Finnovation Africa Uganda 2017 Opens: Over 300 Fintech Leaders Come Together to Drive Banking & Financial Services Transformation

On Friday, Finnovation Africa: Uganda 2017 opened in Kampala and brought together more than 300 fintech leaders that are seeking to drive the constructive transformation of banking and financial services across Africa. 

According to the organizers, the conference opened with a keynote session featuring international fintech thought leader Chris Principe, CEO of Chain2Trade, Inc. and Founder of the FinFuture magazine and Financial IT magazine, and Evans Munyuki, Chief Digital and Information Officer (CDIO) of MyBucks, who deliberated on Harnessing the Impact of  fintech to Deliver Constructive Economic and Social Outcomes for Africa – What makes fintech in Africa unique.

Finnovation Africa: Uganda organizers also noted that the event saw an intense debate on whether fintech is disrupting the existing architectures on the continent or is building an entirely new infrastructure that is leapfrogging the established business models to make financial services more relevant, affordable and accessible across the continent. Katherine Liew, Head of Digital Disruption of Barclays Africa Group Limited; Barbara Birungi, Co-Founder of Hive Colab; Lelemba Phiri, Chief Marketing Officer of Zoona; Karibu Nyaggah, Founder and Managing Partner of Caytree Partners; and Peter Kawumi, Innovations Specialist of FSDU, led the session.

Another event highlight was a panel discussion on how fintech can help bring banking and financial services to the under-banked in Africa. The panelists consisted of Olumuyiwa Asagba, CEO of Interswitch East Africa (Uganda) Limited; Wayne Hennessy-Barrett, CEO of 4G Capital; Benedikt Kramer, Co-Founder and CEO of awamo GmbH; Agata Szydlowska, Head of Financial Inclusion and Credit Bureau Awareness of Creditinfo Group; Rashmi Pillai, Digital Financial Services Specialist of CGAP, World Bank; and Ronald Rwakigumba, Agri-Fin Mobile Uganda Country Coordinator of Mercy Corps; and the session was chaired by Edwin Mucai, Head: Corporate and Investment Banking of Stanbic Bank Uganda.

Speaking about the event and Africa’s fintech progress, Principe stated:

“A very positive story, if one that is not yet well understood, is unfolding in Africa. New technology, new ideas and new business models are producing new opportunities. The distinctions between telecom services providers, payments services providers and financial institutions are breaking down. In virtually all African countries, there are sufficient numbers of mobile phones – which are not necessarily smartphones –  for previously unbanked people to have access to high quality financial services at low cost. Innovative companies are using Blockchain technology and crypto-currencies to resolve fundamental problems such as lack of access to electricity and lack of access to global financial markets. Finnovation Africa: Uganda highlights how fintech is transforming Africa for the better, facilitating payments, boosting financial inclusion and developing new enterprises. However, the conference does much more than that, as it engages key stakeholders to reveal how the entire world is changing. In many ways, Africa is a fintech leader, rather than a follower.”

Wilbrod Humphrey Owor, Executive Director of the Uganda Bankers’ Association, noted:

“The banking industry across Africa is being transformed as a result of new financial technology and disruptive innovation. fintech players have the ability to accelerate the digital transformation of financial services and, in turn, spur the banking institutions to rapidly ramp up their own innovative approaches to meet the financial needs of under-served markets across the continent. Banks are now harnessing technology to meet market needs and are also collaborating with fintechs to help them connect with under-served consumers, improve financial inclusion and provide a platform to scale much faster. Banking in Africa is at an exciting juncture and further developing a pool of talented professionals working in banking and technology will be key to the future of banking and finance in Africa. Finnovation Africa: Uganda 2017 has brought together the established industry players with the pioneers involved in facilitating and delivering financial services.”

Varghese Thambi, CEO of the Diamond Trust Bank (U) Limited, added:

“Sub-Saharan Africa remains one of the most under-banked regions in the world, which presents a major opportunity for both the major banks and the emerging FinTech players. The application of innovative financial technology is moving beyond simply disrupting the existing frameworks on the continent, as the leading financial services players develop their own innovative approaches to meaningfully meet the financial needs of this under-served market. Finnovation Africa: Uganda 2017 is providing an opportunity to interact with leading bankers who will share their perspectives on the digital transformation of financial services in Africa.”

Other topics at the event included Mobile Money vs Mobile Banking; Re-Imagining Financial Services in Africa; Blockchain: Redefining Transactions and Delivering Value in Africa; How Technology is Transforming the Securities and Investment Environment; and a live on-stage interview session featuring an industry leader were covered during the full day session.

The event less than two months after the Cambridge Centre for Alternative Finance published a report on Africa and Middle East alternative finance. As previously reportedthe new study also includes chapters on emerging alternative payment systems mobile payment and cryptocurrencies,  crowdfunding and peer-to-peer lending regulatory landscapes in Africa and the Middle East (drawing on the CCAF’s recent regulatory research with the FSD Africa), and on renewable energy crowdfunding, with insights from the DIFD-funded CrowdPower Programme, carried out by Energy4Impact.