Adaverse Backs Fonbnk To Integrate Cardano On Its DeFi Platform Revolutionising Crossborder Payments Through Prepaid Airtime

Adaverse Accelerator
6 min readMay 17, 2023

PRESS RELEASE — May 17, 2023

Adaverse, the Cardano official accelerator in Africa and Asia, has announced an investment in Fonbnk, a DeFi company powering FX payments through prepaid airtime in emerging markets. Fonbnk is dedicated to promoting financial inclusion, and by integrating the secure and scalable Cardano blockchain, Fonbnk is taking a step further to enhance its marketplace and expand its global reach through strategic partnerships.

Fonbnk is a Web 3 startup leveraging mobile phone usage in Africa to drive financial inclusion through Decentralised Finance (DeFi). In sub-Saharan Africa, where mobile phone penetration is growing at a rapid pace of 6% annually, mobile money has become a vital part of the financial landscape. About 45% of Africa’s youth population is unbanked, and mobile devices have emerged as a crucial tool for local remittances, with the daily value of mobile money transactions in Africa and the Middle East reaching an impressive USD 1.94 billion in 2021.

However, the involvement of merchant middlemen and exorbitant processing fees have hindered the progress of financial inclusion. Fonbnk is aiming to change this with its innovative on-ramp and off-ramp services. By enabling people to convert prepaid airtime into digital money and access virtual debit cards to process fund transfers and cross-border payments, Fonbnk provides a more accessible and affordable option for financial transactions.

“Fonbnk is breaking new ground in the world of digital money by making tangible the value of prepaid airtime through DeFi. With the integration of Cardano blockchain, they’re set to expand their services even further in emerging mobile-first economies to enhance financial inclusion. We are eager to support Fonbnk’s transformative mission to drive social and economic growth in Africa and beyond,” says Vincent Li, founding partner at Adaverse.

Fonbnk Solution: From SIM Cards to Virtual Cards.

Fonbnk Web3 payment platform allows users to exchange mobile airtime for crypto assets and make payments through their SIM cards. Since its launch in Kenya, the platform has grown into a pan-African payment hub, enabling users to purchase cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin, NFTs, and stablecoins directly with their phone credit and seamlessly make cross-border remittances.

Christian Duffus, CEO and Founder at Fonbnk

Christian Duffus, the founder of Fonbnk, is a seasoned entrepreneur with a strong background in emerging technologies and the payment industry. While in Washington, D.C., he was challenged to find a way to sell a Kenyan airtime balance for cash, which sparked the idea for Fonbnk. Drawing inspiration from mobile money services like Kenya’s Mpesa and the potential of blockchain technology, Duffus saw an opportunity to create value from an everyday commodity and bring financial services to millions of people.

With a focus on emerging markets, Fonbnk is specifically designed to cater to providers of micropayments for digital goods and services, making it easier for them to conduct transactions even for amounts as low as $20. Fonbnk also serves as a gateway for website developers to integrate Web3 payments, thereby reducing transaction fees by eliminating intermediaries and payment institutions.

Why Airtime?

Airtime is the currency of the people, accessible to anyone with a phone. The rapid adoption of airtime, commonly known as “phone credit” or “phone currency,” in the 2000s has transformed the mobile communication landscape on the continent, enabling phone calls, text messages, and internet access, especially in areas with a lack of access to affordable Wi-Fi. This trend has driven the widespread growth of mobile money services, with over 600 million registered accounts and transactions valued at over USD 600 billion in 2022. Fonbnk aims to capitalize on the growing trend of mobile money services by transforming every SIM card into a digital global-use card, providing users with access to savings, credits, and cross-border transactions. This is particularly beneficial for small and medium-sized businesses that require foreign exchange for settlements.

Capturing Emerging Markets With Mobile Money

Fonbnk provides users with a seamless payment solution via a marketplace that simplifies transactions for ease and speed. The platform allows users to convert airtime or cash into MIN tokens, a dollar-pegged in-app token that can be used to make payments and remittances globally. With access to 1,000s of international carriers, the on-ramp and off-ramp processes are simple, and the platform is accessible through Web, App, and API modes. One of the many benefits of the Fonbnk payment app is that new users can get started for free and have a digital wallet account connected to their mobile phone number within minutes, ready to swap airtime for USD or any other cryptocurrency.

Co-CEO of EMURGO Middle East and Africa, Shogo Ishida, commented “Fonbnk’s unique use of airtime as an on-ramp solution has the potential to revolutionize the payment landscape and empower millions of young entrepreneurs worldwide. EMURGO Africa’s vision is to empower individuals to achieve financial independence without the need for traditional financial institutions. Fonbnk shares this vision, and we are enthusiastic about providing the support and resources necessary to scale this solution.”

Cultivating Global Partnerships with Cardano

“Our goal is to become the primary payment tool any Cardano developer would choose to onboard users from the ecosystem,” says Christian Duffus, CEO and Founder at Fonbnk.

To tap into the vast unbanked population in emerging economies, Fonbnk has set its sights on markets spanning the global southern hemisphere, encompassing more than 5 billion individuals and over 8 billion prepaid SIM cards. The platform started in Kenya and has since expanded to other parts of Africa, including Nigeria, Ghana, and Uganda, and is progressively growing to Central Asia and the Caucasus, Latin America, and Southeast Asia.

Fonbnk is positioning itself for success by actively seeking partnerships, integrations, and interoperable blockchain networks. The company’s next phase of development includes plans to integrate Cardano and support Cardano stablecoins. By doing so, Fonbnk aims to tap into the highly resourceful network reach of the Cardano ecosystem in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East.

“We are thrilled to have the opportunity to bring our innovative solution to the Cardano blockchain protocol and facilitate the onboarding of users from emerging markets into the Cardano ecosystem,” remarked Christian Duffus, CEO and Founder at Fonbnk. “In addition, we are excited to be part of the Adaverse network and have already benefited from some of the accelerator programs for startups. We look forward to leveraging Adaverse’s partnerships with other startups and resources in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East to expand our solution globally.”

About Adaverse

Adaverse is a Cardano-focused accelerator set up jointly by EMURGO Africa, a subsidiary of EMURGO, the official commercial arm of the Cardano protocol, and Everest Ventures Group, a leading blockchain and digital asset venture studio, to support early-stage companies, connecting them with a variety of ecosystem partners for a total growth package. Adaverse provides support to early-stage companies by connecting them with a range of ecosystem partners to offer a comprehensive growth package.

In the last year, Adaverse has made significant strides in investing in and accelerating more than 35 companies in various sectors, including Web3, exchanges, NFTs, gamefi, DeFi, and proptech, across 10 countries in Africa and Asia. This impressive market penetration is the result of our 1:1 mentorship and highly resourceful accelerator program, which utilizes Cardano as a bridge to connect African markets with other global markets, such as Asia and the United States.

Web3 startups that are African-focused can apply for funding at Adaverse.

For more information on the Fonbnk platform, visit the website.

Adaverse Official Links

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Startup School: Adaverse Startup School

BuildUp Africa Podcast: BuildUp Africa

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Adaverse Accelerator

Adaverse is a Cardano Ecosystem Accelerator that aggregates entrepreneurs, strategists and mentors building its most robust foundation in Africa.