BIG5D Podcast Episode 16: Firas Ahmad, AzamPay

"What's the next step for mobile money?"


This week’s podcast features an interview originally aired at our virtual BigFive Small Business Fintech Summit. Firas Ahmad is the Co-founder and Group CEO of AzamPay, a payments platform based in East Africa that is a division of Azam Group, a major East African industrial conglomerate.

Firas is a deep thinker about fintech in Africa and our conversation centered around his views on mobile money

Firas argues that the success of mobile money on the continent is also in some respects a curse because there isn’t sufficient incentive to innovate. And the lack of continuous innovation threatens to hold back on the development of fintech in Africa.

You can watch the interview in its original form here.

Here are some key quotes from this episode.

Why mobile money lacks the incentive to innovate

“When you have large businesses that make a lot of money and are generating a lot of profits, they tend not to innovate. In fact, they're disincentivized from innovating. Because ultimately you want to make your quarterly sales goals. You want to get your bonuses. You want to get your stock price up. So as a result, looking at other opportunities becomes less of a priority. So my argument would be that the overwhelming success of mobile money is now creating a bit of an impediment for it to start to innovate beyond some of the initial use cases that made it so successful.”

The role of cryptocurrency in Africa

“As a hedge against inflation, it might make sense. And I can see cross-border [transactions] making a lot of sense, particularly when you don't need to convert from currency to currency. But for in-country [transactions], I want someone to explain to me what exactly the use cases are.”

The need for more African VCs

“I really hope to see some exits for African founders such that they can build their own VCs. Because the best VC is the one that has lived the product that you're trying to build.”