Financial technology as we know it continues to expand and challenge traditional methods of financial services, and Africa is set to take centre stage in moving the sector ahead and opening up to potential investor markets. Fintech startups across Africa are not the only ones opening up or looking out for seed funding as global investors, from Silicon Valley venture capital firms to international financial institutions and giants also want a bite of the cherry.
Thus, it was no surprise when Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced at the Africa Investment Conference last month that “Africa is the future and the UK intends to be the trade and investment partner of choice as Africa marches on to its true potential”. It was in light of this that the UK Department for International Trade opened its doors, albeit virtually, to host the UK-Africa Fintech Summit on the 3 and 4 February 2021. There, it showcased prominent innovations from the UK FinTech industry and set them side by side with new and exciting opportunities from their African counterparts.
The event brought together over 1,000 registrants from across the UK and Africa. The sessions engaged and integrated various parts of the industry’s ecosystem with FinTech experts and leaders discussing measures to improve financial inclusion and penetration across Africa, ways through which we can all contribute to revolutionising FinTech in Africa, and the possibilities of ‘going green with finance’.
Her Majesty’s Trade Commissioner for Africa, Emma Wade-Smith, speaking at the event said that the summit is part of a wider series of the Africa Investment Conference, in particular, sectors and markets across Africa. She called on investors to explore the sector, and discover the UK offer while building new partnerships and developing new ideas.
On the M-Pesa and Africa’s Fintech Revolution session, Chris Williamson, Managing Director of M-Pesa, one of Africa’s biggest payments platforms, discussed their journey as an emerging stakeholder in FinTech. He also shared fascinating facts and figures from the African Fintech industry and touched on core values influencing business creation for women, amongst others.
In addition, Steven Gray, from UK Export Finance, led some of the panellists to discuss the role of FinTech in a post-COVID economic recovery. The discussion was centred around advancements created due to COVID, exploring green finance options and the role of regulators with regards to the pandemic pushing for a quicker leap into FinTech evolution. An example from Tunisia was shared where the regulatory ‘sandbox’ is already actively protecting the consumer and ensuring their service providers are ready to serve the market.
There was an opportunity to learn about compelling statistics in FinTech, the utility of mobile money with an example of a cashless society in Somalia, and how its mobile money resolved safety issues. There were also lessons shared for young and established FinTech companies alike aspiring to expand across the African market. Lessons which cut across consumer monitoring including behaviours, trends, enabling accessibility, innovation, reliability, security and focusing on enhancing the lives of unbanked individuals, while reducing the costs of remittance.
At Aequitas Global, we recognise that Africa, together with its large youth population is indeed well placed to take financial technology to the leading edge. The digital age has impacted lives around the world and it will be fascinating to see it explored alongside African FinTech, bringing solutions to unemployment, financial issues and creating sustainable development for many less privileged communities across Africa.