We always knew the Africa Fintech Summit would be home to brilliant ideas not just from the speakers, panelists and moderators, it was also going to blow trends wide open. And that it did.
Moderated by the Chief Content Director, Harry Hare, the illustrious panel comprised of Lorna Hardie, Regional Director, Sub Saharan Africa, VMware – who broke the news that VMware is finally settling in Kenya as part of their expansion strategy, Laila Macharia, Non-Executive Director, Absa Group, Kevin Mutiso, Chairman, Digital Lenders Association, and Lanre Bamisebi, Group Director IT & Operations Director, Equity Group Holdings Plc. The panel discussed fintech technologies, emerging with one thing in common – the opportunities in fintech lie in the gaps.
The technologies are remarkable from Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning (ML) to blockchain, but it is the customer-centric focus of the panel, and fintech, that won the day.
It was also interesting when the panel agreed that the best way forward was not competition between banks and within the fintech community – which inspired a lot of rivalries. Naturally, the banks will not take the fintech revolution lying down. And fintech, the new kids of the block, are excited about breaking the mold. Still, the collaboration would take into account the roles each has to play. Roles that have been upended. Before the 2008 crisis, banking was the ecosystem. Now, with fintech, banks are part of the ecosystem. Not the entire ecosystem.
On that note, the fintech industry develops products and services around saving, investing, insurance, and engagement. It is also easier for fintech because they are focused on one thing – payments. Fintech also have the advantage of infrastructure – they don’t need to create it. Not like the banks do. Banks, on the other hand, must build infrastructure, building rails for fintech.
One last thing that the panel agreed on was how regulation matters. Obviously, it does not come before innovation. Regulation, if anything, was a mixture of challenging, burdensome and sprightly regulation and policies. But, engagement with the government rose up as a key issue. It turns out Africa is one of the most highly regulated systems in the world and there are different regulatory bodies doing different things. It is also home to innovative regulation, particularly around mobile banking. Kenya has also been afforded opportunities to engage, and so far, collaboration with the government has not been as robust as it could be.
Engagement with the powers that be is where the juice is worth the squeeze.