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UPDATE 1-African fintech Flutterwave gets $35 mln, partners with WorldPay

(Adds quote, updates with new name of Visa payment platform)

LAGOS, Jan 21 (Reuters) - Africa-focused fintech firm Flutterwave on Tuesday announced a $35 million fundraising round and partnerships with WorldPay and Visa as it targets expansion in northern and Francophone Africa.

The startup, founded in 2016 by Nigerians and headquartered in San Francisco, specialises in individual and consumer transfers -- one of several fintech firms aiming to facilitate and capitalise on Africa’s booming payments market.

As part of the deal, Flutterwave will become the African payment provider for Worldpay’s clients worldwide, making the company the latest African fintech firm to attract global cash and big-name partnerships. While the agreement is not exclusive, it is WorldPay’s only partner on the continent.

Visa’s investment is its first buy in to Flutterwave, with which it joined last year on a consumer payment platform now called Barter by Flutterwave, which allows individuals to make payments to one another across borders.

As part of the latest funding round, Flutterwave will scale up and expand that service, allowing it to issue physical and virtual Visa cards and process payments using Visa’s networks.

“For us at Flutterwave, we have been focused on enterprise clients and now we are going to deepen that and also show how we can help small business scale their business when they use us as their payment partner,” Flutterwave’s founder and chief executive GB Agboola told Reuters.

“That’s a major goal for this investment for us.”

Visa also bought a 20% stake in Nigerian payments firm Interswitch late last year, elevating it to “unicorn” status - a term used for tech companies with a valuation of a billion dollars or more.

Interswitch, founded in 2002 and also expanding across Africa, is the main platform for Nigeria’s business-to-business transactions, whereas Flutterwave’s main focus is on individual payments -- making it more akin to an African Venmo, where people pay each other back or transfer cash to family.

“We have built a technology infrastructure that is steadily being recognised as the bridge to connect the payment system,” Agboola said in a statement.

Business consulting firm Frost & Sullivan forecast that Nigeria’s fintech revenues alone will grow from $153.1 million in 2017 to $543.3 million by 2022.

Flutterwave’s main backer in the fundraising round was venture capital firm Greycroft & eVentures, with other large backers including CRE Ventures, WorldPay FIS, Visa, and Green Visor. (Reporting By Libby George; Editing by Kirsten Donovan and David Evans)

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