Farmers in Africa can use information and cell phones to stay informed on market prices throughout the region. Brent Stirton/Getty
MyBucks last week launched our Initial Public Offering (IPO) on the Frankfurt Stock Exchange (FWB), pleasingly fully subscribed and indeed at a particularly intriguing moment in European and no doubt world history.
Germany, long the financial steward of the European Union, faces a challenge in assisting in the transition process for Great Britain’s departure from the EU, while holding the tiller from any socioeconomic squall that may rear from ‘Brexit’.
Yet while confidence behind European ‘interconnectedness’ may at times such as these damper and no doubt only briefly, globalisation in practice has never been more effervescent. And while we may have become the first African-focused financial technology company to list on the Frankfurt Stock Exchange to exemplify this, it is African ‘fintech’, now reaching Germany and the world, which truly symbolizes globalisation at its core; for the dynamic, malleable and importantly, sustainable development boons driven by FinTech in Africa will be connecting our citizenries, creating jobs, empowering the next generation to achieve a confidence and independence they have never experienced before and will be ushering in a new era of opportunity on the continent and throughout a shifting marketplace in the world to come.
As investors now pivot toward emerging market opportunities, fintech is booming – Global investment in the industry has tripled over the last half decade and will double again, to an estimated $6 Billion by 2018 – this, according to a recent report by Accenture and the Partnership Fund of New York City.
And Africa is a greenfield prospect and proven hub for fintech; a bountiful market for the industry to flourish. This remains fact in-part due to the continent’s long-regaled and endowed resources but also, for new offerings that leverage the power of digital network to make financial services available for Africa.
Perhaps contrary to popular belief, although 88% of Africans didn’t have a bank account according to 2015 research statistics, let alone a credit card –they did have a mobile phone. And this makes African fintech not only relevant, but also essential.
However and as preamble, it is perhaps Africa that faces the harshest of conditions with regard to doing business on a day-to-day basis. This is not due to oft-misguided stigmas of bureaucracy, the cumbersome speed bumps inherent in working through political power constellations that may vary by country, but in the lack of fundamental and sheer access for the ‘unbanked’ to change their present-day situation, literally reach an institution, open an account and provide for their families. Many of our subscribers live in rural areas only today ‘connecting’ in a manner ‘2.0’ and many also were at one time considered ‘uncreditworthy’ because of a lack of credit history and access to financial services.
Ghana fans celebrate their team’s victory against South Africa during their 2015 African Cup of Nations Group C soccer match in Mongomo January 27, 2015. Mike Hutchings/Reuters
And yet, in no rival emerging marketplace do we see such a backdrop of resilience amidst adversity; for that is Africa personified.
‘Banking the unbanked’ is therefore of the utmost importance in globalising Africa. Companies like MyBucks, along with our strategic partnerships with non-governmental organisation Opportunity International (also a first in FinTech) will be bringing financial inclusion to all of Africa, as a first task at hand. Our multipronged outfit encapsulates consumer finance solutions in the digital era (through our subsidiary enterprises – GetBucks, GetBanked and GetSure). And together, we have replicated our model effectively and with an aerial-methodology within the countries where we operate. For, as globalisation and the innovations from it can today connect the farmer to the manufacturer to the point of sale, so too can mobile banking penetration allow for individual success and at the same time and at a national level, proper taxation to befit governmental infrastructure and growth.
We tend to believe our model is particularly unique amidst our competitors. For example, we remain the first, and currently only fintech business in Africa to make use of credit technology, supported by an in-house Artificial Intelligence (AI) system; whether or not someone can pay back a loan is arguably the most critical role that AI can play and our cloud-based proprietary software solution (called FinCloud) is both an interface to our customers, as well as to our internal loan management system, able to access our customers’ bank statements and bank accounts upon application date, to better assess creditworthiness.
However, it is in the ease of doing business via fintech breakthroughs, coupled with long-ingrained African ingenuity that makes fintech truly stand out as an opportune enterprise in emerging markets. This belief is buttressed by greater foreign interest in the opportunities that Africa provides on the whole; those that have allowed for frenetic intercontinental growth and indeed for us to arrive at the Frankfurt Exchange more than prepared for the road ahead.
No doubt, we understand the challenges before us and the molds that need to be broken; our hurdles mirror that of Africa at a misinformed first glance, with many international bodies still remaining reluctant to play a role in our ‘Next Generation realisation’. I liken this trepidation to that of an African race-car built for the Formula 1 – No matter the modernity of the engine or the crack team of innovators and engineers behind it, there remains a lingering westernised perception of it being an ‘African car’ and thusly operating on an uneven playing field.
Nonetheless, we are standing up to traditional norms and institutions at home and abroad as a force to be reckoned with from within the fintech industry and in a new era of ever globalising business.
As Germany hosts the potential to steward in this present state of geopolitical affairs following ‘Brexit’, Africa so too continues to make its mark in foreign centers of power as an onus of responsibility. The continent will not waste the opportunity allocated through globalisation, yet we need repay no one for our rise to the forefront of the modern marketplace.
FinTech’s ability to adapt will allow the industry to thrive in the traditional financial sector, across the continent and around the world, despite recent, perhaps seismic shifts; Africa’s willingness to adapt is why leading brands within it today have the capacity and drive to remain on the cutting edge of global marketplace innovation.
German philosopher Friedrich Nietsche once stated that “….necessity is not an established fact, but an interpretation”. While we understand the need for empowerment through connectivity across Africa, we interpret the application for financial technology as one beyond any brick and mortar institution and any one country, but malleable to reinvigorate the banking sector and guide it through.
We look forward to playing a role in captaining this industry as it integrates further in to the traditional financial sector, amidst calm or choppy weather alike.
Dave Van Niekerk is an acclaimed investor and Founder / Chief Executive Officer of the MyBucks enterprise. The views expressed are his own.