Egypt’s Wasla wants to subsidise mobile internet for 500m emerging market users

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Egyptian startup Wasla aims to subsidise mobile internet access for over 500 million users in emerging markets over the next few years in the wake of a US$1 million funding round.

Founded in 2018 by ex-Rocket Internet entrepreneurs Serag Meneassy and Taymour Sabry alongside former investment banker Mahmoud El Said, Wasla operates as a mobile web browser, including a localised content and digital services aggregator, that subsidises a user’s mobile data costs by leveraging digital advertising. 

The startup allows brands to run targeted adverts, and provides complementary services such as field research and affiliate marketing. Wasla has so far attracted over 100,000 users organically, with no marketing activities, and is now planning on serious growth after raising US$1 million in seed funding late last year.

Meneassy told Disrupt Africa it wants to subsidise 500 million people’s internet access in the next five years, with a primary focus on the Middle East and Africa, in a bid to foster other types of inclusion.

“We believe that digital and financial inclusion is a key component in emerging markets, where access to information creates economic and social progress. The more financially and digitally included the people are, the more transparent the societies,” he said.

As global habits shift towards digital, many people in emerging markets are left behind due to significantly high data costs and limited infrastructure of fixed broadband, leaving the vast majority of the population completely reliant on thus far un-affordable mobile internet. 

“Based on average hourly income, in Africa, the average individual needs to work for 29 hours to be able to afford 2GB of mobile internet, compared to 40 minutes in North America and Europe. With almost 76 per cent of global growth in mobile internet subscribers originating from emerging markets, the problem is only getting bigger,” said Meneassy.

It is this problem Wasla sets out to fix, and with investment in the bank it is ready to take the first steps on that journey.

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Passionate about the vibrant tech startups scene in Africa, Tom can usually be found sniffing out the continent's most exciting new companies and entrepreneurs, funding rounds and any other developments within the growing ecosystem.

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