In 2020, COVID-19 lockdowns across the world hit brick-and-mortar businesses hard. Africa’s small shops and restaurants, very few of which have an online presence, were particularly vulnerable. Enter Flutterwave, a tech startup based in San Francisco and Lagos, Nigeria, that is known for helping companies process customers’ online transactions during checkout. Amid lockdown, Flutterwave expanded from specializing in digital cash registers to hosting digital storefronts, helping some 20,000 small businesses suddenly without foot traffic set up online shops, receive payments and arrange delivery options. “We called it ‘Keeping the Lights On,’” says Olugbenga Agboola, Flutterwave’s co-founder and CEO, who lives in Washington, D.C. The company processed more than 80 million transactions, worth $7.5 billion, in 2020, establishing it as Africa’s premier payment-solution provider. Now Flutterwave—which already has a presence in 17 African countries—is planning to leverage that momentum into greater expansion, so that a customer in South Africa, for example, can seamlessly use her Kenyan digital wallet to buy products in Senegal. “Africa is not a country,” says Agboola. “But we make it feel like one.” —Aryn Baker
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