Egyptian fintech expert Mounir Nakhla shares 5 ways African startups can harness the power of financial inclusion [Exclusive]

In September 2021, MNT-Halan announced a new $120 million investment led by Apis Growth Fund II, Development Partners International and Lorax Capital Partners. It is now consistently listed as one of the biggest and most exciting startups driving the fintech boom in the MENA region.

In this exclusive interview with Business Insider Africa, Mounir shares 5 ways African startups can harness the power of financial inclusion.

1. Understand the big picture.

A good understanding of the macroeconomic context in which you operate is essential.

According to Mounir, we are living through a digital revolution. Mobile phones are transforming the way people live and behave. They expect immediate gratification, which affects consumer expectations for social and banking activity.

“Consumers expect instant payments, instant loans, frictionless transactions, done conveniently, with a good experience.”

Mounir encourages startup founders to continuously innovate and seek out opportunities to grow their startups. According to him, identifying key business opportunities will help you develop more relevant products and services, narrow down your target market, and identify and overcome common objections.

“Over 70% of Egypt’s young and rapidly growing population of over 100 million people is financially underserved by traditional financial institutions, yet mobile phone penetration exceeds 90%. MNT-Halan’s digital solutions, including loans, BNPL, e-commerce, payments and on-demand logistics, support its mission to empower underserved communities, address inequality and economic participation of women,” says Mounir.

“We offer digital banking services to the underbanked,” he adds.

The notion of surf the wave is a universal lesson, and although it’s derived from surfing, founders can apply it to running a business. Mounir says this principle can be a guide to overcoming new and changing conditions as an entrepreneur.

After several years of experience as a serial entrepreneur, Mounir explained that the business world, like an ocean, is so unstable that you never know what you’ll get until you’re there. He adds that having a vision allows you to position yourself in the face of trends and avoid getting caught up in them.

“Earlier this year, the Egyptian President ratified the Fintech Law, which encourages the promotion of fintech tools that contribute to financial inclusion. The Central Bank of Egypt (CBE) also recently released its first report on the Egyptian fintech market, showing how seriously it takes the sector.

“This comes after years of laws and initiatives by the Egyptian government and the CBE to boost digital payments, mobile wallets and increased access to loans through microcredit and consumer credit, all for reduce Egypt’s dependence on cash and promote financial inclusion”.

“As you can imagine, we have received a significant tailwind from all of these initiatives,” Mounir said.

4. Listen to consumers and give them what they want.

Mounir explains here that constant active listening through monitoring customer feedback and conversations will allow startups to improve their performance at all levels.

According to him, when targeting potential customers, listen to their needs, wants, challenges, and frustrations with your industry. You can make life easier for your customers by putting all the financial services they need in one app – theirs.

“Understanding consumer issues and working hard to solve them economically. At MTN-Halan, we invest heavily to do this, and as a result, we are able to constantly launch new products and services to solve the problems they face. In doing so, we are constantly opening up avenues for growth.

5. Use technology to support seamless operational scalability.

According to Mounir, MNT-Halan prides itself on its technological capabilities. In addition to its payment applications and solutions, in early 2021 the company launched its proprietary core banking software and developed “Neuron”, the first and only proprietary core banking system software in the Middle East and Africa, driving enormous scalability. MNT-Halan has now combined Neuron with user and vendor applications, creating a digital ecosystem. Their finance-associated BNPL service provides an end-to-end customer experience fueling huge growth.

“We have served over four million customers and provided $2 billion in financial services to over two million borrowers. Current monthly throughput through Neuron exceeds $140 million and BNPL services are experiencing double-digit monthly growth. We are bringing the benefits of our financial inclusion services to more and more people,” says Mounir.