Crypto Exec on the offer of investment services in French-speaking Africa

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Crypto Exec on the offer of investment services in French-speaking Africa
  • nelly Chatue-Diop is CEO and co-founder of the Ejara investment platform.
  • Ejara last year announced a $2 million funding round led by CoinShares Ventures and Anthemis Group.
  • This article is part of “Master your crypto“, an Insider series helping investors improve their cryptocurrency skills and knowledge.

Despite a growing middle class in Francophone Africa, Nelly Chatue-Diop says cryptocurrencies are still reserved for a wealthy few who want to diversify their portfolios.

Raised in Douala, Cameroon, Chatue-Diop said she took the opportunity to try to “level the playing field” for the region which uses the CFA franc and spans 14 countries, including Côte d’ Ivory and Senegal. Noticing a disparity, she said she wants to bridge the “huge gap” by launching the Ejara investment platform, which allows users to dive into crypto and protect against currency devaluations and other downturns.

“That’s the problem we want to solve,” CEO Chatue-Diop told Insider in an interview. “We want to give people alternatives and democratize access to investment and savings.”

Start Ejara

Created last year, Ejara offers financial services such as interest-bearing savings accounts, buying and trading major cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin and ethereum, and later this year the ability to invest in local stocks and split internationals. The early-stage Web3 startup is also announcing educational programs through the Ejara school and a non-custodial wallet so users can store their funds. Comparable to an early-stage Robinhood, Ejara stands out from competing platforms by guiding users step-by-step through their investments, as well as adapting its services to the CFA franc zone.

Ejara has also lowered the entry barrier to investing in the region, said Chatue-Diop, also a co-founder of the platform. Users can deposit on the startup’s platform with as little as 1,000 CFA francs, or about $1.56.

The company started with a zero-dollar marketing budget, according to Chatue-Diop. While other companies spent large sums on social media ads, Ejara found success “going door-to-door, speaking to communities in churches and universities, and integrating users of this way,” she said.

“It’s really great when you’ve found a company and you’re sitting where your user base is,” she said, adding that the startup had amassed 50,000 users in less than two years. People use Ejara’s services, Chatue-Diop said, for both wealth management and general payment services. About 40% of Ejara’s user base are women, the executive said, with many being mothers setting up accounts for their children to start investing early – a striking percentage given how male dominated the Web3 user base tends to be.

Last year, Ejara announced a $2 million seed round led by CoinShares Ventures and Anthemis Group. Other backers were Lateral Capital, Mercy Corps Ventures, LoftyInc Capital and NetX Fund, along with participation from Jason Yanowitz of Blockworks and Pascal Gauthier of Ledger.

Before Ejara

Chatue-Diop has always been passionate about “the most innovative thing in technology,” she said.

After initial stints at Accenture and Credit Suisse, she held high-level management positions in a few artificial intelligence startups. In 2015, she said she had read the Bitcoin whitepaper and what “really stuck in her mind” was the idea that the crypto was “censorship-resistant” — as in, nobody owns its network centrally.

Less than 30% of the population in Ivory Coast, Mali, Cameroon and Senegal have a bank account, according to the World Bank, but about 55% of these people own a mobile phone. This positions the CFA franc regions as a single market suitable for further crypto and blockchain adoption, investor Ejara Mercy Corps Ventures said.

In parts of Africa, Chatue-Diop said, women struggle to secure land rights and cannot own property. This, coupled with low rates of financial inclusion, prevents many from finding a way to diversify their income. Chatue-Diop recounted TechCrunch that growing up, she experienced a pivotal moment when the CFA franc was devalued, which plunged her family and millions of others into financial ruin.

“It’s the first apolitical currency where people can really access the global economy,” she said, adding that crypto allows investors to own assets without worrying about a government influencing its use. For example, if you use Ejara to buy bitcoin, you can hold the asset through a non-custodial wallet, limiting the risks of geopolitical influence on its value.

The next step for Ejara, Chatue-Diop said, is to onboard 10 million users to its platform by 2025.

“We want to demystify blockchain and crypto,” she said. “Let’s make sure customers don’t feel like it’s too complicated because we think it’s for everyone.”

This article is intended to provide general information designed to educate a broad segment of the public; it does not provide personalized investment, legal or other business and professional advice. Before taking any action, you should always consult your own financial, legal, tax, investment or other professional for advice on matters affecting you and/or your business.

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