Making payments and sending money to friends and family in Nigeria can be cumbersome. Y Combinator-backed Kudi, which recently launched in Nigeria, is aiming to make it easier for people to pay bills and pay each other via messaging. At its core, Kudi is a chatbot, which lives inside Facebook Messenger and eventually Skype, that helps you transfer money, buy airtime for your phone, pay bills and stay on top of your accounts.
Although it’s possible to pay TV, energy and cell phone bills online in Nigeria, only 39 percent of the population in Nigeria has access to the internet, according to a 2016 Pew Research Center report. For comparison’s sake, more than 80 percent of the population in the U.S. and 94 percent of the population in South Korea has access to the internet. What that means for a lot of people in Nigeria is that they’ll need to physically go somewhere to pay their bills.
Since Kudi is part of Facebook’s Free Basics, it doesn’t cost any data to use. To send a payment to someone via Kudi, all you need is someone’s phone number.
Unlike other money transfer services in Nigeria, people who use Kudi don’t have to pay any fees when transferring money to bank accounts. Kudi, however, does charge a convenience fee of 100 Naira (about 30 cents) for bill payments. So far, $15,000 worth of transactions have been made through Kudi and it’s grown 125 percent week over week in revenue.
Kudi is not the only startup trying to fix the payments problem in Nigeria. Paga, perhaps one of the more well-known payments startup in the country, combines online payments with offline components. To date, the startup has raised $13 million in venture funding. There’s also KongaPay, a mobile app for paying bills and buying both products online and in person. But Kudi seems to be well aware of the competition.
“A few services have tried mobile apps but consumers are tired of installing and figuring out new apps,” Kudi co-founder Pelumi Aboluwarin told TechCrunch. “Some aren’t even that sophisticated to handle the nuances that accompany every new mobile app and will rather stick with those they already use. Messaging on the other hand is a more compelling interface as it works for people across generations. This is because everyone understood messaging right from the days of SMS and chat apps have been the most successful apps on the continent.”
After Kudi finishes participating in Y Combinator, the plan is to raise money and then expand to Kenya and Ghana.