The Nigerian fintech startup Bankly which is leading the digitalization the informal “thrift collections” system – known in local parlance as ajo, esusu and adashe – that is widely used among Nigerians working in the informal sector has secured US$2 million in seed funding to accelerate its consumer acquisition and offer direct-to-consumer (DTC) products to Nigeria’s unbanked and underbanked populations.

Tomilola Adelana, Bankly CEO and co-founder.

The startup which was founded two years ago hopes to improve the esusu because even though the system is popular because it works completely offline, it has inherent security risks, limited access, and a lack of customer data, which Bankly addresses by allowing participants to save their money using both online and offline methods. Customers can deposit and withdraw cash with a Bankly agent or make payments using its app or USSD function.

Bankly has announced a seed funding round of US$2 million, led by Vault with participation from Plug and Play Ventures, Rising Tide Africa and Chrysalis Capital. With the fundraise, Bankly aims to increase its 35,000 customer base in cash-dependent communities by growing the number of its physical “cash in” points by expanding its 15,000 person agent network and plugging its API into partner networks. It will also develop DTC products for its customer base that will be available through its app and USSD channels. Over the next three years, Bankly aims to grow its customer base to two million unbanked Nigerians.

“We’re thrilled to have closed this milestone fundraise and to have such seasoned fintech investors who understand the market join us on this journey to bank Nigeria’s unbanked. Our goal has always been to reach the last mile using a fast-moving consumer strategy. Now we have built the agent network and are poised to serve customers directly via offline and online channels. Partnerships, collaboration, and a deep understanding of the needs of the unbanked will be vital to our success,” said Tomilola Adejana, chief executive officer (CEO) and co-founder of Bankly.

Vault partner Idris Alubankudi Saliu said his company was delighted to participate in this financing round as Bankly moves into its next growth stage.“Given our over 20 years experience in Nigeria’s fintech industry and previous exits, we strongly believe that Bankly understands the nuanced needs of this market – not to mention the team, strategy, and technology — to succeed in bringing affordable financial services to the unbanked,” he said.

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