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 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 Raja Al Mazrouei from the United Arab Emirates (UAE), who currently works in a senior leadership position at the city’s financial centre, Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC).
Raja Al Mazrouei is the Executive Vice President of FinTech Hive at the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC). Raja oversees this innovation initiative where over 50 per cent of fintech firms in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) are now based. Programmes through the FinTech Hive bring together key stakeholders from financial institutions, government entities, technology partners, venture capitalists and entrepreneurs to develop technologies for the financial services industry. Her aim is to accelerate the adoption of tech within the financial services sector and further differentiate Dubai as the region’s leading destination for fintech.
Describe your career journey
My journey began when as a coder in the tech world having graduated in Information Technology. I then held a number of technical roles supporting the back office operations of large corporations.
In 2014 I had the opportunity to take on a role in marketing for the financial services sector, which enabled me to learn about the industry and interact with many key players and stakeholders in the sector. During that time I was also able to start spotting opportunities for bringing together technology and financial services for the benefit of end users.
My passion for learning took me to Harvard Business School, where I continue to stay involved in their Alumni and member of Harvard Business School global advisory board. I enjoyed gaining more knowledge there and apply this in current position.
I have been able to combine my leadership skills, experience and academic background with technical expertise to launch and grow the region’s first FinTech accelerator at DIFC.
As a recognised thought leader and a female, what difficulties have you faced in your career?
Unconscious gender bias can be challenge in male dominated sectors like finance and technology. However, that has only made me be more determined to stand out based on ability and achievements. I have a supportive employer who champions diversity which I am grateful for.
Work-life balance can be a challenge for females especially when they have families. Increasingly, employers understand this and focus on outputs and contribution rather than traditional ways of working. Furthermore, can be more reserved in addressing topics such as promotion, pay and career progression.
What are the future trends and predictions you see happening in the region?
The trends that I see happening in the region are:
- A surge in the adoption of tech across sectors due to a young population and consumer behaviour.
- Growth in the SME sector contribution to the economy due to supportive regulation and infrastructure.
- Growth in VC funding and investments in regional start-ups.
- Diversity and inclusion recognised as drivers of success for corporates and organisations.
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?
I would advise female entrepreneurs to take charge of their own career progression, and to be open and willing to take up roles in tech and innovation as it is transforming all industry sectors.
I would also advise future female entrepreneurs to connect with a like-minded network, to tap into greater opportunities within their career, to start investing in start-ups and to use every day as an opportunity to learn.