Snapshot: Canza (opens new window) Finance is a Web3 neobank focused on redefining cross-border payments and financial services for African businesses. With its innovative approach to DeFi, Canza is revolutionizing foreign exchange access in the African market. Its Baki (opens new window) exchange enables businesses to engage in intra-African and global FX trades efficiently and at a reduced cost, addressing the continent's challenges with forex liquidity and currency swaps.
The impact: Canza is significantly impacting the African financial sector by providing a platform and services that simplify and reduce the costs of foreign exchange transactions. Traditional methods of cross-border payments are often slow and expensive, but with Canza's platform, businesses can perform slippage-free swaps at official central bank rates, retaining value and reducing transaction costs.
On Joining the PL Commuity: Canza Finance's strategic partnership with Protocol Labs dates back to 2020 when co-founders, Pascal Ntsama (opens new window) and Oyedeji Oluwoye (opens new window), entered the Filecoin Launchpad Accelerator program which offered them the resources, mentorship, and technological foundation to bring their vision to the world.
What's on the radar: On the horizon is a strategic deployment of its recent $2.3 million funding, aimed at elevating its innovative FX DeFi platform, Baki, and streamlining cross-border payments for African startups.
# A Vision for Inclusive Finance in Africa
The inception of Canza Finance (opens new window) can be traced back to the insights of its co-founders, Pascal Ntsama and Oyedeji Oluwoye, who recognized critical gaps in the African financial ecosystem. Particularly in the domain of cross-border payments and forex liquidity. They sought to create a solution that not only addressed these barriers, but also facilitated economic growth and integration for Africa in the global market. Traditional banking systems and financial service providers, with cumbersome processes and high transaction fees, have long alienated a significant portion of the continent's population. This systemic exclusion from basic financial services and the global economy at large was the problem Canza set out to solve.
This vision was propelled forward in 2020 through the team’s involvement with the Filecoin Launchpad Accelerator program, backed by Tachyon (opens new window). The program, known for fostering the adoption of Filecoin within the Ethereum and DeFi ecosystems, provided Canza with extensive mentorship and a wealth of resources and support. This was instrumental in fine-tuning Canza's focus on creating a digital asset enterprise that resonates with the needs and aspirations of the African market. Oluwoye's experience during the program helped shape Canza's holistic approach to Web3 and set the stage for Canza Finance to embark on building a network and ultimately leading to an initial $2.1M funding round.
“What's needed in Africa is a trusted network and partners. Where can users get digital assets safely and custody their assets with trusted parties? The main thing about blockchain is you can trust the code, but when it comes to a geographic area with its own infrastructure, none of that stuff was on the ground there,” Oluwoye said. “Africans don't have the same access to banking as in Europe and the US. The people who needed the tools the most didn't have exposure.”
# The Groundwork in Africa
The story of Canza Finance is marked by bold decisions and a commitment to authenticity and resilience. Co-founder Oyedeji Oluwoye relocated to Nigeria from Australia as a testament to the core philosophy of Canza: to be "of the people." This move wasn't just about a geographical transition. It was about immersing himself in the very fabric of the local market, understanding its nuances, and building solutions that address the community's needs. “Our unique selling point comes down to us willing to make it happen at all costs. So I left Australia and went to Nigeria to get on the ground,” Oluwoye said. “You have a lot of other founders who oversee and build, but what we say is that to build products, you have to be ‘of the people.’”
The transition brought its own set of challenges—navigating through an inconsistent power supply, adapting to local dialects, and confronting infrastructure limitations. Yet, these hurdles were perceived not as roadblocks but as opportunities to build resilience, refine products, and ensure their scalability and relevance for the African market.
“Everything was a learning experience, especially the relocation. This is my first time living in Africa as an adult and it's a big adjustment, but it builds resilience. It helps you fine tune products so you can scale. You have the authenticity. I see myself as a global citizen, but you find the diaspora turning back home. Everything was a challenge to me - electricity, power, the local dialect. That builds character and how you want to approach problems.”
– Oyedeji Oluwoye, Canza Finance.
The move to Africa underscored the mission of Canza Finance: to understand the market from within and to build solutions that will change finance across Africa and the world. This hands-on approach, combined with a deep understanding of blockchain's potential, has positioned Canza to foster economic growth across the continent.
“Africa is not one country, it's 50+ with many cultures and dialects. You have to understand the rural areas. We don't say we are doing things for the undeveloped areas, but we like to build tools for the underserved. Basically being inclusive not just in metropolitan cities, but rural areas and as long as you have a mobile phone, you have access.”
– Oyedeji Oluwoye, Canza Finance.
# Charting the Future Path
With the recent closure of a strategic $2.3 million funding round, Canza Finance is poised to catalyze change on a continent ripe for financial innovation. This new injection of funds, raising the total to $5.5 million after a substantial $3.27 million seed round last year, will bolster Canza's platform, but also enable the acquisition of crucial licenses from financial regulators including a Money Services Business (MSB) license in the United States, a Foreign Exchange (FX) license in Nigeria, and Virtual Asset Licenses from the Financial Service Commission of Mauritius.
Africa, with its 1.1 billion people, an average age of 19, a 50% internet penetration rate, and a 22% entrepreneurship rate, represents the largest population of digital-native business people. These statistics highlight the immense potential for transformation and growth. The fusion of a young population with rapidly expanding mobile network access is creating a digital landscape where mobile devices are used as the primary gateway to the internet. This trend not only signifies a shift in how information and services are accessed, but also represents an opportunity for innovation and growth in sectors like finance. “The market size is massive and mobile penetration with the young demographic is huge,” Oluwoye said.
The strategic focus at Canza remains on fortifying and expanding tools that resonate with both urban and rural life, ensuring that anyone with a mobile phone can access and benefit from its services. “The plan for Canza is a Web3 investment bank, like a digital asset institution for the continent. We are very excited about the future, everything is clicking and we are working with the right players,” Oluwoye said.