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Interswitch Group and Interstellar Inc. enter strategic partnership to leverage blockchain technology for solutions

Interswitch Group and Interstellar Inc. enter strategic partnership to leverage blockchain technology for solutions - Startup Lagos

In a recent announcement, Interstellar Inc., an enterprise blockchain infrastructure services company, and Interswitch Group, Africa’s renowned fintech unicorn, have entered into a long-term strategic partnership. The goal of the partnership is to jointly work at developing blockchain-enabled infrastructure services and solutions. With the growth of the e-payments ecosystem across Africa, especially with the successes of companies like M-Pesa, there has been renewed interest in driving financial inclusion on the continent.

L-R: Victor Akoma-Phillips, Chief Operating Officer at Interstellar, Ernest Mbenkum, Founder and CEO at Interstellar and Akeem Lawal, Divisional Chief Executive Officer for Transaction Switching and Payment Processing at Interswitch during the Blockchain Partnership deal at Interswitch Head Office in Lagos, recently.
L-R: Victor Akoma-Phillips, Chief Operating Officer at Interstellar, Ernest Mbenkum, Founder and CEO at Interstellar and Akeem Lawal, Divisional Chief Executive Officer for Transaction Switching and Payment Processing at Interswitch during the Blockchain Partnership deal at Interswitch Head Office in Lagos, recently. Source: MSMEAfrica, 2021

Over the last two years, both companies have been working together on blockchain technology research and would be building on the insights they have gotten through these years of collaboration. Part of the partnership entails Interstellar’s Blockchain Technology Stack (STARGATE) integrated with Interswitch’s payments and digital commerce technology. The collaboration would be utilizing the Bantu Blockchain Infrastructure, the first Africa-led infrastructure, and protocol in blockchain technology. This private permissioned blockchain network, notably the Pan-African Payment Ecosystem (PAPE), includes a consortium of banks and fintech players.

Global blockchain opportunities in the payments space

With the operational African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA), trade within the continent of Africa has received a significant boost. The aim of this is to especially drive and stimulate growth and economic recovery in Africa, even in the light of the entire COVID-19 debacle. With the increase in trade across countries in Africa, innovative solutions to enhance peer-to-peer trading infrastructures would go a long way in revolutionizing ledger payments. Blockchain technology offers this vista of opportunities, for secure payments gateway and infrastructure.

Quite a number of African countries such as Ghana, and South Africa are utilizing blockchain possibilities to drive and facilitate easier trade opportunities. Through deployment in customs clearance, blockchain can help reduce the red tape associated with the clearance of goods. By digitalizing the process, time, money and effort can be saved while ensuring that there is an efficient and secure way of accomplishing overarching aims. Blockchain technology can also be utilized in the efficient tracking of shipments and verification of product quality. As well, in electronic payments and trade finance, blockchain technology is making it easier for individuals to make payments for goods, and adequately transfer them from one end to another.

Partnership deal: Interstellar Inc. and Interswitch Group

As one of the big heavyweight companies in tech, Interstellar, which was founded in 2017, is devoted to revolutionizing international digital payments and cross-border payments across Africa. The company powers critical blockchain infrastructure to drive this objective and works with startups, enterprises, public sector institutions to build and manage efficient Decentralized Finance (DeFi), cross-border and peer-to-peer applications. With its footprints in Cameroon, Canada, and Nigeria, the company is determined to change the face of payments infrastructure on the continent.

Interswitch, on the other hand, is Africa’s celebrated unicorn and the largest payment processing service provider in Nigeria. The company stimulates the development and growth of the e-payment sector, through innovative solutions and to payment challenges across Nigeria, and Africa. The company has a number of products, ranging from Quickteller, to Verve, that is performing well in the African market. With this collaboration with Interstellar, the company is looking at creating greater impact in the sector.

Addressing the partnership news, Ernest Mbenkum, Founder and CEO at Interstellar, is quoted as saying:

We are delighted to have established this strategic partnership with Interswitch, one of Africa’s most valuable fintech businesses. This marks the genesis of an innovative and collaborative partnership aimed at delivering impact-focused and enterprise grade blockchain-powered services across the African continent.

Akeem Lawal, who is the Divisional Chief Executive Officer for Transaction Switching and Payment Processing at Interswitch,

We are excited to partner with Interstellar on this journey and we look forward to the amazing things we will achieve together in the African market. This new alliance underscores the directional evolution of our blockchain innovation strategy which is premised on 3 core pillars:

Strategically developing a native, proprietary enterprise-grade distributed ledger technology stack that is practically tailored to the African context.

Progressively digitizing multiple industry value-chains across African markets

Supporting the actualization of the Pan African Payment Ecosystem (PAPE), riding the wave of opportunities created by such initiatives as the AfCFTA (African Continental Free Trade Area).

A step in the right direction

With the tech space in Africa, bristling with activity, as investments into the continent are nearing a new cap of over $3 billion, fintech is grabbing the largest share of investment. Also, Nigeria has distinguished itself as a prime destination for funds and startup growth. This relevant partnership proves to be a step forward on a path towards greater financial inclusion for Africans on the continent. This is also on the back of new developments in Nigeria’s launch of her digital currency (CBDC) which is meant to increase reliance on e-payments infrastructure across the country.

It will be interesting to see the creative and innovative ways through which this partnership will create solutions to shake up and disrupt the sector even more in the coming months.

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