Thoughts from the Africa Fintech Summit

The bi-annual Africa Fintech Summit was held in Cape Town on Thursday 3rd of November at the wonderful International Convention Centre. From the get-go, there was much excitement and anticipation to hear a wide range of opinions from experts across multiple segments within Fintech ranging from founders to entrepreneurs, investors, operators, government officials, regulators and fintech enthusiasts alike. With such a selection of topics and discussions taking place, there were plentiful nuggets of wisdom on display.

Much of the discussion centred around three core areas:

  1. What’s the current state of play with fintech in Africa
  2. The role of regulation in fintech
  3. The nature of investment and opportunities for investment

Key takeaways from those subject areas:

There is a lot more that can be done in Africa in terms of fintech. The consensus amongst the panellists was that payments in Africa are “broken” – whilst there was some disagreement on this, the majority did feel that there were fundamental flaws at an infrastructure level. Many felt that the fragmentation of the market was causing layers of problems, exacerbated by utilising legacy systems that are outdated and not fit for purpose. Therein lies the opportunity though. New infrastructure can provide the backbone for a better payment system in Africa.

The constant battle between fintech and regulation was once again a central point for discussion. This time the spotlight fell on the dissonance between the regulatory bodies across the 54 African countries. Without homogenisation of regulatory procedures and licensing it is very difficult for a fintech to launch and scale across multiple markets. Reference was made to Europe where one license allows you to operate across the entire European mainland vs Africa where each country has their own independent regulatory body, requirements and even number of licenses.

It is well noted that there is a global downturn in investment – many panellists alluded to the fact that opportunistic tourist capital has now left Africa and the capital remaining is hesitant. The caveat to that of course is that dry capital is at an all-time high and needs to be deployed somehow. Whilst there may be short-term hesitation, investors both small and large are still actively looking for deals and opportunities. Africa remains a key growth area. Many of the panellists noted that Africa needs to own its investment cycle and ecosystem with active African participation across the entire investment spectrum as local knowledge is invaluable going beyond purely monetary investment.

I thoroughly enjoyed the intelligent discussion and debate that took place across the day. The organisers mentioned they were open to suggestions as to where the next African location shall be with many guests in favour of a French Africa location. I for one am looking forward to what the future holds both for fintech in Africa and for the Summit itself.

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