First published on NextBillion
Back in November 2015, a press release briefly made the rounds, announcing that "Opportunity, Inc. . . . has entered into a share purchase agreement to sell six banks serving sub-Saharan Africa to the MyBucks Group, a Luxembourg-based financial technology (fintech) company." This generated some comments on LinkedIn and a blog by consultant Hannah Siedek, who recognized how unusual a deal this was and wondered if she should consider it "a good (or not so good) operation." But aside from this, reaction has been surprisingly muted.
By all accounts, this should have been bigger news for the microfinance sector. One of the major microfinance networks selling six subsidiaries to a fintech startup, and doing so in sub-Saharan Africa – the global hub of innovation in mobile banking. At a time when technology and mobile money are the talk of the sector, how does a story like this pass under the radar?
Were that not enough, the deal echoes another major topic for microfinance and impact investors: responsible exits, or how socially oriented investors can sell their equity stakes without undermining the social mission of their investees. As explored in the 2014 CGAP-CFI paper and debated at that year's European Microfinance Week, the concern is especially relevant when the buyer is not a traditional microfinance or impact investor.
By any measure, this transaction warrants more attention than it has received. So we talked to the CEOs of both Opportunity International and MyBucks. And we did some digging. The opportunities generated by this deal are many, but the challenges are just as real. Here's the story in our retelling....