Aboki Africa is a startup that offers digital foreign bank accounts and foreign exchange services to Nigerians via its web-based platform. The company was founded by Idorenyin Obong and Joseph Aghedo, inspired by the personal experience of the former.
“The idea first came up in 2019. I had saved up in U.S. dollars and wanted to pay my rent with the money. I remember spending most of my day trying to convert USD to Naira,” Idorenyin told TechCabal. “The experience was concerning to me at that moment, and led to Aboki Africa, which we launched around a year later.”
Back then, Idorenyin employed the services of a bureau de change (BDC) operator in Lagos to convert his money. Fast forward to two years later, the exchange rate has not only skyrocketed (in favour of the USD), it’s also become harder to find a money changer.
This is because, on July 27, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) halted the sale of foreign currencies to bureau de change operators, a decision that sparked backlash due to the vital role BDCs play in the retail segment of the forex market.
The wide network of the 5,600+ licensed BDC operators has been a reliable and easy go-to source for Nigerians quickly seeking foreign currency for education, travel, and other minor transactions.
But that was not the first time a CBN announcement on forex-related affairs would cause apprehension. Since 2015, a major economic challenge Nigerians have had to deal with has been the sourcing and pricing of foreign currencies, due to the central bank’s questionable forex management.
Keeping track of the CBN’s foreign exchange policies can be a dizzying affair as is setting up and using domiciliary accounts at legacy banks. The only solution is to build a better system and that’s what Aboki Africa has set out to do.
Aboki Africa officially launched in 2020 as an online money exchange service. Users could transfer foreign currencies from domiciliary accounts to their Aboki accounts in exchange for naira and vice versa.
But after facing some difficulties with executing transfers, Idorenyin revealed that the company had to rebuild the platform, which culminated in a July 2021 relaunch with the addition of digital foreign bank accounts.
“Initially, we expected that users would figure out how to receive their money and then come to the exchange using Aboki Africa. But now, we’re also helping them solve the problem of receiving money, which they can exchange with us immediately.”
Aboki Africa uses the parallel market (black market) rates for currency exchanges and charges a 1% fee on every transaction or conversion, capped at ₦3,000 (around $6).
Nigerians can sign up and get a foreign account within 1-2 business days after registration, provided they meet compliance requirements, according to Idorenyin.
For now, Aboki Africa only provides European currency-denominated accounts (Pounds and Euros). It is currently working on adding USD accounts.