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5 companies owned by Somali businessman Ismail Ahmed

Fintech pioneer and philanthropist redefining global money transfers

by Yusuf Abdulfatai
Ismail Ahmed

Ismail Ahmed, a 63-year-old Somali businessman, is more than just a titan of the fintech industry. He’s a visionary leader, a philanthropist, and a testament to the power of perseverance. His journey, from frustrated remittance recipient to architect of a $5-billion fintech powerhouse, is one of innovation, and a relentless pursuit of positive change.

Ahmed’s story begins in Somaliland, where the exorbitant fees and complexities of sending money across borders fueled his entrepreneurial spirit. Migrating to the UK in the 90s, he armed himself with a master’s in economic development and carved a career spanning finance and international development, gaining invaluable experience at the UN and World Bank.

In 2010, his vision materialized in the form of Zepz, the parent company of WorldRemit and Sendwave. Driven by a mission to make financial services accessible and affordable for all, he built a seamless and cost-effective online money transfer platform. Today, Zepz boasts more than 11 million users across 150 countries, revolutionizing the way people send and receive money globally.

Ahmed’s leadership style is characterized by an unwavering commitment to excellence. He propelled Zepz to a $5-billion valuation in 2021, making it the UK’s fastest-growing tech company. His strategic acumen played a key role in the $500-million acquisition of Sendwave, propelling Zepz to unicorn status.

But Ahmed’s impact extends beyond financial success. He actively fosters empowerment through educational initiatives like the Sahamiye Foundation, dedicated to improving access to quality education in the Horn of Africa.

His 2023 challenge to De La Rue’s printing contract for Somaliland exemplifies his commitment to social responsibility and economic development in his homeland.

Billionaires.Africa has identified and cataloged various companies and holdings linked to Ahmed: 

  1. WorldRemit
    As the founder and chairman of WorldRemit, Ahmed pioneered a digital revolution in the realm of money transfers. Established in 2010, WorldRemit emerged as a leading platform for affordable and transparent cross-border transactions. Under Ahmed’s stewardship, WorldRemit garnered over $375 million in funding and earned the distinction of being the UK’s fastest-growing tech company. With operations spanning across 130 countries, WorldRemit has empowered millions by facilitating seamless and cost-effective money transfers.
  1. Zepz
    Zepz, the parent company overseeing WorldRemit and Sendwave, stands as a financial juggernaut with over 11 million users across 150 countries. Recent funding of $292 million propelled Zepz to a $5-billion valuation. In 2022 alone, Zepz facilitated more than $15 billion in cross-border transactions. With operations in 5,000 money transfer corridors worldwide and a global team of over 1,400 individuals, Zepz, under Ahmed’s guidance, operates as a remote-first employer, embracing a truly global presence.
  1. Sendwave
    In 2020, Ahmed strategically led WorldRemit to acquire Sendwave, a key player in African and Asian remittances. This move not only strengthened WorldRemit’s market presence but also optimized the remittance experience by synergizing resources. Beyond recent business success, Ahmed has positioned Sendwave to make meaningful contributions to the well-being of immigrants and unbanked populations.
  1. Daariz
    Founded in April 2021, Daariz, initiated by Ahmed, is a London and Hargeisa-based initiative dedicated to enhancing literacy and fostering continuous learning. Through a suite of free education apps, including the flagship app Daariz Somali, Ahmed’s venture provides engaging lessons in reading, writing, and comprehension. Accessible on basic smartphones, Daariz has become a transformative resource, boosting literacy skills and confidence. 
  1. Sahamiye Foundation
    Through the Sahamiye Foundation, Ahmed extends his impact beyond business to address critical social needs in the Horn of Africa. Initiating a $500-million fund, the foundation focuses on bolstering infrastructure, healthcare, and education in Somaliland. As a registered charity in England and Wales, the Sahamiye Foundation, with offices in London and Hargeisa, stands as a testament to Ahmed’s commitment to enhancing lives and fostering sustainable development in the region.

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