September 6, 2018 / 12:28 PM / a year ago

South Africa payments start-up Yoco raises $16 million

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - South African fintech start-up Yoco raised $16 million from international and local investors in a private funding round, it said on Thursday.

Yoco offers a card reader and app which allow users to turn smartphones into payment terminals and the company, started in 2015, is targeting small businesses that do not currently accept cards.

Only 7 percent of South African small businesses accept card payments despite a card penetration rate of 75 percent, according to Yoco.

The company has a base of more than 27,000 small businesses, 75 percent of which had never accepted cards previously.

It is adding more than 1,500 merchants per month which Yoco says makes it “South Africa’s largest and fastest growing independent card payments provider by number of merchants.”

Investors in the funding round included U.S.-based venture capital firm Partech, Orange Digital Ventures, the Dutch Development Bank and South Africa’s FutureGrowth.

“There is investor confidence and appetite for new business models and untapped segments in South Africa,” co-founder and Chief Business Officer Carl Wazen said.

Co-founder and chief executive Katlego Maphai told Reuters the company would use the money to expand its network of small business merchants, invest in product development and attract talent.

He said he got the idea for Yoco after encountering payments processor Square Inc at a “hole in the wall” barbecue restaurant in the United States.

The owner took out “this Android phone, all battered up, she puts in the Square dongle, takes the card and he (his friend) signs with his finger. These lightbulbs just went off in my head,” Maphai said.

Yoco raised $3 million in a previous funding round.

Reporting by Nqobile Dludla; editing by Jason Neely

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