Kigali strives to become a prominent technology hub for African businesses, attracting major African fintechs like Flutterwave to solidify their operations in this promising East African nation.
Flutterwave, present in Rwanda since 2020, is now looking to fortify its foothold in this landlocked country by transforming it into a settlement hub for payment operations in the region. In April 2023, Flutterwave’s chief regulatory and government relations officer, Oluwabankole Falade, expressed its commitment to launching an office in Kenya and turning it into its regional hub.
However, Flutterwave has encountered difficulties obtaining a payment provider license in Kenya due to lawsuits and accusations of money laundering, all of which the company has vehemently denied. While some suits have been retracted, others persist and are still under consideration in Kenya’s judicial system.
Flutterwave’s commitment to Kigali was underscored in March when it announced that it had secured Electronic Money Issuer (EMI) and Remittance licenses in Rwanda. These licenses permit Flutterwave to hold money in wallets and process cross-border transactions. The company’s CEO commended Rwanda, stating, “Rwanda is big for us because it is one of the only markets where we have every license you can think of.”
Despite Rwanda’s small market size, it has ambitions of becoming a top-tier destination for foreign investment fund management in Africa, an ambition that Flutterwave’s CEO, Agboola, acknowledges. He revealed plans to establish a financial operations center in Rwanda to handle the region’s settlements, praising the country’s readiness for such a move.
Other African fintech companies, including ChipperCash, are also turning their attention to Kigali. Despite Rwanda’s small population and lack of economic power compared to countries like Egypt, Nigeria, Kenya, and South Africa, its regulatory reforms and ambition to become an international financial hub have won the favor of many African fintech firms.
Rwanda’s government has approved 19 laws in the past three years to make the country an appealing destination for companies seeking a strong legal and governance framework for their African operations.
Several fintech companies, including MFS Africa, NALA, and ChipperCash, have recently operated in Rwanda. The Inclusive Fintech Forum held in Kigali saw discussions on harmonizing regulatory regimes between countries like Zambia and Rwanda, further facilitating fintech operations.
In its pursuit of becoming a global financial hub, Kigali has garnered support from the Middle East and Southeast Asia, strengthening its ties with entities such as the Qatar Financial Centre, Jersey Finance in Britain, and Singapore’s Monetary Authority. A recent MOU with the Africa Business Angel Network (ABAN) will also enable the angel investment network to structure its special purpose investment vehicles (SPVs) in Rwanda.
Kigali’s International Financial Centre, established only three years ago, has quickly made a name for itself, with an impressive ranking in the Global Financial Centre Index published by Z/Yen, ahead of Kuwait City, Nairobi, and Lagos, and only trailing behind Mauritius, Cape Town, and Johannesburg. This rapid progress has put Kigali firmly on the global financial map.