Bitsika is conquering social fintech in 2022

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In line with our focus on understanding the thriving African Fintech space, ARYZE has spoken with the CEO of Bitsika. The Ghanaian fintech start-up Bitsika was founded in 2019 by Atsu Davoh and Samuel Boahen. The company set out to solve seamless remittances between African countries and has since launched its Bitsika payment app.  

The app leverages the Binance chain and uses cryptocurrencies and stablecoins as the backend settlement bridge, removing the need to integrate with banks. Cross border payments are settled instantly in local currencies, between Bitsika users.  The app also offers a virtual Visa card, cryptocurrencies, and the ability to purchase airtime from supported networks.

In a recent interview with CEO Atsu Davoh, he described the payment frictions that Bitsika initially set out to solve. 

The Africa continent has 54 countries, facing incredible segmentation on language lines, border lines and currency lines.  Whilst most fintech companies focus on the corridors from Africa to the rest of the world, we saw a sweet spot of Africa-to-Africa transaction.  This is how we emerged, and this is how we are thriving.

Atsu Davoh, Bitsika CEO

In the span of only 2 years, Bitsika has expanded into 7 countries including Nigeria, Senegal, Ivory Coast, Togo, Benin, Cameroon, and Burkina Faso.  Additionally, they have laid the rails, and are going live in Mali, Kenya, and Uganda in the coming months. Their goal is to cover 20 countries by the end of 2022, and the entire continent within the next few years.

Bitsika during a lab session with Binance

Merging Social Media & Fintech

As true pioneers in the fintech space, the company is preparing to launch their 2nd generation Bitsika app this month. This will merge the existing app features with a social media platform. When explaining the concept, Atsu Davoh noted that they had seen a lot of friction between social media, and fintech over the years. They were noticing that people were always looking for ways to perform fintech actions on social media, for example creating a GoFundMe, and sharing it on twitter, as the GoFundMe platform had limited visibility, or people wanting to do a giveaway to followers on Twitter, so posting on Twitter but needing a separate app to execute the giveaway.

We wanted to merge these two worlds, imagine going to a restaurant, eating, and then paying with the Bitsika app and then being able to post about what you just paid for.

Atsu Davoh, Bitsika CEO

Atsu Davoh further noted that, unlike other social products, the Bitsika app requires you to open it to make a payment, thereby inadvertently seeing posts by your friends which will create engagement by default. 

With over 130,000 registered users, the company believes that the future of fintech in Africa will be built on top of wallet systems, as they are free, settle instantly and unlikely to fail. Furthermore, wallets have the possibility to evolve and build out infinitely.

Navigating the crypto bans

On the 5th of February Nigeria banned cryptocurrencies with immediate effect.  As a result, Bitsika had to immediately stop offering cryptocurrencies in Nigeria.  The company was however quick to emphasise that it was only the offer of cryptos to retail customers that was illegal, not the use of cryptocurrencies as a backend settlement bridge.   This meant that the Bitsika app could continue to function as normal.

Atsu Davoh believes that the ban was triggered by Nigerian fintech companies publishing their numbers. 

Regulations are fear of losing control and fear of losing market share. Due to the African bureaucracy system, legislation will always be slow. It is not the wisest thing to wait for African governments, in order to plan anything for the future of your company. If you are an aggressive businessperson as I am, you quickly learn that it is not the best course of action.

Atsu Davoh, Bitsika CEO

Whilst reflecting on his mantra, “never stop moving”, he noted that the government may have just “shot themselves in the foot because now we are all planning to build more resistant models”.

Atsu Davoh credits the success and fast growth of Bitsika to “the secret sauce” is the team.

As a young start-up it is important to give yourself the opportunity to go through different people till you find the tribe you want to build with, we have done that and now we know who we want to move into the future with.

Atsu Davoh, Bitsika CEO

Bitsika currently has a team of 15 (Developers and Designers), but there are concerns that Africa is experiencing what Atsu Davoh described as a brain drain, where African talent is being scouted and taken abroad, noting that young start-ups will suffer, and he predicts that founders may need to learn to code in order to build and launch their own products.   

When asked what advice he would give to other young African talents hoping to enter the fintech space, he replied:

As a founder, always try as many sensible things as possible, if you have a thesis that something may work, have the habit of trying it out, some are afraid to spend months and waste time, and it’s this time that means you arrive at what works.

Atsu Davoh, Bitsika CEO

Conclusion

In 2021, the booming African Fintech market received a combined 5.2 billion Usd in funding. This is more than any other region worldwide and signals the significance placed on this thriving ecosystem.  Brilliant fintech innovators such as Bitsika are blazing ahead, creating new disruptive business models whilst solving the segmentation which extends borders, languages, and currencies. With so much talent on the continent, Africa will certainly be the fintech space to watch in the coming years.

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