Fintech’s future is in the palm of users’ hands — literally

How Astra Tech’s Palm Pay is revolutionizing contactless payment
Fintech’s future is in the palm of users’ hands — literally
Abdallah Abu Sheikh is the founder of Astra Tech and CEO of Botim.

An interesting and insightful conversation with Abdallah Abu Sheikh, founder of Astra Tech and CEO of Botim. He takes us through the strategy behind Palm Pay and provides insights into the region’s fintech industry. He emphasizes innovation, financial inclusion, and the use of artificial intelligence (AI) for social impact.

Astra Tech is at the forefront of the digital revolution in the MENA region. As the founder, what do you think are the biggest challenges that MENA tech companies face?

Achieving a meaningful digital revolution requires ensuring that no one is left behind, this is especially necessary in the context of how rapidly the technology landscape is evolving, meaning that solutions need to be accessible to the masses that it’s being created for.

Therefore, I see two primary challenges for tech companies here. Firstly, ensuring widespread access to technology and digital solutions is crucial. Reliable and affordable internet access is vital for digital adoption. While the GCC boasts a commendable 92 percent internet penetration rate, the northern Africa region lags significantly behind at only 64.5 percent. This discrepancy highlights the need to bridge the digital divide to ensure equitable access to technology across the region.

Secondly, addressing financial inclusion is critical for the advancement of tech companies, particularly in the fintech sector. Despite the rapid growth of fintech in the region, 32 percent of the UAE population remains unbanked. This disparity underscores the importance of expanding access to digital financial services and overcoming barriers to financial inclusion. By tackling these challenges head-on, we can create a more inclusive and prosperous digital future for all in the MENA region.

You recently launched Palm Pay at the Dubai Fintech Summit. Can you share with us how this contactless palm recognition service could revolutionize the payment process?

Palm Pay is more than just another way to make payments — it’s a bold leap toward a cashless future in the UAE. By introducing secure palm recognition alongside other digital methods like cards and phones, we are in the process of rewriting the rules of the game.

The essence of Palm Pay’s contribution lies in its use of biometric authentication, guaranteeing unparalleled security. Our aim has always been to facilitate seamless, secure, and inclusive payment experiences, diminishing reliance on physical currency and enhancing transaction efficiency and security on a global scale. Palm Pay’s success has the potential to ignite further advancements in biometrics and contactless payment technologies.

Our vision is to work toward a future where payments are seamless and where technology works for people — making life smoother, safer, and downright simpler. Palm Pay is part of that vision coming to life.

Security is a major concern for digital payment users. Can you elaborate on the security measures Palm Pay employs, especially in terms of biometric authentication?

Security is paramount in Palm Pay’s design, and our commitment to protecting user data is unmatched. Palm Pay distinguishes itself by employing advanced biometric authentication, utilizing your unique palm print as a highly secure identifier.

Biometric authentication has proven to be 1,300 times more secure than other methods, significantly reducing the risk of fraud and unauthorized transactions. For instance, while phones or cards can be stolen, hacked into, or broken, biometric payment ensures that the payment is coming directly from the user. Therefore, the human palm, with its many unique identifiers, offers exceptional security. And, we hope to make this feature readily available for our people so they can potentially enjoy greater peace of mind, knowing their financial transactions are better protected.

Looking ahead, what are the next big technology horizons in the MENA region, and how is Astra Tech planning to be a part of these developments?

Given the rapid wave of AI, I believe it’s fair to say that the next big horizon in the MENA region would be its widespread adoption. At Astra Tech, we’re fully engaged in leveraging AI to drive innovation and drive the region forward. Our focus on integrating AI into our platform, such as through conversational AI within our app, speaks to this commitment.

Ensuring that our AI-driven solutions are creative and tailored to the uniqueness of the market, we introduced “Arabic ChatGPT”, which was the first conversational AI in the Arabic language in the world from the UAE.

Additionally, this year, during Ramadan, we also launched “CharityGPT” in partnership with Ma’an on the Botim app, allowing users to donate in a straightforward ChatGPT-style. With simple text commands, users could contribute to the cause, demonstrating our commitment to using AI for social impact. This initiative also underscores our belief in the power of technology to drive positive change in the communities we serve.

Read more: Fostering customer-centric value with fintech

How do your subsidiaries, Botim, Payby, and Rizek, complement each other under the Astra Tech umbrella?

With Astra Tech, we’re building an ecosystem of ecosystems, driving various fintech innovations and consumer products that fuel meaningful technological progress in the region. All of our subsidiaries are integral parts of this ecosystem. Therefore, Botim, Payby, and Rizek aren’t standalone entities but rather essential components of a foundation driving transformative change at both regional and global levels.

At the core of this ecosystem, we’ve positioned Botim, transforming it to become the world’s first ultra app. Through this transformation, Botim’s social services, such as VoIP and instant messaging, seamlessly integrate with Astra Tech’s fintech services, including PayBy, as well as other essential offerings provided by Rizek. This technological fusion facilitates a smooth flow of transactions and services, enhancing user experiences through a connected approach.

Astra Tech Pay Palm

Could you elaborate on how Palm Pay fits into the broader ecosystem of services that Astra Tech offers?

Palm Pay is an integral component of Astra Tech’s vision to disrupt the financial ecosystem. In the near future, Palm Pay will seamlessly integrate with other Astra Tech services, enabling users to conduct transactions within the Ultra App across various functionalities. However, the patented tech also aims to urge other market players to innovate, as we’ve seen a stagnant approach lately. Regardless, this integration will transform the Ultra App into a centralized hub for all financial activities, simplifying money management for users.

Notably, all of our efforts are pushing inclusivity and accessibility, supporting individuals who may lack access to traditional banking channels to participate in the digital economy. As we prepare for Palm Pay’s rollout, we remain committed to constant innovation. We understand that the world is incredibly diverse, and a one-size-fits-all approach will not always work.

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Disclaimer: Opinions conveyed in this article are solely those of the author. The information presented in this article is intended for informational purposes only. It does not constitute advice on tax and legal matters; neither are they financial or investment recommendations. Refer to our full disclaimer policy here.