As an entrepreneur and software engineer, Flutterwave CEO Olugbenga “GB” Agboola had a unique glimpse into the complexities of conducting business and enabling digital payments across Africa’s 54 nations.

After prior roles at major financial players like PayPal, Google, and banking giants operating across the continent, Agboola intimately understood the inefficiencies caused by a lack of integrated payment infrastructure.

“I worked for a bank that was everywhere across the continent – the largest by footprint in Africa,” recalls the Flutterwave CEO.  “Yet we couldn’t help customers expand and scale their businesses due to regulatory barriers, technology gaps, and lack of agility.”

Agboola cites examples like companies needing more time to quickly pay employee salaries in another country despite having banking operations in both markets.  Transfers were being routed through the U.S. or Europe unnecessarily.

“If you get on a plane from Lagos to Ghana, you get there faster than a money transfer,” Agboola says.  “You might as well take the money in a bag.”

These fundamental challenges inspired the founding of Flutterwave in 2016 as a solution to unify Africa’s fragmented payment methods into a seamless ecosystem.

“There was a need for a third-party player to sit in the middle of all the banks, talk to them, and provide complementary services to make payments simple for a small margin,” explains the CEO.

After launching its platform to integrate payment types like mobile money and bank transfers within countries, Flutterwave quickly expanded to enable real-time cross-border transactions.

The fintech’s ability to build Pan-African payment rails catalyzed e-commerce and opened new markets.  As Agboola describes it, “If you’re a small merchant in Johannesburg trying to sell to somebody in Nigeria, the only previous option was a slow wire transfer…With Flutterwave, we indicate the payment is trusted so the merchant can release goods instantly.”

By meeting consumers where they are instead of forcing new behaviors, Flutterwave generated critical user adoption.  The company adopted a localization strategy of “giving people the payment method they’re very comfortable with within their market.”

Flutterwave has continued rapid expansion from its enterprise roots to servicing smaller merchants and consumers and enabling crowdfunding platforms that provide loans to underserved groups.

“We are an enabler,” says Agboola. “We may not go directly to help reduce poverty, but we enable businesses that do through our payment infrastructure.”

Now valued at over $3 billion, the fintech is focused on building more digital payment rails to spur entrepreneurship and economic opportunity across Africa’s burgeoning markets.

“There is still a huge population unbanked on the continent,” notes the CEO.  “It will be an explosive phase for business growth here over the next decade.  Our goal is to provide that foundational infrastructure to harness these opportunities.”

Under Agboola’s vision, Flutterwave aims to power a new generation of Pan-African companies and individual entrepreneurs by removing fundamental payment barriers.  The fintech continues launching new products and partnerships to create an integrated financial ecosystem suited to Africa’s needs.