Early Morning Call: How One Entrepreneur Is Taking on the Money Transfer Giants
Friday, August 14, 2015
Telephones have always been a fundamental part of the remittance process, Ahmed Ismail says with a wry laugh; when they ring early in the morning, it tends to be costly.
“Usually you get a call at 6am or 7am, and you’ll agree to send $400 because you’re half asleep,” says Ismail, a softly-spoken Somalilander with an academic air, during an interview in his office in Hammersmith, West London.
For the tens of millions of Africans living in the diaspora, remittances are a daily concern, providing a direct social and economic link back to their countries of origin. Today, international money transfer is a $580bn industry. Remittances contribute more than $30bn to African economies; in some countries, they represent more than 20 percent of their total GDP. And yet, Africans pay more than anyone else to send money home, in part, critics say, due to its domination by just two global players – Western Union and MoneyGram.
Ismail is CEO of WorldRemit, a relative upstart in the money transfer business that is intent on breaking their hold on the remittance market, taking advantage of the explosion in mobile technology that has revolutionised how Africans spend, store and transmit money.