Zone, the decentralized payment infrastructure of Nigerian fintech, secures $8.5 million in seed funding for expansion

Appzone is one of the standout local fintech software providers for banks and fintechs, providing better pricing and flexibility. As such, it rebranded to Zone, a licensed blockchain-enabled payment infrastructure company–and carved out its original banking-as-a-service business into a separate standalone company, Qore. Today, Zone, its blockchain network that enables payments and acceptance of digital currencies, is announcing that it has raised $8.5 million in a seed round. Therefore, the fintech is developing an interoperable payment infrastructure using blockchain technology — known for its ability to scale infinitely — to connect banks and fintech companies, facilitating transaction flow without intermediaries. “We are excited by the potential for Zone’s technology to be replicated across borders to advance payment innovation globally.

The Rise of Zone: Africa’s Premier Blockchain-Enabled Payment Infrastructure Company

African financial institutions have long relied on a combination of local and foreign technology to power their solutions. However, one company stands out as a standout local fintech software provider: Appzone. Founded by Emeka Emetarom, Obi Emetarom, and Wale Onawunmi, Appzone offers a unique blend of competitive pricing and unparalleled flexibility.

For over a decade, Appzone has been a key player in the Nigerian banking and payments industry, providing custom software and software-as-a-service products to 18 commercial banks and 450 microfinance banks across Africa, including Ghana and Kenya. In 2022, the company decided to take things to the next level with the launch of their blockchain technology integration.

Rebranded as Zone, the company became the first regulated blockchain network for payments in Africa. It also created a separate business, Qore, to focus solely on banking-as-a-service. Today, Zone is proud to announce that it has successfully raised $8.5 million in a seed funding round.

The concept behind Zone is simple yet effective. The company recognizes that Africa’s current payment infrastructure may not be equipped for a fully cashless future. To bridge this gap, Zone is developing an interoperable payment infrastructure using blockchain technology – known for its scalability – to connect banks and fintech companies, allowing for seamless transactions without intermediaries.

In an interview with TechCrunch, CEO Obi Emetarom shared that Zone has already signed up over 15 of Africa’s largest banks. Currently, the company is processing domestic transactions for seven of these banks through ATM channels, one of Nigeria’s most popular payment channels. Additionally, eight other banks are in the process of onboarding, with an average processing time of six months.

Zone obtained a switching license from Nigeria’s apex bank, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), and is connected to the Nigeria Inter-Bank Settlement System – the country’s central switch that enables the movement of money between bank accounts and promotes interoperability between different players in the financial system. This gives Zone a strong foundation to build upon as it expands its services.

Empowering Banks and Fintechs Across Africa

Zone’s primary goal is to empower banks and fintechs to replicate the successes of popular companies like OPay and Moniepoint, without the need for individual integrations. Zone already has these integrations in place and operates as a licensed switch, ensuring compliance with regulatory guidelines. Its blockchain architecture allows for direct communication between participants in the payment ecosystem, increasing reliability and scalability.

Currently, Zone is focusing on its ATM use case, but its next target is POS transactions. According to CEO Obi Emetarom, this will level the playing field for fintechs who are familiar with the POS use case and expand Zone’s reach to a wider range of clients. With decentralized routing and automated reconciliation, Zone aims to reduce transaction failures and improve transparency for both merchants and customers.

This traction has gained the attention of investors, including Flourish Ventures and TLcom Capital, who led the recent funding round. The funds will help Zone launch new functionalities and expand its network coverage to other payment channels. Additionally, the company hopes to reduce onboarding time for clients and eliminate implementation fees.

“People want to access financial services all over Africa, and payment infrastructure and cost represent serious obstacles. Zone has solved a critical challenge by enabling interoperability, and this will unlock significantly more growth in the future,” says Ameya Upadhyay, a partner at Flourish Ventures.

A Promising Future for Zone and Africa’s Payment Industry

By combining experienced founders, a robust client base, and a central bank license, Zone stands out in Africa’s payment switch and financial network landscape, which typically relies on bank consortiums for infrastructure ownership. With a successful track record of over 10 million transactions and $1 million processed within the first three months, Zone is poised for even greater success in the near future.

The company’s blockchain technology and commitment to driving financial inclusion and innovation make it a major player to watch in the global payment industry.

“We are excited by the potential for Zone’s technology to be replicated across borders to advance payment innovation globally,” says Upadhyay. “The fact that Zone is led by banking industry experts reinforces our conviction that Zone can fulfill our shared goal of moving the entire sector forward.”

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Kira Kim

Kira Kim is a science journalist with a background in biology and a passion for environmental issues. She is known for her clear and concise writing, as well as her ability to bring complex scientific concepts to life for a general audience.

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