Many of you would have already heard of OPay, the payment service of Opera browser that is being built in Nigeria and potentially a few other African countries.

Do you know who is behind Opera? A Chinese company called Beijing Kunlun Tech Co., which also owns a large gaming business as well as Grindr.

The founder & CEO of Kunan, Zhou Yahui, who himself is a prolific investor, has recently made full commitment to essentially replicate Go-Jek in Africa, through OPay (or ORide), that integrates payment, ride, food and much more.

Recently, Zhou made a speech in China explaining the rationale. He said after touring the world, he believes Africa is the most suitable for Chinese entrepreneurs.

Local elites

The key is, it is pretty hard for Chinese entrepreneurs to compete against local elites, (and there are lots of them), in places like Southeast Asia and India.

He said in Indonesia, lots of US educated founders are returning to the country, bringing not only the ability to attract capital, but also talent and other key resources.

“They have advantages not only in local resources, but also in technology,” he said. “Chinese entrepreneurs in these markets have no advantage at all.”

This is especially true for India, where many startups, especially in the area of SaaS, have global ambitions from the onset.

“Therefore, I encourage, and I even call upon, Chinese entrepreneurs to explore Africa,” he added.

Takes patience, and more

Precisely because Africa is relatively in its earlier stage of tech development, Chinese entrepreneurs have the ability to compete, as well as attract good local talents. It takes years to build a big business, therefore making it harder for others to be as determined to compete.

“You can’t opportunistic in Africa,” he said. “You have to work through years, or even decades, of hard work to reap the benefits.”

However, if you are determined, he said, the likelihood of success is actually much higher than in more mature markets.

Zhou is not the first Chinese entrepreneur to attempt payment in Nigeria. Yang Li, a former investor, started KePay in 2018; and Robin Duan, Founder & CEO of Mobvista, went to Africa as well after he had taken Mobvista public.

However, both businesses had to pivot after Zhou made its inroads into the same sector. Ultimately, Zhou’s financial power, ability to attract good talent, as well as the existing user base of Opera, were advantages pretty hard to match by any other Chinese entrepreneur.

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Thanks for reading The Low Down (TLD), the blog by the team at Momentum Works. Got a different perspective or have a burning opinion to share? Let us know at hello@mworks.asia.

 

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