Fintech fever

Discover some of the homegrown UAE fintechs that were born out of necessity for a world moving rapidly online


Nisthula Nagarajan

Published: Tue 21 Sep 2021, 12:00 AM

Last updated: Mon 27 Sep 2021, 11:30 AM

The fact that the UAE has an open-door policy towards international trade and businesses from outside the country bringing their products
here is common knowledge. However, another aspect is how the UAE has begun to encourage homegrown start-ups over the last few years. From Hub71 and Takamul in Abu Dhabi to the DIFC Fintech Fund and Mohammed Bin Rashid Innovation Fund, support from the government is endless.

A new report by findexable shows that 2020 was a year in which the financial technology (‘fintech’) sector expanded globally and financially, building upon a surge in demand for technology that increases access to digital finance. This speaks to one of the report’s larger themes, which is that fintech is bridging gaps in consumers’ lives, many of them revealed or made more urgent by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The rise of awareness and demand for non-volatile cryptocurrencies, digital assets, reliable blockchain and decentralised finance applications (De-Fi Apps) in the UAE and across the world has given rise to investment in fintechs. Nearly three-fourths (70 per cent) of the UAE population have pivoted to cashless methods to pay for groceries, utilities and restaurant bills, as these are considered more hygienic, safe and secure. Fintech can no longer be dismissed as a fad but is a part of billions
of peoples’ lives – ‘fintech for all rather than the few’. The Middle East’s fintech ecosystems capitalising on the region's rapid adoption of fintech-friendly regulation.

There has been an explosion of Islamic fintechs globally over the last few years, with this market expected to be worth $125 billion by 2025 according to a report by Mambu. The UAE has at least 15 companies in the field.

Let’s take a look at some fintech’s founded in the UAE:

Payit is the UAE's first fully-featured digital wallet, powered by First Abu Dhabi Bank (FAB). Users can send and receive money to anyone instantly 24/7 and track their spending on the go the goal is to make paying easy and efficient. The new service, which is also the first of its kind in the region, enables merchants to collect payments via WhatsApp. Merchants can simply provide their WhatsApp- enabled mobile numbers to their customers who then engage with a conversational bot and make secure payments in a matter of minutes with the merchant receiving the confirmation of payment in real-time. The app is co-founded by Harry Kane.

Another digital wallet — PayBy users can avail a range of digital payment services, including paying for utilities and government services, paying their mobile bills, transferring money to friends and family members, contactless and cashless payments online, on delivery and in retail stores. After the app's partnership with NT.Payments, PayBy users can now top up their wallets, allowing the use of a series of financial services, including repaying the credit bills, purchasing goods and services, etc. PayBy aims to build a seamless payment ecosystem and help one better manage their wallets and revenues. On the business side, PayBy offers cost-efficient hardware solutions, Smart POS, Smart Box, Smart Code and Smart Retail, to benefit businesses of all sizes.

Mamo’s flagship solution is Mamo Pay, a fast, secure, human-centred platform co-created to simplify everyday personal and business payments. This app recently received an Innovation Testing Licence from the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC). Mamo Pay is “a purpose-driven fintech company committed to bringing financial independence to the underserved”. With trust, traceability, and transparency at the top of its agenda, Mamo’s ambition is to accelerate the MENA region towards digital payments and champion financial inclusion and literacy across economi- cally diverse communities. By empowering users with simpler, faster, friendlier financial products, insights and strategies, Mamo’s vision is to help everyone make smarter financial decisions and live happier lives. Mamo Pay was founded by Asim Janjua and Imad Gharazeddine.

The launch of the Ziina app, the UAE’s first peer-to-peer payment app, is set to revolu- tionise the way payments are made when it launches later this year. The app was founded in 2020 by Faisal Toukan, Sarah Toukan, and Andrew Gold. Functioning as an e-wallet, it allows users to transfer money instantly, electronically, easily and safely. From paying rent to divvying up the total cost at the super- market, the Ziina app enables payments to be settled seamlessly, eliminating the need for keeping track of one's debtors and creditors or awkward conversations.

A Ziina payment is as fast as sending a text message and, thanks to sophisticated end-to- end encryption, it is as secure as making a bank transaction. There’s no hidden charges or processing fees, just a commitment to making finance and money management simple. Ziina offers its users in the UAE simplified P2P payment services, with plans to expand to Saudi Arabia and Jordan by 2022.

tabby makes shopping more rewarding by empowering people with the freedom to shop and pay flexibly. tabby allows customers to shop now, pay later and earn cash — without the interest, fees or debt traps. The leading buy now, pay later (BNPL) provider in Saudi Arabia and the UAE, also raised $50 million in a new equity round which values the company at $300 million. It integrates with retailers to allow their customers to shop at their online and physical stores with interest-free instal- ments. Its app has more than 400,000 active shoppers, with 3,000 daily downloads making it one of the highest-ranked shopping apps in the markets where it operates. The company recently launched its own cashback loyalty programme, which rewards users who shop using tabby with cash that can be used to pay off their outstanding instalments or deposited into their personal bank accounts.

Over 2,000 global brands and small businesses, including Ikea, Shein, and Marks & Spencer and regional retail groups like Chalhoub Group, Al Futtaim Group, Landmark Group, and Apparel Group use tabby to accelerate growth. The app was co-founded by Hosam Arab.

Zeniq is founded by a unique team of blockchain, fintech, sports, environmental and legal experts on a mission to enhance everyday living with blockchain technology. Founded by Emirati Suleiman Al Rifai and in partnership with Sheikh Saeed Bin Hasher Al Maktoum, Zeniq is committed to supporting the UAE Government towards achieving a digital economy and accelerating the UAE’s role in the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

The partnership seeks to capitalise on Zeniq’s highly advanced blockchain research and development to launch within a few weeks in the DIFC a cutting-edge platform for the tokenisation of physical assets. The user-friendly solution will allow its users access to liquidity
in DIFC, and potentially globally, whilst being compliant with best international and local regulatory standards relating to know-your- customer (KYC) and anti-money-laundering (AML) and other laws, without the hassle of the conventional financial and banking services. Zeniq is working with the best-in-class partners to launch a sustainable, secure, and hassle-free tokenisation solution from the UAE.

Zeniq’s tokenisation platform is intended to make the UAE a pioneering global market and a go-to destination for 100 per cent secure and user-friendly digital asset management for users and innovators alike.

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