Home » Meet Ismail Ahmed: Somali tycoon leading $5-billion payment platform, Zepz

Meet Ismail Ahmed: Somali tycoon leading $5-billion payment platform, Zepz

Ahmed's visionary leadership transforms Zepz into a fintech powerhouse

by Feyisayo Ajayi
Ismail Ahmed

Ismail Ahmed, a 63-year-old Somali businessman, stands as a visionary leader and key architect behind the success of Zepz, formerly WorldRemit. In 2010, Ahmed embarked on a journey to create a cross-border transformative digital payment platform that would revolutionize international money transfers, particularly targeting underserved and unbanked regions.

Renowned for his unwavering commitment to attaining unparalleled excellence. Ahmed’s leadership propelled Zepz to a valuation of $5 billion in 2021, becoming the fastest-growing technology company in the UK.

Ahmed has cemented his position in the global digital payment landscape for his pivotal role in founding Zepz and growing it into a top player in the industry. In October 2020 he was named the most powerful person of African heritage in the UK. The same year, his company launched its list of the Top 10 Most Influential Africans in the Diaspora.

From frustration to fintech: Somaliland native who revolutionized remittances

Somaliland native Ahmed channeled the frustration of sky-high remittance fees into a fintech revolution. Inspired by the challenges his family faced sending money home, he migrated to the UK in the early 90s, seeking opportunity and a fresh start.

Armed with a master’s in Economic Development from London, Ahmed carved a career spanning finance and international development, honing his expertise at the UN and World Bank. This background would prove invaluable in navigating the complexities of the global financial system. His entrepreneurial spirit saw him found London-based Zepz, the brainchild behind WorldRemit and the $500 million acquisition of Sendwave that propelled the company to unicorn status.

But for Ahmed, it’s not just about profits. His mission is to leverage technology for good, making financial services accessible and affordable for all. Zepz’s pivotal role in reshaping the international money transfer landscape reflects Ahmed’s commitment to financial inclusion. His story is one of resilience, vision, and a relentless pursuit of positive change on a global scale.

Ahmed’s visionary leadership transforms Zepz into a fintech powerhouse

Ahmed’s visionary leadership and unwavering commitment to financial inclusion have propelled Zepz into the ranks of renowned fintech companies. The company now boasts a vast user base exceeding 11 million individuals spread across 150 countries, thanks to its seamless and cost-effective online money transfer services.

In his dual role as co-founder and non-executive chairman, Ahmed assumes a pivotal position in steering the strategic trajectory and governance of Zepz. His influence has been transformative, particularly in shaping the peer-to-peer cross-border payments sector — a colossal market opportunity estimated at a staggering one trillion dollars. Despite the vast potential, this market remains predominantly offline, plagued by exorbitant costs and subpar customer experiences.

Global change-maker: Ahmed’s impact beyond Zepz

Beyond the corporate realm, Ahmed’s impact resonates on a broader scale. A fervent supporter of educational initiatives, he actively fosters empowerment among future generations and contributes to the fabric of stronger communities. Ahmed’s dedication to financial inclusion transcends the confines of Zepz, positioning him as a true agent of change on the global stage.

In 2023 through Sahamiye Foundation, his non-profit organization dedicated to improving access to quality education in the Horn of Africa, he issued a compelling challenge to UK-based global company, De La Rue. The challenge revolves around De La Rue’s controversial $9.6-million contract to print money for Somaliland.

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