UAE’s technology investment firm Astra Tech has entered a deal with MoneyGram International, one of the world’s largest money transfer operators, to offer remittance services on the region’s most popular voice-calling app Botim. 

Backed by Abu Dhabi’s G42, in which sovereign wealth fund Mubadala has a significant minority stake, Astra Tech has recently acquired Botim and has plans to create a “world’s first ultra app” that will offer users everything from e-payments to instant messaging.  

The only government-approved platform to offer voice-over-internet-protocol (VoIP) services in the UAE, Botim has more than 90 million registered users. 

Through the “strategic partnership” with MoneyGram, Botim users will be able to make real-time money transfers across 200 countries and territories worldwide, Astra said on Thursday. 

“Partnering with MoneyGram will allow us to leverage their unparalleled security and offer Botim users world-class financial services,” said Abdallah Abu Sheikh, Astra Tech Founder and Botim CEO. 

Sheikh said they are “revolutionizing” remittance services by enabling users to send money as easily as sending a text message, thereby eliminating the hassles of standing in long queues and filling in forms at an exchange house or bank. 

“With Botim becoming the [Middle East and Africa] region’s most trusted consumer platform, this will enable us to extend our reach to the millions of consumers who use it, enabling seamless communication and money transfer for businesses, family and friends around the world,” said Alex Holmes, MoneyGram Chairman and CEO. 

The UAE is one of the major sources of global remittances, a vital source of income for households in low- and middle-income countries. During the first three months of 2022, remittances coursed through UAE banks amounted to AED2.88 trillion ($784 billion), according to central bank data. 

Sheikh noted that with nearly nine million expatriates living in the UAE, their deal with MoneyGram positions the remittance company to accelerate its digital growth further and promote financial inclusion in the region. 

He said that Botim is “uniquely positioned” to reach up to 1.2 billion users throughout the Middle East and North Africa region in the next few years, citing that the region has a huge population of expatriates and strong demand for VoIP services. 

(Reporting by Cleofe Maceda; editing by Seban Scaria)