Halalah and BayanPay get mobile wallet license from Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority

Halalah and BayanPay have become the two latest startups to receive digital wallet license from the Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority (SAMA). The licensing of the two startups was announced last week after their successful graduation from SAMA’s sandbox.

With these two, SAMA has now issued (fintech) licenses to four non-banking financial institutions. STC Pay and Geidea were the first two companies to receive the license. STC Pay was licensed as an electronic (digital) wallet company and Geidea as a payment services company last month.

Halalah, launched in 2018 as one of the first mobile wallets has quickly gained a decent market share and has over 50,000 downloads for its Android app and probably even more for iOS app (given the fact that its iOS app has received more reviews and ratings than the Android app).

It is only behind STC Pay that has over a million downloads for the Android app. STC Pay is popular among the expatriates living in Saudi as it allows them to make cross-border money transfers. Halalah doesn’t have that but it has a fairly large offline partner network, allowing users to pay at these stores with QR codes. It also allows users to top up their phone line and different other accounts (including Careem and PlayStore) with credit and send money to other users on Halalah.

BayanPay, according to its website, operates multiple payment products including a wallet and payment gateway. The wallet allows users to transfer money to other BayanPay wallet users and bank accounts and pay at offline merchants that are part of BayanPay’s network using QR codes. BayanPay Wallet also offers its users with spend analysis and reports.

Interestingly, Finablr, the UAE-based payments company that went public last year by listing on the London Stock Exchange, had acquired a majority stake in BayanPay last year. Finablr now lists BayanPay as one of its brands on its website and announced its expansion to Saudi (through BayanPay) last week.


Naspers’ PayU acquires Turkish online payments startup Iyzico for $165 million

PayU, a Netherlands-headquartered online payment service provider, owned by South African internet and entertainment group Naspers, has acquired Iyzico, a Turkish online payments startup for $165 million. The acquisition that was announced yesterday is one of the largest exits for a Turkish startup. It adds to over $500 million PayU has deployed across fintech investments and M&A. Their most recent acquisition before Iyzico was Wibmo, an American payments solutions startup. PayU had acquired Wibmo for $70 million in April earlier this year.

According to a statement by Naspers, PayU’s acquisition of Iyzico will allow the Dutch company to consolidate its position as a leader in the payments space and accelerate scale and efficiency in Turkey, “where there is a huge growth opportunity for ecommerce and online payments.”

Founded in 2013 by Barbaros Özbugutu and Tahsin Isin, Iyzico, per statement, currently provides payments solutions to over 300 online marketplaces (with over 400,000 personal sellers of different sizes) and 30,000 online merchants, which are using its checkout solution. Some of the companies that are using its payments solutions in Turkey include Amazon, Nike, H&M, and Zara. The startup had raised a total of $27 million in five round from different investors including International Finance Corporation, Endeavor Catalyst, Turkish VC 212, and some others. It’s most recent funding round, the $15 million Series C, had come in April 2017.

Laurent le Moal, CEO of PayU, commented: “PayU has acquired Iyzico in a landmark move to deliver on our mission of local consolidation and becoming the number one payments provider in every high growth market we operate in. We are delighted to welcome founders Barbaros, Tahsin and the wider Iyzico team to PayU as we integrate this high growth business in a key step on our journey to becoming the world’s number one fintech investor.”

Barbaros Özbuğutu, Co-Founder and CEO of Iyzico, added: “In 2013 we founded Iyzico with the goal to enable SMBs all over Turkey to accept online payments, an endeavor that turned into a team of 150 and billion Turkish liras of transaction volume. And today we join forces with PayU, a leading global fintech operator and investor with a strong heritage and track record in payments in high growth markets. We look forward to joining the PayU team and working alongside highly skilled experts in payments, strengthening the company’s leading position in Turkey and beyond.”

The statement noted that in spite of ecommerce’s stable growth over 10% each year for the last few years, it is still in its infancy with a total share of less than 5% in sales, “The SMB opportunity alone is significant with potential for 10x expansion over the next few years. Today only 5% of SMBs in Turkey have an online sale presence but, also thanks to government programs favoring digitalization, the percentage is expected to increase, representing a large opportunity for enablers such as ecommerce marketplaces and payment processors.”

Numan Numan, a Partner with 212, a Turkish VC that was one of the early investors in Iyzico, in a blogpost commenting on the exit, said, “Our first investment took place in 2014. After a total of $27 million investment in five rounds, Iyzico is Turkey’s largest payment service provider, handling 600x (yes — six hundred times) more volume than the day we invested, with a staff of 150. And they did it in five years — proof that with the right backers, the right talent and strategy — a startup can scale up in a short time, even in Turkey.”

Uncategorized, a global payments company with presence in MENA hits $5.5 billion valuation in new round, a London-headquartered global payments company has tripled its valuation to $5.5 billion with the closing of its $150 million Series B, it announced in a statement today. The company that has a big presence in the Middle East through its Dubai office that serves clients all over GCC and Egypt, has become one of the most valuable fintechs in the world with the latest round.

“The $5.5bn valuation reflects a growing business demand for transformative online payment solutions that perform across all geographies and channels,” it said in a statement.

The round was led by New York-based technology hedge fund Coatue, with participation from existing investors including Insight Partners, DST Global, Blossom Capital, and Singapore’s Sovereign Wealth Fund, GIC.’s founder and CEO Guillaume Pousaz, speaking to Financial Times, said that he approached in May and finalized the deal after receiving six offers, with each of the potential investors agreeing to the price he proposed.

The eight-year-old company had raised its first external funding round in May 2019, which was a $230 million Series A. It was the largest Series A raised by a European fintech at the time. Financial Times had reported that the Series A valued the company at $2 billion.’s online transaction numbers, it said have seen a growth of over 250 percent (company May on a YoY basis). The fintech that already provides its payment solutions to some of the world’s leading companies has added over 500 new merchants to its book including Careem, Grab, Glovo, Revolut, and Robinhood. Its revenues have also doubled in the past year with the company now making ‘well above’ $100 million every year.

Its business solutions allow these enterprises to process payments in more than 150 currencies, with direct access to Visa, Mastercard, American Express, all major international cards, as well as popular alternative and local payment methods. in a statement said that it has been profitable since 2012, adding that the new funds will further strengthen its balance sheet, bringing available cash to over $300m. The company also said that it plans to invest in the development of new innovative products, including its upcoming advanced Payouts solution and the capability to accelerate settlement times.

Guillaume Pousaz said, “I’m thrilled to welcome Coatue to our cap table. As meaningful investors in late-stage tech companies such as Instacart, DoorDash, Bytedance and Chime they bring a wealth of experience in building world-class businesses driven by operational excellence. They share our vision for a future of connected payments which made them an obvious choice as partners for us.”

“The way money moves into and out of businesses is changing rapidly. I believe that by solving financial complexity, you can radically unlock innovation — starting with digital payments. At, we’ve built a technical architecture that enables pioneers to reinvent industries and redefine their relationship with consumers. Now more than ever, we are confident of our mission to build the connected payments that businesses deserve,” he added.

Kris Fredrickson, Managing Partner at Coatue, said, “We have followed the business’ explosive growth and are inspired by Guillaume’s vision for the future of payments. We’re incredibly excited to partner for the next phase of the journey.”


International Finance Corporation partners with Startupbootcamp Pride Fintech Cairo & AUC Venture Lab to support fintech startups in Egypt

International Finance Corporation (IFC), a member of the World Bank Group, has announced the launch of a two-year program to support the development of fintech space in Egypt.

IFC is partnering with two fintech-focused accelerators, Pride Capital & Startupbootcamp’s FinTech Cairo and AUC Venture Lab, to help them improve their offering in the areas of mentorship, business development and technical training, IFC said in a statement yesterday, adding that they will also help the startups in attracting investment.

Rami El Dokany, Chief Executive Officer of Pride Capital, speaking about the partnership, said, “Through this newly established partnership with IFC, the Startupbootcamp Pride FinTech Cairo program is creating a top-notch pipeline of startups. It is giving entrepreneurs access to unparalleled expertise and a network of industry professionals. Our work has helped drive innovation in areas like microfinance, payments, person-to-person lending, consumer banking, and identity authentication, demonstrating the impact that can be achieved by supporting Egyptian entrepreneurs.”

Dr. Sherif Kamel, Dean of AUC School of Business, commenting on the occasion, said, “Over the past three years, AUC Venture Lab has accelerated 23 early-stage startups working in the area of financial technologies through its FinTech Accelerator Program. This new partnership between the School of Business and IFC will help us extend our support to more innovative startups in this rapidly evolving industry, and to maximize our impact on the Egyptian economy towards broader financial inclusion.”

According to the statement by IFC, there are currently close to 50 fintech startups that are active in Egypt at the moment and the number is expected to increase. The government has also been taking different measures lately to push the use of technology for increasing financial inclusion in the country.

Egypt’s central bank recently said that it will soon establish a $58 million fund to invest in fintech startups in the country.

“Fintech has the potential to reshape the banking industry and is growing rapidly in light of the Government’s commitment to financial inclusion. Innovative solutions like mobile payments and online banking can provide easy and affordable access to financial services. By supporting innovative fintech startups, the program aspires to support IFC’s efforts in expanding financial inclusion across the country,” said IFC in the statement.

Walid Labadi, IFC Country Manager for Egypt, Libya and Yemen, speaking about the program, said, “With the right support, entrepreneurs can create much-needed jobs and develop technology that makes life better for people across the country,” said “This program will help unlock the potential of young entrepreneurs and lay the foundation for an ecosystem that supports innovation in the financial services industry.”

The program will complement World Bank Group’s ongoing efforts for enhancing and improving the enabling environment for digital finance to support the growth of fintech startups in Egypt.


Jordan Ahli Bank launches FinTech accelerator, to offer up to $200,000 funding to selected startups

Jordan Ahli Bank has launched a FinTech accelerator, bank’s Chief Innovation Officer Rami Al Karmi announced at RiseUp Summit in Cairo today. The accelerator is part of Ahli Fintech, a subsidiary of Jordan Ahli Bank that was launched in August last year.

The seed accelerator program is open to startups from all across the world and will run for six months in Jordan. It is divided into two parts, with the first three months focused on helping startups validate their business and the next three months to help them scale, Rami said, announcing the accelerator.

The selected startups could receive up to $200,000 as investment from Ahli Fintech. But there’s no minimum so some startups could choose to just join the program if they’re selected without receiving any investment, Rami Al Karmi, Jordan Ahli Bank’s Chief Innovation Officer and CEO of Ahli Fintech, said, speaking to MENAbytes, adding, that they have already received some interest from those who want to join the program because they are interested only in instant market access.

Any company that joins the program, regardless of receiving investment or not, will have to pay a program fee of $30,000.

The program apart from capital also offers access to over 130 APIs on Ahli Sandbox environment; a self-contained, virtual testing environment that mimics the live production environment, enabling startups create customer-facing application with ease, advice, and mentorship from a network of over 1,000 mentors including Ahli Bank’s team, partners and vendors, free workspace for six months, and an option to pilot with Ahli Bank’s customers.

Once the startups graduate from accelerator and pass the Central Bank of Jordan’s compliance review and Ahli Sandbox verification, they are migrated to live environment and can run their applications live with the customers.

The applications for the program are open to any FinTech startup across the world. You can learn more about the program here and apply here. Deadline to apply is December 31, 2018.


TransferWise expands to MENA, launches its cross-border money transfer service in UAE

TransferWise, the London-headquartered fintech has expanded to the Middle East & North Africa with the launch of its low-cost cross-border online money transfer service in the United Arab Emirates, it announced in a statement today. It has opened an office in the Abu Dhabi Global Market (ADGM), operating as a hub for its expansion into the Middle East, and is licensed as a Money Services Provider.

The British company that serves 7 million customers around the world citing an independent study claims that its money transfer service is up to 2 times cheaper than the traditional providers. The study had compared the cost of sending money abroad between 1-5 March 2020 among 6 of the top banks and brokers operating in the UAE including Al Ansari Exchange, Al Fardan Exchange, Western Union, and Dubai Islamic Bank.

A quick search by us on TransferWise’s website for transferring AED 1,000 ($272) to India, Pakistan, Philippines, and Egypt, revealed that the users could save between AED 60 to AED 75 by choosing to transfer money using TransferWise instead of traditional banking channels. We could not verify the claims as similar data for banks and traditional money transfer services is not available online.

TransferWise with its fourteen offices across the globe claims to be processing $5 billion in cross-border and local customer payments every month, saving the customer $1 billion a year compared to making the same transaction with a bank.

The money transfers to India, according to TransferWise’s website will take an hour to land in the recipient’s bank account. For Pakistan too, the website notes that the money will arrive in recipient’s account on the same day. For Philippines, its the next day and Egypt after two days. The company says that 25% of its international transfers are instant, with the delivery in less than 20 seconds.

With over $46 billion (AED 169.2 billion) in personal outward remittances, the United Arab Emirates was the second biggest outward remittance country in 2018, behind the United States only, according to the data by the World Bank.

Kristo Käärmann, CEO and co-founder of TransferWise, commenting on the launch, said, “The UAE is one of the most important remittance markets in the world, and we’re delighted to be bringing the first fully online money transfers to the country. It’s testament to the forward thinking nature of the FSRA that we’ve been able to bring our product to market so quickly – more competition means more choice for those living and working in the UAE.”

“Sending money abroad should be as easy as sending an email, yet many people are still reliant on expensive, slow legacy services. People can now send money to over 80 countries without leaving their homes, and all at the real, mid-market exchange rate,” he added.

A large part of the remittances sent from the United Arab Emirates are sent by the Asian migrant workers and some local startups including Now Money, Rise, and Denarii Cash have already built solutions to help them do the low-fee cross-border transfers online. All these startups are working closely with the migrant workers, expat communities and their employers to continuously improve their service.

Some of these startups are, for example, help the migrant workers esp. those from India, Pakistan & Bangladesh who don’t speak English with the onboarding (done by representatives in the local languages).

TransferWise, which is one of the rare profitable unicorns, will be taking on these startups. But the big players it is going after are the traditional exchange houses and banks who probably have failed to innovate enough and have left gaps for companies like TransferWise to fill.


Careem partners with Visa to provide its captains with real-time access to their earnings

Careem is partnering with Visa to provide different types of financial payment services to its captains, the two companies announced today. The services aim to resolve different challenges (for captains) associated with real-time access to funds, cash conversion, and remittances.

The services, for now, are being launched in the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, and Pakistan. The two companies haven’t provided a timeline for the launch. Careem and Visa, however, said, that they have plans to roll the services out across the rest of the region where Careem operates by partnering with banks and regulators.

Careem captains in the five countries that are getting the services will be issued with Visa card credentials, enabling them to access different payment solutions including real-time payment directly to eligible cards, accounts, and wallets, and low-cost remittance solutions to transfer money to bank accounts and Visa cards worldwide.

What this essentially means is that the Careem captains will be able to access their daily trip earnings in real-time. It would be useful for those captains who receive a large number of rides with card (or digital) payments instead of cash. The captains previously used to receive their earnings every few days (in some cases up to two weeks) by Careem.

The captains in some of Careem’s markets including Egypt and Pakistan prefer cash rides over those that are paid by cards or Careem Pay but with the option of being able to access their earnings instantly (by transferring them to their bank accounts or wallets), this should not be a concern for them any longer.

In the United Arab Emirates & Saudi, a very large number of Careem captains are expatriates from different parts of the world (mainly South Asia). The partnership will now allow them (and even those in Egypt, Jordan & Pakistan) to be able to use “low-cost remittance solutions” within Careem’s app to make fund transfers to bank accounts and Visa cards worldwide.

Junaid Iqbal, the Managing Director of Careem Pay, said: “The only way digital payments truly make a difference is when both sides of the market benefit. Through this partnership with Visa, Careem will be paying captains in real-time, bringing them into the digital marketplace and removing the need for cash.

Digital payments are the backbone of Careem’s Super App, giving us immense opportunities to simplify the lives of even more people across the region. The partnership with Visa will not only solve cash flow constraints but will also provide many new use cases to improve the everyday lives of Careem customers.”

Marcello Baricordi, Visa’s General Manager for MENA, commented, “Societies around the world have been challenged by the coronavirus outbreak, and many individuals and businesses continue to experience severe hardship, especially the underbanked who are more vulnerable. As a company, Visa is working hard, along with our partners including fintechs, Super Apps and Digital Banks, to support, inform and protect our societies.”

“We’re seeing how COVID-19 has radically changed how we spend, send and use money. Enabling secure, immediate movement of money for gig economy workers like Careem captains is especially vital as we support economic recovery efforts,” he added.