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How Africa Fintech Festival Lifts Continent’s Firms

Ondo State Governor Rotimi Akeredolu (left) with Aina and others at the ceremony in Akure

Dr. Segun Aina is the President, FinTech NGR; Chairman, FinTech Associates Ltd; and Convener, African FinTech Network. He has just been conferred with a honorary degree, Doctor of Science, Management by Federal University of Technology, Akure (FUTA). In this interview, he speaks on FintechNGR and other issues.

The Fintech Association of Nigeria was the answer to the collaboration call at the 1st edition of thec, how has FintechNGR thrived since inception about a year ago?
We had the first FinTech conference in April 2017, and one of the fallouts of that conference is the need to put together Nigerian FinTech Technology Eco System, which does not only include startups, but also involves users of such services like the banks, insurance companies and many others. So we then kept it upon ourselves to create the FinTech Association of Nigeria which today has over 60 corporate members spread across several sectors. We have University of Ibadan, University of Nsukka and many others as members. We also fourteen banks as members, include First Bank, Access Bank, Eco Bank, Stanbic IBTC and a whole lot of them. We also have big law firms, about eight of them as members. We have technology players and investors in our rank. We even have the media as members. We also partner consulting firms like Pricewaterhousecoopers (PWC), Delloite and many others. So through this memberships, we have been able to have access to resources that has allowed us to see how we can improve the system.

Our three cardinal points are Connect, Advocate and Accelerate. Connect means bringing people together. By this, we are always holding events where we discuss various issues, and hear from each other. Our second cardinal principle which is Advocate is one are we have done very well since inception. In terms of advocacy, we have interfaced with a lot of government agencies and associations like the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), National Insurance Commission (NIC), Security and Exchange Commission (SEC), Nigerian Communication Commission (NCC) and all of these agencies of government are very happy that we are having our next conference from today. They all believe it’s a conference that will help the system.

We have also related with the National Assembly, the Senate President, Senate Committees, House of Reps Committees, and they are all very eager to work with us to push the frontiers of knowledge and advance the cause of innovation in this country. So by and large, the FinTech Association of Nigeria in the eighteen month of existence has done very well, and we want to do better, that was why two weeks ago, we had our strategy session which was aimed at designing a roadmap for the next three years. That session was facilitated by PriceWaterhouseCooper(PWC), one of the leading consulting firms in the world, and we hope that in the next few days, we will start to work on that roadmap and see how we hope to achieve all our set out goals.

This very conference is tagged Africa Fintech Festival. Why the shift from the conventional National FinTech Conference series?
When we had the first conference, one of the outcomes was the need to bring together FinTech leaders and players to form FinTech Association of Nigeria. Again, one of the things we set out to do is to look at how we can loop African FinTech leaders together, because we discovered that a lot of our FinTech start-ups of different companies are now trying to move into other African countries. A lot of banks are doing that, moving into other African countries. We therefore saw the need to have an African FinTech Network where we will all be working together, exchanging ideas. Africa has a lot of common issues, challenges and opportunities, so instead of us working separately, we thought of how can we work together to harness those resources and strength. How can a company based in Nigeria work out initiatives that will solve issues not just in Nigeria, but on the African continent. We now thought that there must be an annual gathering that will bring all of us together, that was what led to the African FinTech Festival. This does not stop us from having our National FinTech Festival. The first African FinTech Festival is holding in Nigeria, where we will be launching the African FinTech Network which will be a network of African countries. Subsequently, African FinTech Festival will be taken from one country to another country on the African continent. This is so because we just don’t want to be promoting businesses among ourselves but we want o be supporting initiatives of organizations like the African Union (AU) and its agenda 2063

FinTech startups are now redefining retail banking. How are the initiatives that you are championing affecting this and what is the next big thing for Fintechs in Nigeria?
Nigeria is a large country with huge population, but about 40 percent of that population does not have access to basic financial services. Most of the rural areas maybe do not have bank branches, and those that have maybe have closed them down. Some of them have micro finance banks, but such banks are too small to serve the financial needs of these rural areas. You don’t expect commercial banks to be in every nook and cranny of the country due to the huge cost involved in setting up branches everywhere. That is where the opportunity lies for start-ups and small FinTech companies to come up with solutions that are digital in order to reach many people.

Today, with the advent of the mobile phones and the internet, digitalization have become easy for many people. For instance, there are now digital lenders who have been lending money to hundreds of people without seeing them face-to-face. The digital lenders have details of the people they are lending money, but they mostly don’t have face-to-face contact. That is the power of technology, helping to deliver services to a larger number of people which would not have been possible physically.

Technology shortens such environment. However, what we have always been advocating is that deposit money banks, that is the conventional banks should not see these small companies as competitors but as collaborators. They need to collaborate together. These small companies have the idea, they are digitally savvy, but don’t have the financial scale that conventional banks enjoy. Banks have the capital, they have the resources and the customers, so when there is partnership, it becomes a win-win situation. So a lot of banks are now looking at partnering start-ups, partnering with FinTech. Many banks are now involved in incubating ideas from these start-ups. When everybody have access to financial services in the country, it improves the economic standing of the country.

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