Wave Digital Finance (Wave), a fintech unicorn operating in Senegal, has been given an e-money license by the Central Bank of West African States (BCEAO). This makes Wave the first non-bank and non-telecommunications operator to do so in Senegal.

The Central Bank serves as the regional monetary regulator for the West African Economic and Monetary Union (WAEMU). With jurisdiction over 8 countries, the granted e-money license will fully  activate operations in Senegal, with expansion to more regional countries expected.

“Despite being one of the largest mobile money providers in Senegal and other WAEMU countries, we were limited in what we could offer our customers,'' said Wave General Manager, Coura Sène.

“We will now be able to compete with other mobile money providers on an equal footing”.

The e-money license will allow Wave to directly offer its current suite of financial products to customers. Additionally, it will allow Wave to diversify and offer more financial services like merchant payments, savings, credit, and remittances in collaboration with other partners in the WAEMU financial ecosystem.

Free from banks and telecommunications companies

Wave has had to rely on third-party banks like United Bank of Africa (UBA) and Ecobank to fuel its mobile money business model since its launch in 2018. This achievement enables Wave to deliver its existing portfolio of financial solutions to consumers without the assistance of third-party institutions.

According to a business release, the license will allow Wave to collaborate with other partners in the WAEMU financial ecosystem to offer a larger range of financial services such as merchant payments, savings, credit, and remittances. The license only covers Wave’s Senegal’s operation for now, however “in partnership with the directions of BCEAO, we hope to extend this license very quickly to the other WAEMU countries so that our entire customer base in the region can benefit equally,”  said Sene.

Wave, which became a unicorn in September after raising $200 million in a series A round, provides free bill payments, free cash-in and cash-out, and only charges a 1% transfer fee, making it around 70% cheaper than its competitors' usual pricing structures.

— By Bataung Qhotsokoane

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