As we move into 2021, coping with lingering effects of the COVID-19, what would be your personal take away from the crisis and why?
COVID-19 has not only accelerated the increased use of technology in Africa, but also shone a brighter light on the massive opportunities we have for innovation in these parts. The pandemic has made the importance of digital much clearer and any business who didn’t tap into digital once given the opportunity would have lost out. It has given a very real business case for the importance of digital.
The pandemic also showed businesses that we need to be prepared at all times, and for absolutely anything. Businesses who didn’t have a contingency plan in place once COVID hit would have struggled to meet customers demands and expectations in the beginning.
What are the emerging technologies or innovations that you think will become crucial in the fiscal sector?
For Africa specifically, people are beginning to see the importance of Fintech platforms. Because of the pandemic, people began social distancing and isolating, which meant trading less with cash and more online or via mobile applications. They also realised that cash was dirty and also quite tricky to move around during a lockdown or curfew period..
This is one of the reasons that Sparkle was built in the first place – to offer individuals a one size fits all platform where they can trade via an app without having to go into a physical banking hall.
The importance of data and identification will also become increasingly important. At Sparkle, we are building a data bank that will allow our users to have credit ratings based on their activity on the app. This way, once they are credit worthy, they can opt in for loans to support their businesses, etc.
What is the future of NEO banking in Africa? And what are your thoughts on “Building a Pan African NEO Bank”?
Certainly in Africa, where banking has historically been for the elite [and relatively small middle class] and large scale businesses – the market opportunity for neo banks to build around the financially excluded and financially underserved, is significant. For most, access to banking services remains unreachable – neo banking can change that.
Neo banks only need to invest in digital infrastructure, rather than physical infrastructure like traditional banks – for places like Nigeria, this is important, because it means people can access banking/financial services from anywhere and they aren’t tied to the proximity of a physical bank. BUT – that being said – Nigeria’s government and private sector will need to invest in digital infrastructure – 4G/5G roll out, if we are going to scale digital services across the entire country. There is no point building digital products if the majority of people cannot access them.
Africa is a mobile-first region, with the highest percentage of young people in the world so anything that’s to be built for this region will need to be on a mobile device. Neobanks are doing this, being at the forefront of the mobile banking revolution, and also using their access to consumer data to stay innovative — launching new products, partnerships, and ways of engaging customers — for the benefit of the client.
AI and Robotics, Blockchain, Data-science, Digital Engagement and CRM, Financial Inclusions – Which area has noted the most promising adaptation in terms of innovation and digital transformation?
I think there is a lot more to come from the application of blockchain and AI technology in the financial services sector in the near future, to open up access to more people but to increase safety and security around the increase in financial data that we will all be processing. By building a transparent and secure banking system, we will earn many more peoples’ trust.
What is the future of digital payments and innovation in Africa?
Digital financial innovation cannot be fully successful without financial inclusion of the unbanked and underbanked. This may take many years, but technology can speed this up by making individuals less reliant on cash.
Using the infrastructure available, we need to create financial literacy amongst potential users, and we also need to work with banks and fintechs to encourage them to build products and services that reach and engage with millions more people.
We tend only to consider banking for the wealthy and relatively small Nigerian middle classes; our collective attention now needs to turn to the rest of the country. The North of Nigeria, particularly, needs investment in digital infrastructure; we cannot forget the huge swathes of the population who deserve better access to society, but continue to be overlooked by institutions.
At Sparkle, we are focused particularly on supporting and pioneering women’s roles in the digital economy and have spent a lot of our time focussing on how we can design and build Sparkle into a platform that will be appealing to women. We are also creating an inclusive economy by breaking down barriers to entry and building a platform that is accessible to all! We believe in the value of democratization and co-created financial and lifestyle solutions, and we are building products and services to make this happen.
How would you think attendees will benefit by attending the 2nd Africa Bank 4.0 Summit?
Attendees will certainly learn a lot about digital transformation across different countries in Africa, from experts who are well versed in all things digital.