Ismail Ibrahim Ahmed is the founder and chairman of the money-transfer business WorldRemit and the Sahan Foundation International director.
Ahmed was born and raised in Hargeisa, Somaliland. He received a World Bank scholarship at the start of the Somali Civil War to study economics at the University of London in the UK.
When the war broke out, his family helped him smuggle out of Somaliland to the UK as a refugee.
Ahmed worked several part-time jobs while attending school, including strawberry harvesting in Kent and delivering money to family members in Somaliland.
He valued the act of sending money home because it was the custom of other family members who had international jobs to support those in need back in Somaliland.
However, when the time and money requirements of carrying out transactions to send money home became unaffordable, Ismail Ahmed started to wonder whether there was a “better way to accomplish this.”
Ahmed holds an MBA from London Business School and a PhD in economics from the University of London.
Ismail Ahmed’s career path
Prior to joining the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Ahmed worked for a World Bank agricultural development project in Hargeisa, Somaliland. There, he assisted with the management of a money transfer initiative.
In 1988, he reported corruption he had seen in the organisation’s Somalia program to his boss “I took my boss’ warning that I would never be able to work in remittances again very seriously when he told me that if I went and submitted the dossier.
I was fired for trying to expose the deception.” Later, it was determined that the UNDP had treated him unfairly, and a settlement of $241 million was given to him.
Ahmed finally started formulating the concept for a mobile money transfer service that would compete with regular money transfer services and banks’ higher prices for comparable services.
Ahmed enrolled in an executive MBA program at London Business School to obtain a formal business education before starting the company. He then started WorldRemit in 2010.
Many people throughout the world who don’t have bank accounts but might at least have access to a mobile phone now have a chance due to the shift of transactions to mobile devices.
Ahmed was ranked number one in the Powerlist 2020, an annual list of the 100 most influential people of African descent in the UK, which was published in October 2019.
The Top 10 Most Influential Africans in the Diaspora list was introduced by his company the following year in an effort to study and honour the accomplishments of African immigrants to the USA.
Launching Sahamiye Foundation
Through his Sahamiye Foundation, Ahmed established a $500 million fund to support Somaliland’s infrastructure, healthcare, and education.
The effort, according to the fintech company at the time, will assist Somaliland in moving away from “conventional patterns of donor funding and towards a more entrepreneurial, scale-up approach.”
The Sahamiye Foundation has offices in both London and Somaliland’s capital, Hargeisa.
Since its establishment in 2010, WorldRemit has developed into a well-known brand worldwide, especially in Africa. It claims to have more than 5.7 million users.
Ahmed’s 20 years of experience in the money transfer business and his position with international lenders culminated in the creation of WorldRemit.