In an interview with FORBES AFRICA, Joel Bronkowski, Paystack’s country lead in South Africa, discusses how the startup has facilitated integration with African regional payment channels, deepened security practices, and attracted top talent, following its acquisition by Stripe in 2020.
Paystack, a Nigerian fintech startup founded by Shola Akinlade and Ezra Olubi, has been making significant strides in the African market since its establishment in 2015. As the first Nigerian startup invited to join the Y Combinator accelerator program, Paystack has expanded its reach, serving over 60,000 businesses across Africa and processing billions of dollars in transactions annually.
In 2020, Paystack made headlines when it was acquired by Stripe, the Irish-American financial services company powering online payments for some of the world’s largest firms. This deal, reportedly valued at over $200 million, stands as the most substantial acquisition of an African startup and represents a pivotal moment for the continent’s tech ecosystem.
Since the merger with Stripe, what changes have occurred at Paystack? How has this acquisition empowered the startup to enhance its operations, refine its products, and enter new markets? Additionally, what challenges and opportunities lie ahead for Paystack and the broader African fintech sector?
To address these questions, FORBES AFRICA speaks to Joel Bronkowski, Paystack’s country lead in South Africa for insights into how the acquisition has enabled seamless integration with African regional payment channels, bolstered security measures, and attracted top-tier talent to the organization.
Touching on strategies for growth and expansion in African markets, Bronkowski elaborates on Paystack’s focus on expanding into North Africa and Francophone Africa, while strengthening its existing markets with reliable infrastructure.
“In addition to launching in new countries, we’re also focused on deepening the value we offer in our existing markets,” he says.
“Paystack is licensed in Nigeria, Ghana, South Africa, and Kenya, and we never lose sight of the fact that thousands of businesses rely on us. We invest deeply in infrastructure, and this investment has earned us an unparalleled reputation for high reliability. Overall, we’re excited to explore newer markets while building deeper foundations in our existing ones.”
When addressing unique challenges and opportunities in African markets, Paystack’s approach, according to Bronkowski, involves extensive collaboration with stakeholders, including merchants, regulators, and ambitious companies, to tailor solutions to each market’s needs.
To create an omnichannel experience for African merchants, Bronkowski explains Paystack’s move beyond digital payments, including the introduction of the Paystack Terminal, aimed at unifying online and in-person payment experiences.
In order to adapt to fintech trends, build partnerships, and expand services, Paystack anticipates trends like the shift to bank transfers, and embraces commerce platforms, and plans to introduce innovative products such as an extension to Paystack Terminal and global payment methods like Apple Pay.
“Paystack has invested significantly in building direct integrations with over 40 platforms, which means that merchants who use those tools can immediately begin accepting payments with Paystack. These platforms include general ecommerce solutions like Shopify and WooCommerce, as well as specialized platforms like Commerce7 (for wineries), SiteMinder (for hotels), and Xero (for seamless accounting). We’re constantly investing in building new platform integrations that allow businesses in Africa to have access to these best-in-class tools to grow their businesses,” he says.
To promote financial inclusion and collaborative growth, Bronkowski outlines Paystack’s initiatives to incorporate regional payment methods, partner with other African fintechs, and provide resources, discounts, and insights to support startup growth.
“Many consumers across Africa operate outside of traditional bank or card-based payment systems. In recognition of this, Paystack has integrated channels like M-Pesa in Kenya and Mobile Money in Ghana, giving customers who primarily use these channels a chance to engage with the rest of the formal economy,” says Bronkowski.
“By tapping into these regional payment methods, businesses can reach a broad spectrum of users, ensuring that even those without bank accounts can access, transfer, and receive funds on the Paystack platform.”
He adds, “Understanding that it takes more than an API call to build a successful tech startup, we launched Paystack Catalyst – a suite of high-growth tools and resources to help tech startups in Africa scale. We partnered with companies like Stripe, Intercom, and Amazon Web Services (AWS), to offer the Paystack Startup Bundle, which includes discounts on best-in-class tools that startups use in their daily operations. Startups can access perks like $25,000 in free Paystack processing, $25,000 in AWS Activate Credits, 100% off their first year on Intercom, and more to help cut operating costs.”
Showcasing the success stories of African merchants benefiting from Paystack’s services, Bronkowski shares case studies highlighting how Paystack has positively impacted a variety of businesses, from e-commerce platforms like The Local Edit and healthtech, mPharma to financial services like PiggyVest and the implementation of custom solutions for companies like Burger King and UPS Nigeria.
“We process payments for some of the most ambitious organizations on the continent, from small businesses to tech startups to government agencies to enterprise businesses and global brands,” says Bronkowski.