3 Financial Pains as Told by Egyptian Entrepreneurs

Written by
Nadine El Shiaty

Failing to open a local business bank account and accomplishing the mission overseas –often through personal connections – is a scenario that rings true for many entrepreneurs in one of the fastest growing entrepreneurial ecosystems in MENA, Egypt.

Over 85% of Egypt’s SMEs depend on informal sources of finance, with 40% of all business transactions cash-based. Startups struggle to make online business payments because traditional banks weren’t built to serve them.

Egyptian startup founders share three major financial pains: difficulties opening bank accounts, challenges navigating cross-border payments and daunting bureaucracy.

1- Opening bank accounts is difficult

In Egypt, only 50% of startups and SMEs have access to corporate banking services as risk-averse banks are reluctant to finance startups for fear of high transaction costs, less profitability, and inconsistent income streams.

Founder and CEO of renewable energy and waste-management startup, Tagaddod, Nour El-Assal, said opening a business bank account or getting a business credit card takes a long time, and he is left with personal liability for business expenses.

“We’re doing a lot of online subscriptions and those can only be done with credit cards,” El-Assal said, adding that he wishes for a solution that accelerates the long due-diligence process.

2- Challenges navigating digital and cross-border payments

Egyptian entrepreneurs resort to ineffective solutions to handle their cross-border payments like advertising, digital subscriptions and international bookings. Some even use—and often max out—their personal credit cards for business expenses, which getting reimbursed can be a hassle.

“The banks wouldn’t allow us to issue credit cards for the company, so we use our personal credit cards which have lower limits than the spending we need for our advertising and digital ad campaigns for Facebook and Google,” CEO and co-founder of telecom optimization app, Raseedi told us.

CEO of Arqam FC, Ali El Fakharany says handling slow, cross-geography payments between his Egypt and London offices is a major pain point.

“The banking system currently set-up in Egypt isn’t equipped to handle a growing company like ours.”

3- Daunting bureaucracy

Overwhelming paperwork and extensive verification process required by banks, make opening a startup bank account quite daunting. “The problem is, they ask you for a lot of papers and documents to get started. As a startup, it’s a hassle to arrange all of this just to get a business credit card,” said Ahmed Shehata, Head of Tech at bus-booking application, Buseet.

Local banks in Egypt —and around the world— failed to leverage technology for a better, more efficient customer experience, while the end-to-end account opening process is still undigitized.  

How Tribal can help

Tribal was designed after years of frustration from rigid banking regulations that left many startups underbanked.

Founded by serial entrepreneurs who leveraged their proprietary algorithm technology to underwrite startups, Tribal Credit caters to entrepreneurs who struggle to access traditional financial services like opening bank accounts, issuing business credit cards and making cross-border payments.

By offering interest-free corporate cards, which allow startups in emerging markets to make hassle-free payments and fully control their business expenses, Tribal aims to bridge the financial inclusion gap. Tribal is determined to make financial services accessible to all businesses irrespective of their net worth, size, or geographic location.