In June, Halan entered a share swap agreement with MNT, a Netherlands-based microlending company. The agreement came on the heels of MNT’s acquisition of 100 percent of the shares of Raseedy, the first independent digital wallet licensed by the Central Bank of Egypt (CBE). Under the terms of the agreement, a new entity was created with the name MNT-Halan.
MNT-Halan also stands as the first fintech enterprise to acquire the necessary licenses to disburse micro, consumer and nano financing.
“Our strength is our lending business, and we are building on it,” he added. “We have more than 750,000 active borrowers and have provided business and consumer loans to millions of Egyptians. Our loan book is in the hundreds of millions of dollars.”
In recent years, the Egyptian market has seen the emergence of many fintech startups, driven by country’s growing population of tech-savvy entrepreneurs. A Magnitt 2019 report shows that fintech startups accounted for the highest number of deals in Egypt, which allowed the industry to expand threefold compared to 2018. A recent report by the same regional startup data platform shows that investments poured into Egypt’s startups went up by 16 percent from 2019 to 2020.
Nakhla believes that his company has an edge over most existing fintech enterprises.
“What we’re trying to do is creating an ecosystem for the consumer and the merchant with multiple touch points,” said Nakhla. “One touch point is lending, which includes consumer loans, BNPL and business loans. Another touch point is payment, whether through our wallets and cards or bill payments, and the third touch point is our marketplace and delivery services.”
In January, MNT launched its own propriety-developed core banking system called Neuron, which Nakhla sees as a key milestone that will ensure his business’s “scalability” and “extensibility”.
“You can have any number of people pinging the system simultaneously and it scales. It can concurrently handle millions of users,” he said.
He added that this banking system is based on zero-trust security and incorporates machine learning and AI to automate credit decision and reduce risk. “Once we created this machine, we installed our backbone and our brain,” he added.
Last month, MNT-Halan announced a nine-digit circa investment, a rarity in the Egyptian startup ecosystem. The $120 million was provided by global and regional investors including Apis Growth Fund II, Development Partners International (DPI), and Lorax Capital Partners.
Nakhla acknowledged the growing interest among investors in Egypt’s emerging fintech sector.
“The financial sector is the backbone of the economy,” he said. “It’s very exciting to be digitally providing financial inclusion in a country of 100 million people and a regulatory environment that is very positive about the digitization of payments and other banking services.”
In 2019, the (CBE) unveiled a strategy that recognized fintech as a crucial pillar to promote financial inclusion and transform the country’s banking landscape. However, nearly 68 percent of Egypt’s adult population remain unbanked.
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Looking forward, Nakhla said that his company is expected to launch its own cards as well as salary advances during the last quarter of 2021. It is also planning to scale up its newly launched buy-now-pay-later product by adding more SKUs and reaching out to more users nationwide.
“Currently we have hundreds of SKUs and we are moving into the tens of thousands in 2022. A customer can use our BNPL balance for payment at check-out both online and offline. We are currently growing our marketplace through API integrations as well as on-boarding thousands of offline merchants” Nakhla said.
The company is also planning to expand beyond Egypt’s borders, namely in emerging markets with large unbanked populations, he added. “We are just warming up; we are nowhere near our full potential.”
(Reporting by Noha El Hennawy; editing by Seban Scaria)
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© ZAWYA 2021