Lagos, Nigeria (CNN) If you're making online payments to or from Nigeria, the chances are that a local startup, Paystack is helping you spend your money.
Africa has long has been perceived as one of technology's final frontiers. Few have felt that perception worse than businesses and professionals who have had to use more traditional methods to make and receive international payments. Record-breaking $560m for African tech startups in 2017, says report In January 2016, two young techies, Shola Akinlade and Ezra Olubi came together to solve that problem by launching Paystack, a payments processing company. Just over two years in, the young startup, with headquarters in Lagos, Nigeria, could become Africa's response to Paypal and Stripe. Read More Bridging the gap When Olubi and Akinlade first approached the idea for Paystack, receiving foreign payments in Nigeria was challenging. "It would take a minimum of 3 weeks for a business to start accepting payments online, from filling paper forms to making up-front payments to going through a complex integration process," Shola Akinlade, the company's CEO told CNN. Photos: The African tech hubs fostering innovation Nairobi, Kenya – Africa is experiencing increased investment in its tech industries. One contributing factor is the amount of tech hubs in the major urban centers that are sprouting. According to research from GSMA Ecosystem Accelerator in 2016 there were 314 active tech hubs across the continent.
Part of the appeal of tech hubs is that they provide affordable shared office space, fast internet, and access to reliable electricity, something that the continent overall still grapples with. Nairobi Garage in Kenya's capital offers all of these things, and holds tech events, conferences and workshops helping entrepreneurs gain new skills. Also in Nairobi, iHub tech incubator lists more than 150 companies that can trace their origins to ideas sparked there. Hide Caption 1 of 9 Photos: The African tech hubs fostering innovation Durban, South Africa – Over 50% of tech hubs are in five countries, South Africa, Kenya, Nigeria Egypt and Morocco. One of the biggest in South Africa is Durban's SmartXchange , which strives to develop small and medium enterprises, and holds monthly forums where successful business figures offer advice to aspiring entrepreneurs.
Hide Caption 2 of 9 Photos: The African tech hubs fostering innovation Cape Town, South Africa – Cape Town-based RLabs organizes digital and entrepreneurship bootcamps, and provides an investment of up to $20,000 for every social enterprise developed through their program. Hide Caption 3 of 9 Photos: The African tech hubs fostering innovation Addis Ababa, Ethiopia – The east Africa nation's capital is home to iceaddis which supports youth-driven private sector initiatives and promotes interaction between techies, entrepreneurs, investors and people from the creative industries. Hide Caption 4 of 9 Photos: The African tech hubs fostering innovation Lagos, Nigeria – The Co-Creation Hub in Lagos, Nigeria's most populous city, holds so-called tech-In series, where software developers and designers try to create new web and mobile based solutions to social challenges affecting the everyday lives of Nigerians over the course of two days.
Hide Caption 5 of 9 Photos: The African tech hubs fostering innovation Accra, Ghana – The Meltwater Entrepreneurial School of Technology , or MEST, in Ghana's capital Accra provides training, investment and mentoring for aspiring technology entrepreneurs. Hide Caption 6 of 9 Photos: The African tech hubs fostering innovation Dar es Salaam, Tanzania – Located in Tanzania's largest city, Kinu aims to be an open space where Tanzania's tech community can collaborate, and make a joint effort to find new solutions to social challenges. Hide Caption 7 of 9 Photos: The African tech hubs fostering innovation Kampala, Uganda – In the heart of Kampala is Hive Colab , a community-run innovation hub which offers co-working space. It's a place where tech entrepreneurs, web and mobile app developers, designers and investors can meet, nurture ideas and get them off the ground. Hide Caption 8 of 9 Photos: The African tech hubs fostering innovation Monrovia, Liberia – Recovering from a recent, bloody history of conflict, Liberia is turning its attention to tech. Monrovia's iLab offers free training in information and communications technology and serves as a meet-up space for a range of tech enthusiasts and professionals. Hide Caption 9 of 9 Paystack's attempt to solve that problem was to provide a website link for secure online payments. "We took it a step further, realizing that most businesses don't have access to developers and built a simple tool that allows a business [to] create a payment link they can add on their website or share with their customers on social without needing a developer." Now, according to the startup's CEO, "businesses can start accepting payments in less than 30 mins." Follow CNN Africa on social media See more stories on Marketplace Africa and share your thoughts with us on Facebook , Twitter and Instagram
"We started Paystack because we believe that better payment tools are one of the most important things that African businesses need to unlock their explosive potential," Akinlade says. That aim has helped the company raise over $10 million dollars in funding over the last two years. Paystack says it now processes nearly 15% of all online payments in Africa's largest economy - Nigeria, with $20 million in transactions paid out to merchants in August 2018. Investment potential That same month, Paystack announced that it raised $8 million in a round of funding led by Stripe - another payments processing company which processed more than half of all American transactions in 2017. The investment underscores a trend that has seen global technology companies investing into the startup ecosystems in Nigeria and Ghana. "The Paystack founders are highly technical, fanatically customer oriented, and unrelentingly impatient," said Patrick Collison, CEO of Stripe, in a statement. "We're excited to back such people in one of the world's fastest-growing regions." Musician Akon is creating a futuristic city and his own cryptocurrency in Senegal Africa's immense population holds a huge potential for payment platforms. But according to the World Bank, half of Sub-Saharan Africa's population do not use official financial services. Providing financial services for people without a bank account is Paystack's next aim. "We're investing heavily in making available all types of local and regional payment channels beyond card payments to ensure that customers can pay however they feel most comfortable," Akinlade says. Some of its biggest investors are certain that by exploring offline payment systems like QR codes, Paystack can bring the rest of Africa into global online trade. "Our investment in Paystack aligns with the kind of investments we look for -- those that will help extend our reach into the global commerce ecosystem as it changes and grows, and that will provide mutually beneficial business opportunities," said Otto Williams, head for strategic partnerships, fintechs and ventures for Visa in Central & Eastern Europe, Middle East and Africa (CEMEA), in a statement. Paystack says it's looking forward to launching in numerous African countries soon.