America’s global payment technology company Visa paying $200 million for 20% stake in Nigeria’s Interswitch

Simon Ateba
Simon Ateba
Simon is an investigative journalist and publisher of TODAY NEWS AFRICA L.L.C. based in Washington, District of Columbia, U.S.A. His twitter handle is @simonateba and his email is simonateba@todaynewsafrica.com

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Visa Inc., an American multinational financial services corporation headquartered in Foster City, California, is paying $200 million for 20% stake in Interswitch, Nigeria’s largest electronic payments company, UK’s Sky News reported on Sunday quoting anonymous sources.

Visa, which describes itself as a “global payments technology company working to enable consumers, businesses, banks and governments to use digital currency”, is widely known to facilitate electronic funds transfers throughout the world.

Interswitch, which describes itself also as an “Africa-focused integrated digital payments and commerce company which facilitates the electronic circulation of money as well as the exchange of value between individuals and organizations on a timely and consistent basis”, is a highly profitable company set to hit the London Stock Exchange next year.

Bloomberg reported that the Nigerian company was set to be valued at as much as $1.5 billion ahead of a planned IPO next year.

The company’s previous plans for a 2016 IPO were put on hold following a recession in Nigeria.

With its planned IPO next year and the backing from Visa, Interswitch is attaining the same status reached by Jumia, the e-commerce company, when it was listed for over $1.4 billion in April this year.

In just 17 years since Nigerian engineer and entrepreneur Mitchell Elegbe founded Interswitch in 2002 with a mission to “connect Nigeria to the digital world”, the company has grown drastically to become one of Africa’s leading digital-payments providers, processing at least $38 billion in transactions value in 2017 alone.

Today, Nigerian consumers and businesses make more than 300 million digital transactions every month across a suite of Interswitch-enabled channels.

In partnership with two leading private equity firms, US-based TA Associates and UK-based Helios, Interswitch plans to list on the Lagos and London stock exchanges this year and was earlier expected to raise as much as $1 billion in its initial public offering.

Elegbe’s story began with an observation. Up until 2002, Nigerians were carrying piles of cash with them to pay for everything from groceries, cell phones to cars.

Back then, debit and credit cards were scarce as were point-of-sale (POS) machines. ATMs were also few and far between and each could be used only by customers of one bank as Nigeria lacked the infrastructure for interbank connectivity.

As a result, people spent hours in banking halls queuing for cash, or simply kept cash at home.

Elegbe saw the unmet need and launched Interswitch to close the gap.

The company built the first interbank transaction switching and payment processing infrastructure in Nigeria, which enabled interbank sharing and the first real-time POS system.

Interswitch Paydirect platform revolutionized revenue collection for governments and large companies while its online payment gateway, Webpay, opened the way for e-commerce in Nigeria.

In 2008, Interswitch launched Verve, which has become Nigeria’s most widely used card brand.

The next year in 2009, the company introduced Quickteller, an online payment platform that is accessible via a wide variety of digital and physical channels. As of today, the platform has more than 15 million users.

Interswitch’s recent innovation is Paycode, which enables cardless transactions such as ATM withdrawals and POS payments, using a digital token.

The company is also helping process contactless payments in Africa, and is upgrading the system to allow consumers to scan “quick response” barcodes from their cellphones.

You can read more about Interswitch here.

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