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FinTech

Connecting Africa Podcast S2 Ep. 8 – Empowering the African diaspora

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In this Connecting Africa Podcast we feature new startup Jawudi, which is trying to make its mark in the remittance and money transfer space by reimagining how the African diaspora moves money and invests in startups on the continent.

What makes this startup different to every other remittance company out there is it plans to use 20% of the profits from its remittance service to launch a fund which will invest directly back into startups across Africa.

Jawudi Founder and CEO Rahim Diallo joined the podcast to talk about his vision for giving the global diaspora more control over where their money goes.

The conversation kicked off with a discussion about the ways that money traditionally flows into Africa, with remittances from the African diaspora playing a major role.

"Remittances are significantly larger than foreign aid. The United States pumps US$30 billion into the continent and the diaspora sends easily three-times that. But because it's individuals sending a few hundred bucks at a time every month we don’t have as much power and as much say in the direction the continent takes. The United States controls a lot more than we as a collective, as the diaspora does," Diallo told the podcast.

Diallo was born and raised in Guinea and now lives in New York City and has first-hand experience with the difficulties of moving money back home while living overseas.

He also spoke about how expensive it is to send money to Africa and his frustration with the lack of transparency when it comes to fees.

Jawudi is using blockchain technology for money transfers and is about to launch an end-to-end system for payments from the US into Africa in an attempt to change the currently fragmented payment system.

"We thought what if we build a wallet that is borderless, so it can do cross-border [transfers] and when it gets into a wallet in Africa it can do peer-to-peer [transfers] as well, because right now that doesn’t exist."

He explained that currently most of the big companies like Western Union or MoneyGram do the cross-border piece and then users have to switch to other local wallets or telco-led mobile money services that do the peer-to-peer aspect.

"There may be collaborations between them, but you don't have a single system that is end-to-end," he said.

Using fees for funding

Diallo shared the story of how the idea of the Jawudi Fund came about to give the diaspora a better tool to send money and then use the profits to launch a startup fund.

"Every year the African diaspora sends about $100 billion to $150 billion into the continent, that's not counting the intra-Africa transfers, and we pay $10 billion to $15 billion in fees. Imagine if we could use a fraction of those fees to re-invest in the continent ... and what that can do," he explained.

The company's goal is that every time someone sends money, they are helping to fund African entrepreneurs and accelerating the development and self-reliance of the continent.

"We are leveraging the fees that the global diaspora is paying to move their own money into the continent, to reinvest in the continent," he explained.

"It's not an aid fund, it's not to dig wells for some poor Africans. It's about taking capital and putting it in the hands of motivated entrepreneurs – whether it's at the ideas stage or anywhere from small businesses to growth-stage businesses – and use that money to invest in those businesses on the continent."

"From there we will prove out that we have the ability to invest money, our own money and profits, but it also allows us to showcase to the diaspora that we have the ability to invest money into the continent. That is the ultimate goal," he explained.

Crypto hype vs. blockchain use

The conversation then shifted to the blockchain space and how the company is building its payment platform on the back on blockchain technology.

Diallo gave us an insight into the initial hype surrounding cryptocurrency and blockchain technology and how the use of those technologies has changed in recent years.

"If you are in the crypto space, you probably think the whole of Africa is running on crypto, but it isn't," he joked.

Jawudi Founder and CEO Rahim Diallo.  (Source: LinkedIn)
Jawudi Founder and CEO Rahim Diallo.
(Source: LinkedIn)

We discuss the nuances between blockchain and cryptocurrency and why blockchain is a good technology to use to make payments safe and transparent.

"That wave of euphoria of crypto that we had in recent years was primarily driven by the idea of making quick riches. People making money for doing nothing, and that is very attractive to humans," he added.

He told us that the excitement around crypto has changed but the usefulness of blockchain has not.

"Now that that [hype] has kind of gone away, what is left over is just the technology. If blockchain was not actually useful for something, then it would have just disappeared completely, and we would never hear about it again."

"But the people who are working on it are people like us who are assessing it for its effectiveness as a tool to accomplish a certain goal. Like moving money cross-border at a low cost, or tracking the deeds of land somewhere, or something of value where a ledger would be useful, a better ledger," Diallo said.

The conversation moved to regulation and how hard it is to build fintech startups for Africa. He told us about the journey Jawudi has been on when it comes to regulation in the US to allow transfers out of the country and into Africa.

"We are not looking to change the monetary systems of the world, I think that is too tall of an order for an individual to think that they are going to take on the world's governments and banks and take them down." "What we are interested in is using the best, lowest cost tools that we can get our hands on to achieve a goal – which is to put resources in the hands of young Africans for the continent to [live up to] its potential," he added.

Jawudi plans to launch in the second half of 2023 and will start its African rollout in Guinea.


Want to know more about African startups and new innovations on the continent? Check out our Innovation Hub here on Connecting Africa.


We have a few episodes still coming this season and will continue to interview more startup founders and interesting personalities in Africa's tech ecosystem.

If you want to catch up on all the previous episodes you can find the podcast on Apple Podcasts; Spotify; Google Podcasts or find other podcast platform options on our main page on Spotify for Podcasters (formerly Anchor).

You can also find the podcast hosts online here:

Paula Gilbert (@paulajgilbert)

Tobi Lafinhan (@TobiLafinhan)

Matshepo Sehloho (@tsokamatshepo)

Related posts:

— Paula Gilbert, Editor, Connecting Africa

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