The year is 2016. Idris Marcial Monthe has just graduated from the Abidjan Founders Institute. An amazing three months of learning from the best and Monthe was feeling quite confident.
He and Daniel Dindji had just launched their payment gateway, CinetPay in the same year with little to no experience in the financial sector. The duo had met each other while studying Computer Science at the New Superior School of Engineering and Technology (ENSIT), Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire.
This is not their first rodeo, though. In 2009, Monthe and Dindji created CinetCore, a platform specialising in the sale of domain names. But they soon encountered a problem — payments.
“In our region, you have 80% of people with a mobile money account, while the remaining 10 to 20% have a bank account and a card to pay online,” Monthe tells Techpoint Africa.
They tried to open several PayPal accounts to get their payments but they were blocked because Cote d’Ivoire — like many African countries — has limited usability on PayPal and is unofficially said to be on a blacklist.
“We saw that we have a good opportunity with mobile money because many people have mobile money accounts. But, the problem with mobile money is that, all the 80% are spread between three or five operators and it’s not easy for a merchant to open four accounts, integrate four APIs, manage four reconciliation, and deal with four partners, just for collection of payments.”
So, they decided to build a gateway for their website, connecting all of these mobile money operators in one place. But soon, clients were asking, “How can we recreate this for ourselves?” And CinetPay was born.
The journey to getting funded
In December 2021, CinetPay announced a $2.4 million seed round led by 4DX Ventures and African payment gateway unicorn, Flutterwave.
CinetPay has been Flutterwave’s Francophone Africa partner since 2019.
“I think Flutterwave was looking for a strong partner in Francophone Africa to explore the market, check if we have the capacity to help them in our region and that is how the partnership started. Flutterwave had a customer in Cameroon and wanted to serve this customer with a mobile money solution and when they looked in Cameroon, they saw that their best partner would be CinetPay.”
For Monthe, it has been a very good partnership, helping both companies share information and experience.
When Techpoint Africa asks Monthe if bootstrapping was a deliberate choice, he says, “It is not our choice. We are in a region where fundraising is very low, and many investors don’t have information about our region, our market, our environment. If we had a choice, we would have raised money since 2017.”
Compared to Africa’s big four — South Africa, Kenya, Nigeria, and Egypt — funding in Francophone Africa is quite low. However, this year has been a good year for the region, with several startups raising some impressive rounds and a unicorn emerging.