The Lagos, Nigeria, and Nairobi, Kenya-based company raised the money from Coinbase Ventures, Alameda Research (FTX), Distributed Global, TQ Ventures, DIGITAL, Nexo, Huobi Ventures, Day One Ventures, Infinite Capital, DAO Jones (investment decentralized autonomous organization backed by Mike Shinoda, Steve Aoki and Disclosure), and nearly 100 other crypto investors, and angels including Amit Bhatia and Hamad Alhoimaizi.
In addition, Mara has also announced a partnership with the Central African Republic, which just passed a bill legalizing Bitcoin as legal tender. As part of this partnership, Mara will become the official crypto partner of the Central African Republic and an adviser to the president on crypto strategy and planning.
Mara’s launch comes at a critical inflection point in Sub-Saharan Africa. Political and economic instability has led to devaluation of currencies across the region, while the current centralized financial system continues to present ongoing obstacles to the development of both local economies and individuals. As a result, food prices have doubled to tripled in some areas and created record-breaking interest rates. These systems have prompted a dire need for a decentralized alternative, Mara said.
While cutting-edge technologies such as cryptocurrency have shown incredible promise among Sub-Saharan Africa’s predominantly young and technologically-native population, there are considerable hurdles to using them. Many existing global exchanges cannot operate in the region due to regulatory challenges as well as difficulty reaching the African consumer in an authentic way. These barriers to access significantly restrict both the number of people who can participate in the crypto economy and the potential uses for digital currency in the region.
“The inefficiencies inherent to the old 20th [century] centralized Sub-Saharan African financial systems has presented an obstacle to the proper development of Sub-Saharan individuals and economies for decades,” said Chi Nnandi, CEO of Mara, in an email to VentureBeat. “A decentralized alternative (which will include but not be limited to finance, art, ownership, infrastructure, and business as a whole) will give Sub-Saharan Africans an alternative to these tired systems. Through this digital financial system — through this freedom — the region will find itself in a much stronger competitive position before other parts of the world.”