MARA raises $23M from Coinbase Ventures and FTX to build Africa’s portal to the crypto economy
The use of cryptocurrency in sub-Saharan Africa, particularly among its young people, cannot be overstated. Data from blockchain intelligence firm Chainalysis says the region’s crypto usage grew 1,200% last year, making it the third-fastest growing cryptocurrency economy.
But despite the proliferation of local and foreign crypto exchanges and the introduction of novel models by up-and-coming web3 platforms, some observers believe there are still notable barriers to using crypto in Africa.
This reflection has led to new upstarts such as MARA, a pan-African crypto exchange platform that wants to “increase the number of Africans who can participate in the crypto economy.” Today, the startup is announcing that it has completed a seed round of $23 million in equity and token sale from multiple investors. They include high-profile crypto and web3 investors such as Coinbase Ventures, Alameda Research (FTX) and Distributed Global.
Other VCs in the round include TQ Ventures, DIGITAL, Nexo, Huobi Ventures, Day One Ventures, Infinite Capital and DAO Jones (investment DAO backed by Mike Shinoda, Steve Aoki and Disclosure), while about 100 other crypto investors also participated.
“We are pleased to partner with MARA as it embarks on building a digital financial system for Sub-Saharan Africa,” says Schuster Tanger, co-founder of TQ Ventures, one of the investors, in a statement. “With the right resources, this region has potential for mass adoption of cryptocurrency. To that end, the local knowledge and specialized skills of the MARA team is quite promising.”
MARA says it is building a suite of products that address various crypto-finance needs for the African audience. Its flagship product is a consumer crypto-brokerage app that allows users to buy, send, sell and withdraw fiat and crypto assets. The company is targeting an initial launch in July this year in Kenya and Nigeria, the two countries in which it is headquartered.
Though MARA claims that its users don’t need any prior crypto knowledge before using this retail app, the fact is that local solutions such as this are aplenty in Africa, like Coinbase Ventures-backed VALR and Yellow Card. But what may make the web3 upstart stand out is its subsequent products.