Amid Africa's digital evolution, Beyond ONE emerges as a pioneer, driving transformative technologies. In an exclusive interview, Hani El Kukhun, CEO for the Middle East and Africa at Beyond ONE, discusses Beyond ONE's pioneering initiatives, its steadfast commitment to financial inclusion, and its strategic blueprint for maintaining market leadership in Africa.

How is Beyond ONE leading Africa's digital transition, and what innovative technologies are driving this shift?

‘Beyond ONE is at the forefront of driving digital transformation around the world and will impact Africa's digital transformation, specifically targeting financial inclusion for the unbanked and underbanked. Our approach centers on harnessing world-class international remittance technologies to connect communities globally, enabling individuals to send money to their loved ones instantly and securely, whether through bank accounts, mobile wallets, or an extensive network of cash pick-up agents.

Innovation lies at the heart of our strategy. Through strategic partnerships, Beyond ONE delivers cutting-edge solutions that range from simple money transfers to comprehensive services in lending, saving, and investing. All these offerings are integrated into seamless digital experiences, accessible right at the fingertips of our customers. This approach not only democratizes financial services but also introduces advanced financial solutions to traditionally underserved markets.

Our commitment to innovation extends to the user experience. Beyond ONE prioritizes a simple, intuitive digital interface that ensures all our customers, regardless of their technical background, can navigate our services with ease and convenience. This user-centric design philosophy is key to making sophisticated financial services accessible to everyone, thereby enhancing their economic participation and empowerment.’

Financial inclusion is one of the main challenges in the African continent. Has Beyond ONE launched any initiatives to promote financial inclusion in Africa?

‘Africa is on the roadmap, but our success and plans in the Middle East with our vision of fintech are to serve different communities whether they are unbanked with no access to banks or underbanked being offered limited services by banks due to lying into a specific income bracket.

We aim to bring the best financial services to these communities and empower them with simple digital experiences, whether to do local transfers and international remittances, or to get a reliable and rewarding prepaid card to use for payments, and many more services on the lending and saving sides that caters to their needs and ambitions. 

With our launches in the Middle East, the African communities will seamlessly get access to their connections in Africa with the digital fintech services that are launched and will be launched in time to come. This will enable the first part of connecting Africa and when we roll out the rest of the services in Africa, we will be able to serve these communities from a two-way perspective.’

Beyond ONE has launched FRiENDi in KSA, Oman and Kuwait. Do you plan on introducing this service in Africa?

‘Building on our experience in KSA, Oman, and Kuwait, yes, we plan on bringing our fintech services to Africa. Our focus is on providing simple products that work for our customers, introducing synergies between mobile and fintech offerings, bringing real value to our target segment into user-friendly digital journeys that enhance accessibility and convenience. Our profound success so far has given us confidence that our services will be very relevant. For example in Saudi Arabia, we had more than 1M app downloads and over 400,000 of our customers already sending their transactions through FRiENDi Pay.

It is clear that our service is set to become an essential part of daily life for millions of users. Friendi Pay is and will be designed to support financial inclusion with secure, easy-to-use features and services tailored to meet the unique needs of African markets.’

How does Beyond ONE's acquisition strategy, including investments like Virgin Mobile Middle East and Africa, align with its vision of transforming personalized digital ecosystems to enrich consumer experiences?

‘Beyond ONE's acquisition strategy, including notable investments such as Virgin Mobile Middle East and Africa and Virgin Mobile Latin America in 7 countries so far, is strategically aligned with its vision to transform and enrich consumer experiences through personalized digital ecosystems. Here’s how this approach is implemented:

  • Enhancing Data Capabilities through Acquisitions: This enriches Beyond ONE’s data capabilities, enabling deeper consumer insights. This data-driven approach allows for the creation of highly personalized financial products and services, catering to specific consumer preferences and needs.
  • Expanding Service Offerings: By integrating diverse fintech solutions from acquired entities, Beyond ONE can offer a broader range of services—such as payments, lending, insurance, and wealth management—under one ecosystem. This not only simplifies the consumer experience but also encourages more frequent engagement within the platform and caters to all the community needs in a single app for all financial services.
  • Cross-sector Synergies: Incorporating companies in the mobile business will allow Beyond ONE to create cross-sector synergies that enhance consumer value. For example, leveraging mobile technology to streamline access to financial services, or using telecom customer behavior data to refine credit scoring models.
  • Scalability and Market Penetration: Acquisitions provide a fast track to scalability and deeper market penetration, essential for creating expansive digital ecosystems. They allow Beyond ONE to quickly adapt to local market conditions and consumer trends, accelerating the delivery of tailored financial solutions.
  • Innovation and Competitiveness: Integrating innovative technologies and platforms from acquisitions keeps Beyond ONE at the forefront of the fintech revolution. This not only enhances their competitive edge but also fosters a culture of continuous innovation within the digital ecosystem.

In summary, Beyond ONE's acquisition strategy is integral to building a comprehensive and interconnected digital ecosystem that offers personalized and seamless financial services. This approach not only enriches consumer experiences but also drives greater financial inclusion and engagement across diverse markets.’

Could you elaborate on the role of data analytics and artificial intelligence within Beyond ONE's fintech initiatives, and how these technologies contribute to transitioning to a techco?

‘Data and analytics are at the core of the transformation of Beyond ONE and the Beyond ONE vision. This forms the main cases for us to be able to deliver the following:

  1. Enhanced Customer Insights: Data analytics enables a deep understanding of customer behaviors and preferences, facilitating the creation of personalized financial products.
  2. Efficient Decision-Making: AI improves decision-making in credit scoring and fraud detection, making these processes faster and more accurate, which enhances operational efficiency.
  3. Personalization at Scale: AI tailors services and marketing to individual users in real-time.Also, guiding customers on their next best financial decisions through AI is becoming more and more important when we look at investment and saving decisions, which will eventually increase customer satisfaction and loyalty.
  4. Enhanced Security: AI continuously monitors transactions to detect and respond to security threats instantly, safeguarding user data and trust.
  5. Customer Engagement and Retention: Predictive analytics are used to enhance customer engagement strategies, improving retention rates.

These technologies are pivotal in transforming Beyond ONE into a techco by driving innovation, efficiency, and customer-centric growth.

How do you foresee the future of fintech adoption, and what initiatives are planned to maintain Beyond ONE’s leadership position?

‘We at Beyond ONE believe the journey starts with laying the foundation, making all the basic financial services accessible to the unbanked and the underbanked communities, and introducing the right financial literacy as we evolve from the paper and card economy to the digital tokenized economy.

We believe we will be able to play an important role in introducing our communities to the world of the digital economy, handholding and educating them by providing the right services at the right time with a simple and intuitive customer experience. 

With fintech, mobile, and travel being core digital services launched and served by Beyond ONE this year, we aim to enhance the customer experience by providing hyper-personalization for our customers through a community concept where the common interests across these three verticals are presented to our customers based on their interest and needs. They will not have to scour the internet for the services that are most applicable to them; we will present them in a trustworthy fashion. As we continue this journey, we will expand into other verticals to bring more services to our customers.’

What strategic goals and priorities have you set for the African region in 2024 to excel in the market and ensure ongoing competitiveness?

‘In our first horizon, we are focusing on building the core foundations, platforms, customer analytics, data artificial intelligence, with the most advanced machine learning capability to present the most digital user-friendly experience to our communities. We plan on connecting the African community with our existing operations and then bring these services to the African region in time to come. Our Beyond ONE vision is disruptive, and this disruption will be global.’

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