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Thomas Pays, CEO and co-founder of digital payment gateway Ozow, has been announced a finalist in the 2019 EY Entrepreneur of the Year Awards for the Southern Africa region. These prestigious awards celebrate entrepreneurs who consistently demonstrate excellence in their businesses – and, says Pays, it’s a considerable honour to have been shortlisted.

“For the past decade, I’ve built leading digital businesses in South Africa. This award recognises trail-blazing entrepreneurs whose vision is shaping industries, creating new markets and generating employment opportunities while contributing to economic growth and development. Every one of the finalists can be immensely proud.”

Pays founded Ozow in 2014 with partners Mitchan Adams and Lyle EcksteinOzow is a disruptive, fast-growing fintech company that developed and operates an online, automated EFT payment gateway in SA and Namibia, with an eye on more key African markets. It allows immediate payment across all smart mobile and desktop devices for merchants and buyers alike. All they need is an internet banking profile.

French-born Pays’ South African story began in 2007 when he founded a gaming agency, which grew into the third largest in the world, reaching more than 118 countries in over 20 languages, by 2008. It was acquired by an international group in 2009 and is still considered one of the country’s biggest industry success stories.

Not one to sit on his laurels, in 2010 Pays established Smokoo – an auction website that grew to 2.5 million visitors in less than 6 months and was bought out in 2011. In 2013, Pays co-founded the Just Perfect digital agency which provides integrated services to corporates. He sold the agency in 2016 to focus solely on Ozow.

Ozow has attracted more than 2 million transacting consumers in SA, with household names including iStore, Builders Warehouse, CTM, Woolworths, Clicks, Waltons, Superbalist, Takealot.com, Bidvest, Hi-Fi Corporation, Netflorist, Vodacom, MTN, Mercedes-Benz, Travelstart and Flight Centre using the payment gateway.

Azim Omar, EY Africa Growth Markets Leaders says that this year’s 13 finalists demonstrate extraordinary business acumen, financial performance excellence and inspired strategic direction. “It is encouraging to see the tenacity and strong entrepreneurial spirit these business leaders have shown in their environments, which are often characterised by uncertainty and disruption. These and most entrepreneurs embrace bold thinking that often sees opportunity in adversity; a relentless drive to build a better working world; and an unwavering commitment to solving their clients’ issues.”

The EY Entrepreneur of the Year 2019 South Africa ceremony will take place on 13 November. The winner will automatically be entered for the global award, which will be announced in June 2020, in Monte Carlo.