Anglophone East Africa is home to over 400 million people, with half under 25. The region happens to be one of the fastest-growing globally; nevertheless, over 200 million people in East Africa do not have access to a bank account or mobile money.
But for those who do risk facing inflation, a regional issue affecting how they save and preserve wealth. The average East African currency, for instance, is said to depreciate 20% per annum.
Bloom — not to be confused with the Robinhood-like app for teenagers in the US — is a fintech attempting to help Sudanese hedge against this rising devaluation. Its offers a “high-yield” savings account, free FX and adjacent digital banking services so customers can save in a stable currency, the dollar, and spend-as-they-go in local currencies.
The company was founded by Ahmed Ismail, Youcef Oudjidane, Khalid Keenan and Abdigani Diriye in late 2021. As managing partner at Class 5 Global, a San-Fransisco venture fund that has backed startups like Careem and Meliuz, Oudjidane was central to the VC’s efforts in assessing investment opportunities across emerging markets.
At some point, Ismail, who is Sudanese by descent, partnered up with Oudjidane, Algerian by descent, to scout more investments in Africa. Upon carefully studying different models pioneered by digital-first banks such as TymeBank, Kuda, FairMoney, they saw a big gap for building a savings product that helps solve what they think is the biggest problem facing African consumers: inflation and currency devaluation.
“The problem that we think is most pervasive is consumers’ inability to protect the value of their wealth. So we decided to build a business that does exactly that, that helps people save money in the stable currency and spend as they go in local currencies,” Ismail, the company’s chief executive, told TechCrunch on a call.
They brought on CTO Keenan and CPO Diriye, who also have roots in eastern Africa, to join the project. The quartet graduated from Russell Group universities and, alongside early joiners, have worked at Amazon, Meta, IBM, Uber, Goldman Sachs and Barclays.
Further market research highlighted that East Africa was the perfect place for the team to start. And more importantly, from Sudan. But the Northeastern country doesn’t seem to have an active tech ecosystem, let alone a vibrant one. Its first foreign investment came only last year when Fawry backed fintech and e-commerce player Alsoug after 30 years of international sanctions on the country.
So why Sudan? “We think the right way to build a business is to go after the largest opportunity first. So Sudan is interesting for three reasons. It’s a very …….