How Egypt’s Paymob has become a market leader at home, and is expanding abroad

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Having secured an extraordinary 85 per cent market share of mobile wallet transactions at home in Egypt, fintech startup Paymob has eyes on even greater prizes.

Founded in 2015 by Islam Shawky, Alain El Hajj and Mostafa Menessy, Paymob is an infrastructure technology enabler providing payment solutions to empower digital financial service providers through mobile wallet technology.

The startup’s mobile wallet infrastructure processes more than 85 per cent of the market share of the transaction’s throughput in the Egyptian market, and serves merchants a host of other markets, including Kenya, Pakistan and Palestine.

In August, Paymob raised a US$3.5 million funding round to grow its merchant network and accelerate regional expansion, with the startup targeting further expansion in Africa and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries.

Not bad for a startup that was founded while its founders were still at university. 

“Our initial work was on an e-commerce platform until we realised the limitations imposed by cash-based economies. We identified the serious challenges facing the digital economy and decided to work on fixing them,” Shawky told Disrupt Africa.

Paymob is a digital financial enabler, providing under-served merchants and consumers with improved access to finance. 

“We partner with financial institutions to equip end-consumers with digital wallet services. This enables easier daily transactions. We also help under-served merchants with online gateway or POS terminals to collect payments easily – using a variety of different options,” said Shawky.

The impact of this is significant. 

“In under-served economies, the huge gap in digital financial services is easily identified. The biggest bottleneck is digital payments,” Shawky said.

“For any payment to complete, there will be at least two parties – with major gaps at both ends. Consumers require better tools to perform digital payments and merchants need tools to collect payments. For digital payments in emerging markets, the number one competitor is cash. We are competing with consumer behaviour that favours cash over other options, because consumers haven’t experienced alternatives.”

People seem to like the alternative, with Paymob having been growing rapidly of late. 

“Expanding our operational capabilities has helped us grow our business dramatically on all fronts. We are now servicing a much larger base of clients,” said Shawky.

The current climate has also helped, with Paymob having experienced a 450 per cent increase in merchant onboarding since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Now it is aiming for more growth.

“A significant part of our strengthened balance sheet is allocated to further expansion in regional markets,” said Shawky.

Paymob, which charges a small fee out of each transaction, has been hugely focused on growth thus far, but has had to overcome some challenges.

“Being a first mover in your field, and in your early twenties – one of us had an afro and another had a ponytail! – and with no track record was really challenging when attempting to enter the financial services market. It is a space normally reserved for market giants,” Shawky said.

“In a heavily regulated country such as Egypt, it was inevitably challenging to fully understand the regulations and compliance required, to initially enter the industry. We are long past that now, but it is a journey many entrepreneurs have to go through.”

Paymob is out the other side, however, and focused on the road to growth ahead.

About Author

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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