Union54, Zambian card issuing startup raises $12 million seed round

Zambian fin-tech startup Union54 is claiming its place in the financial sector.

The card issuing startup has raised $12 million in a seed extension round to scale its operations in the country and SADC region. The seed round was led by Tiger Global, Vibe VC, Early Grey Capital and others. 

Union54 was co-founded a year ago by Perseus Mlambo and his spouse and COO Alessandra Martini. The company’s API allows African software companies to issue and manage their debit cards without needing a bank or third party processor. 

“The purpose of creating another card network is an inspiration of what’s happening right now. Number one, we’re vulnerable and hostage to any political decisions that might affect trade on the continent. And if anything were to happen, we would wake up and would not have access to our funds,” said Mlambo. 

“Number two, when you think about the card networks today, they’re not fit for African merchants because settlement is often taking three days for a local debit card, maybe it’s taking over seven days for an international debit card. There’s a significant opportunity as the world realigns itself; we need to get to a point where we’ve got a payments route that needs to be developed locally for local use.”

To date the company has achieved a huge milestone, it has issued over half a million virtual cards debits cards to its customers. 

The company’s CEO Mlambo said their services are in demand across the board and the revenue has increased by 50% month on month. 

“What this is telling us is that there’s very much real interest in the number of people who want to have debit cards and this is not going to stop anytime soon.”

“What’s more, our interactions with customers and potential customers have shown us that the real problem we are tackling isn’t the ease of issuing cards– rather, it’s much broader than we could have imagined.”

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