From one of Africa’s most unlikely countries hails an unlikely hero whose story is equally inspiring. Ismail Ahmed, now known for founding WorldRemit, a global money transfer service, could have been killed in a civil war in his birth-country of Somaliland. Fortunately, he was able to make the then dangerous trek through Djibouti and eventually to London before his town was decimated during the war.
As if drawing from his experience escaping explosives in his hometown, the man was to become an explosive in the world of finance. He studied Economics at the University of London on a World Bank scholarship and after earning his Ph.D., he became an advisor to the United Nations. It is here that the journey took an interesting turn.
Ahmed uncovered widespread corruption within the United Nations remittance project and was to become a whistleblower despite threats from his superiors. It is the compensation money he got for his efforts and the succeeding victimization that became the bedrock for AfricaRemit which later became WorldRemit.
The company is now a leading digital money transfer service that has made sending money as easy as sending an instant message. Known for its mobile-first approach, the majority of WorldRemit’s customers are migrant workers from the developing world living in developed countries who send money back home to support their friends and family; users can even pay for school fees, utility bills and groceries via their mobile phones
Currently supporting money transfers from more than 50 countries to no less than 145 receiving destinations, WorldRemit has sent shockwaves throughout the financial sector. For African countries like Kenya and Zimbabwe, WorldRemit’s ability to identify the mobile money service niche has been its biggest strength. In fact, so serious is its mobile money drive that the company handles 74% of all international money transfers to mobile money accounts from Money Transfer Operators.
From the $200,000 that Ismail Ahmed got for his whistleblowing at the United Nations, the man has managed to create a company that has raised $220 million in funding in a period of seven years. If anyone needs to know how to build an empire from little other than a good brain, an incorruptible value system, and a vision, Ahmed is just the man.