Backbase Supports Fintech Innovation in Bahrain; Compass Plus Boosts Digital Payments in Nigeria

This week’s edition of Finovate Global takes a look at two Finovate alums that are helping support fintech innovation in the Middle East and Africa.

First up is engagement banking platform provider Backbase. The four-time Finovate Best of Show award-winning company announced this week that it has forged a new partnership with Bahrain FinTech Bay (BFB). The partnership comes under the auspices of BFB’s Venture Acceleration Platform, which seeks to boost the adoption of digital banking technology in the MENA region.

Head of Partners at Backbase Middle East Mehmet Cakal said, “This new collaboration with Bahrain FinTech Bay aligns with our continuous efforts to help banks in the region with a long-term digital strategy and support them with a holistic approach towards digital transformation, to be able to meet the demands and expectations of their customers in today’s age.”

Backbase is no stranger to the MENA fintech and financial services industry. The company, founded in 2003 and headquartered in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, has established partnerships with a number of key players in the region. This includes the National Bank of Bahrain, Banque Saudi Fransi, and the Kuwait International Bank. In fact, Backbase Middle East was awarded “Digital Banking Provider Of the Year” honors at the MEA Finance Banking Technology Summit and Awards last month.

Bahrain FinTech Bay, a leading finech hub in the region, promotes fintech innovation by incubating fintech initiatives via innovation labs, acceleration programs, curated activities, and educational opportunities. Founded in 2017, BFB launched its Venture Acceleration Platform in order to give emerging fintechs “a launch pad and bespoke go-to-market strategies” to help them scale their businesses and take advantage of opportunities in the MENA region. The platform provides those companies selected to participate in the accelerator with market intelligence, exposure to partners, as well as assistance in implementation and regional expansion.

“Our new partnership with Backbase will strengthen our mandate to bring cutting-edge technology offerings to banks and financial institutions in MENA,” Bahrain FinTech Bay CEO Bader Sater said. “Bahrain FinTech Bay is committed to providing curated opportunities for enterprises and supporting startups in the sector to accelerate their growth and expansion efforts across the region.”

Meanwhile, several hundred miles to the south and west, fellow Europe-based fintech Compass Plus is engaged in its own outreach to markets in developing economies. The U.K.-based company, a Finovate alum since 2012, announced this week that it is teaming up with Nigerian fintech Interswitch to help it enhance its payment processing capability.

Interswitch will leverage Compass Plus’ token-based, cloud-native, API-first open development payments platform, TranzAxis, to process Verve, Visa, and Mastercard credit card transactions. Six African banks already have been onboarded onto the new platform, which has enabled Sterling Bank of Nigeria to launch the country’s first Verve credit card.

“We are delighted to partner with Interswitch, one of the biggest processors in Africa,” Compass Plus MEA VP and Deputy Managing Director Adil Ahmed said. “Interswitch has always strived to drive positive change in the region, and now that they have TranzAxis to support their ambitions, they will continue to revolutionize Africa’s payment space in the region, further strengthen the Verve payments network, and manage their Visa and Mastercard credit card business more efficiently.”

Founded in 1989, Compass Plus offers banks and financial services companies retail banking software and services to enable them to better respond to their customers’ banking needs. The company’s solutions address issues from card, account, and merchant management to card personalization, payment processing, and terminal driving to self-service channel management and both mobile and e-commerce. Compass Plus’ TranzAxis technology helps financial services companies develop and support cards, payments, transaction switching, and other retail banking activities.

Headquartered in Lagos, Nigeria, Interswitch began as a nationally-focused, transaction switching and processing firm. In the 20 years since then, the firm has grown into Africa’s leading integrated payments and digital commerce platform company with more than 900 full-time workers across Africa – 40% of whom are women. Named “Fintech of the Year” at the 2022 African Banker Awards last month, Interswitch also last month secured a strategic investment from LeapFrog Investments and Tana Africa Capital. The amount of the funding was not disclosed.

“The evolution of fintech in Nigeria and the broader sub-Saharan region has been driven by the need to solve challenges and barriers that exist within the traditional financial system,” Interswitch founder and Group Chief Executive Mitchell Elegbe said. “Interswitch was born from the need to develop solutions that match the unique needs of local customers and merchants.”

Here is our look at fintech innovation around the world.

Central and Eastern Europe

Middle East and Northern Africa

Central and Southern Asia

Latin America and the Caribbean


Sub-Saharan Africa

Photo by Satheesh Cholakkal