Africa’s New Wallet: Global payments group, Allied Wallet, aims to transform Africa

October 01 08:30 2019

Lebanese-born Californian Andy Khawaja, the founder and CEO of Allied Wallet, a leading online payment service provider headquartered in Los Angeles, has amassed a fortune of $16 billion since creating his company in 2005. Despite this, nothing seems to stimulate his passion as an engaged global citizen more than his belief in the future of youth and the incontestable attractiveness of Africa as the world’s most promising market.

Khawaja believes that Africa is the future. “Investing in the human capital of youth, creating jobs, helping the massive 15-22-year-old market become self-supporting, that is what I really want to do. Allied Wallet is a powerful tool for helping young people break out of their dependency on governments,” he says.

The key to running a successful business in online payments is mastering a diverse field of nterrelated issues such as cybersecurity, the banking industry, and the interface between public policy and global trade. Khawaja seems adept in all. His global outreach may be a positive by-product of his early life. Born in Beirut, his parents migrated to the US when he was only seven, and young Andy’s orientation to life shifted from war-inflicted Lebanon to the freewheeling lifestyle of southern California.

Khawaja’s Allied Wallet has incorporated a deep understanding of globalization. Its NextGen Payment Gateway figured out a way of accepting “more alternative payment methods globally than anyone else,” he says.

The company plans to enter the African market later this year, starting with the Portuguese speaking southern African nation of Angola followed by The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Rwanda, local cash-based economies.

It was tough going in the beginning as Khawaja’s requests for loans were turned away by 350 banks at a time when belief in Africa was hard to find. Following a chance meeting with an executive from Deutsche Bank, his luck changed. The German bank agreed to granted Allied Wallet’s first seed loan.

Today, Allied Wallet foresees an increasingly growing global payment network as well as a robust digital security environment. As Africa’s youth come onboard, the size of the user base is expected to grow, and Allied Wallet is planning to lead the way with accessible prices. The company already offers rates starting at less than 1%. Khawaja expects the company will double in size before 2025.

Supported mobile point-of-sale purchases will grow exponentially. “In the very near future, especially in Africa,” Khawaja says, “business will be in the hands of the people—the one-woman or one-man enterprise connected to the world, creating wealth with guaranteed freedom of mobility.”

Teaming up with strategic experts has provided the company with a lot of market research and market insight on the African continent. Hisham Itani, chairman, and CEO of Resource Group based in Beirut, has excelled in national scale Know Your Customer procedures, biometrics, and mobile technologies, and has a deep understanding of local markets across the Middle East and Africa.

His Resource Group innovates with customer-centric solutions focused on the needs of African people. “We want to ensure financial inclusion and allow unbanked and under-banked populations to join the global economy with direct access to digital goods, online content, and e-commerce,” Itani said. He added that his partnership with Allied Wallet will fuel these local economies by empowering local citizens with reliable, convenient, and accessible banking solutions.”

“Our visions intersect in supporting the youth in this digital era,” Khawaja said. “We strongly believe in the youth potential to drive a country’s economic growth and to fuel the knowledge economy.”

African business associate and Angolan banker N’Gunu Tiny said: “The continent still lacks basic structure that many investors would not find attractive. The biggest challenge is to change the mindset of investors towards the continent. Historically, investor sentiment towards Africa has been shaped by the perception of a continent exploited solely for its raw materials and a headline country risk assessment. It is important that the investment community divorces from the mentality that Africa is one country.”

The traditional “western style branch” banking system is not capable of answering the present African needs, and an evolution toward a mobile framework will be the key for the 66% of the unbanked population, according to Tiny. “Africa can leapfrog to the forefront of e-commerce while aiming for the integration of digital ledger technology (blockchain) into the mix,” he adds.

With the recently endorsed single African market expected to be one of the world’s largest single markets, accounting for $4 trillion in spending and investment across 54 countries, it is not surprising where Dr Andy Khawaja’s Allied Wallet and its partnership team are focusing their attention—nor why some of the industry’s forward-thinking heavy-weights are backing them.

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