest licensing round.



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