A Somaliland immigrant has topped an annual list of the 100 most powerful people of African, African-Caribbean and African-American heritage in Britain.Dec 27th 2019 · 1 min read
(Photo credit: World Remit Flickr Commons)
A Somaliland immigrant has topped an annual list of the 100 most powerful people of African, African-Caribbean and African-American heritage in Britain.
Ismail Ahmed, the founder of pioneering money transfer firm WorldRemit which he set up in 2010 using compensation from the UN for exposing alleged corruption, topped this year’s Powerlist ahead of ‘grime’ artist Stormzy, the Duchess of Sussex and the footballer Raheem Sterling.
Ahmed, who grew up in the autonomous region of Somaliland, a breakaway territory that declared independence from Somalia in 1991, became interested in the money transfer industry after realising how many people relied on it.
In 1988, Ahmed left to study in London. He sent some of the money back to relatives living in a refugee camp. He then helped to run a money transfer project as part of the UN Development Programme, aiming to make a positive difference in a sector worth £545 billion and vulnerable to crime.
But Ahmed discovered alleged corruption in the UN’s Somalia remittance programme.
“My boss said if I went and submitted the dossier, I would never be able to work in remittances again. I lost my job to uncover fraud.” In February 2010 he received £200,000 in compensation from the UN for the way he had been treated after making allegations, the money he used to fund the launch of WorldRemit.
Having left the UN, Ahmed set about realising his ambition to start a mobile money transfer business. “While I was fighting for [my case] at the UN, I was also studying at the London Business School.”
During this time, he came up with a business plan for WorldRemit. It would offer a service for migrant workers to send money to countries across the world using just a smartphone and app. The service would cut out the agents needed to deal out the money.
Using a smartphone app, the service charges customers, a nominal fee and cuts out agents who formerly took a cut of the money. Michael Eboda, the Powerlist 2020 publisher, said: “Ismail is a true pioneer whose company is shaking up the remittance industry and positively impacting the lives of people around the world. His story is incredibly powerful and an inspiration to us all.”
A panel chaired by retired high court judge Dame Linda Dobbs selected the 13th Powerlist this year. It is designed to celebrate those at the top of a wide range of industries including business, science, technology and the arts.