The Middle East and Africa (MEA) region is generally an up and coming region with respect to its wider economic development. Specifically, the region has seen a growth and importance in fintech, producing its own unique innovations, entrepreneurs and thought leaders in the space. As The Fintech Times in September celebrates the Women in Fintech we take a moment to hear more from some of the leading female leaders in both the Middle East and Africa. One of them is Fatema Ebrahim from the Kingdom of Bahrain, an expert in fintech and financial technology.
Fatema is the CEO & Founder of Andra Public Relations – A Bahrain-based Public Relations & Corporate Communications firm with a prime focus on Financial Technology and specialised sectors. Under Andra’s initiatives, the team runs the annual FinTech series in partnership with the Capital Club Bahrain. The 2nd Edition was launched in June 2020 with Brinc Batelco for their 6th session.
In February 2018, Fatema was appointed by HRH Crown Prince to be part of the new board of directors for the Bahrain Economic Development Board (EDB), for the term 2018 – 2021. In addition, Fatema is a Board Member and the Public Relations Director of the Women in Fintech Initiative (WIFBH). She is also a Committee Member in the Technology committee under the BDSMES in the Chamber of Commerce.
Fatema is heavily involved within the fintech scene in the Kingdom leading several initiatives in the sector. She was selected on Lattice80’s list of top-100 female fintech leaders and was recognized as Bahrain’s most influential woman twice in a row. Fatema has a Master’s in Public Relations & Corporate Communications from New York University (NYU) and a Professional Development Certificate Program in fintech from Georgetown University.
Describe your career journey
Back in 2015, I was heavily involved in the startup ecosystem in Bahrain and I was the Founder of a payments startup that catered to instagram businesses before the fintech sector boomed. At the same time, I was a Country Manager of a global public relations company handling several clients and overseeing their initiatives in the kingdom. A few years later, I had decided to shift my role and focus on consulting fintech startups and corporates within the sector so I started my own niche public relations and communications firm called ‘Andra Public Relations’. I’m quite passionate about creating key initiatives and opportunities for startups and small businesses to extend their vision and contribute to their community and economy with their innovative solutions.
It’s been almost two years for Andra Public Relations. We now have a diverse pool of clients with a niche focus on the specialised sectors in Bahrain. In addition, we had started the fintech Series in partnership with the Capital Club which were quite successful. Our second Edition kicked off this year with Brinc Batelco and we are now planning our 7th series with a special focus on Ed Tech for the first time.
As a recognised thought leader and a female, what difficulties have you faced in your career?
- Because Andra PR is a niche firm focused on fintech – it took me time to establish that message and make an imprint in the ecosystem. Also, we are currently a small team and the company is led by 3 women. We are now just starting to have our name recognized via regional partnerships and collaborations.
- Not having many women in the sector at the beginning but that’s different now. We are seeing more women involved, we are hearing more conversations and addressing this gap. Each woman triggers other women to share and do
- Being intimidated by the sector itself since fintech is thriving more than ever, and especially in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. You feel like you need to catch up constantly. You need to be focused and create your own pace. We work with new startups in the edtech, open banking,
However, I’m blessed to be part of a country that is at the forefront of creating endless opportunities for women. There are several initiatives and programmes that have been in place to support women economically in diverse sectors. We as a nation really value women’s achievements, and highlight those to lead and empower others.
What are the future trends and predictions you see happening in the region?
The virtual shift is interesting. The way we work, eat, pay and more is changing. All of these changes have been triggered to the max by COVID19. We have also shifted to engaging more virtually, and that has unlocked various ways of engagement.
- People have been banking differently especially amidst the crisis. Especially, when it comes to Neo banks – we see more people who have shifted their way of thinking when it comes to banking and realising the simplicity when it comes to managing various transactions, bill payments and more.
- Online communications such as chatbots and other smart tools are at the forefront right now. We have several in Bahrain that are re-defining the customer service arena when it comes to virtual bookings, chat platforms for food and shopping applications and also virtual resources and help desks to support the current situation
What advice and recommendations do you want to give future female entrepreneurs and thought leaders who are based in the Middle East & Africa (MEA) region?
- Create a niche for yourself. I think that’s really important – know what area you can contribute to, and what makes you stand out to offer something to the ecosystem or to the organization that they don’t have
- Create your voice within the community and share your experience. I started writing articles sharing my thoughts, my insights early on in my career and made that consistent so people associated me with certain topics or an industry – so basically creating your voice within the ecosystem for relevant subject matters
- Join smaller groups where you can meet similar key people in the industry – this is also a way to test yourself in larger groups and to learn different perspectives
- Educating myself whenever I can. I didn’t wait to be taught; you have to be self taught for many things in a fast paced and hyper connected world.
- Connecting with people who weren’t afraid to take the plunge. You need to surround yourself with those that take risks, and are curious. I had that mindset around me, and it was valuable
- Build a network with people who are better than you. I had to learn from those who have achieved great milestones, and learned from their stories journeys and stories to build my own