Africa Finance Forum Spotlights The Future Of Fintech In Africa

By Corporate Council on Africa
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On Wednesday, April 18, 2018, Corporate Council on Africa (CCA) held the fourth annual Africa Finance Forum in Washington DC, with keynote speaker, H.E. Bukola Saraki, Senate President, Federal Republic of Nigeria and a special presentation by Hon. Samuel D. Tweah Jr., Minister of Finance and Development Planning, Republic of Liberia.

The forum began with welcome remarks by Witney Schneidman, Senior International Advisor for Africa, Covington and Burling, who highlighted the significant impact of Fintech on Africa’s economic development, and thus the need to host such an event. Mr. Schneidman introduced Florie Liser, President and CEO of CCA, who welcomed attendees to the event and discussed how Fintech continues to be one of the fastest growing industries in Africa, noting that “last year alone, venture funding for African Fintech startups jumped by 51 percent to 195 million dollars.” She then invited H.E. Bukola Saraki, Senate President, Federal Republic of Nigeria to deliver the keynote address.

In his remarks, H.E. Bukola Saraki emphasized how transformative Fintechs have been, saying, “Fintechs and their chain of strategic responses have challenged the activities of the major actors in the financial services industry across Africa. They are transforming the operational space of traditional innovation, and have a massive potential for creating significant revenue generation opportunities for African economies.” He noted that internet penetration in Africa is at 53 percent, but only 17 percent of Africans have access to banking services; highlighting the need to accelerate the growth of Fintech startups that provide solutions and services for the unbanked in Africa.

H.E. Bukola Saraki also discussed government initiatives in support of Fintech development in Nigeria such as the Secure Transactions in Movable Assets, which is the signature bill in support of SMEs. H.E. Saraki concluded by thanking CCA and everyone in attendance. H.E. Samuel D. Tweah Jr., Minister of Finance and Development Planning, Republic of Liberia gave a special presentation on investment opportunities in Liberia. H.E. Tweah discussed the potential of finance and technology in Africa. He expressed that African governments must dismantle bureaucracies to enable better business practices, and added that innovative financing could provide solutions to challenges in Liberia and other African countries.

H.E. Tweah concluded his remarks by stating that Liberia aims to be one of the most business friendly countries in the world in the next 5 years. The Forum also included a panel discussion on, the “Finance of Tomorrow,” featuring Mr. Ben Haley, Counsel, Covington and Burling as the moderator. Panelists included Mr. Admassu Tadesse, President and CEO, Trade and Development Bank (TDB), Mr. Matt Essieh, President and CEO, EAI Information Systems, Mr. Tarig Hamza, President and CEO, Sudatel, and Mr. Michael Nonaka, Partner, Covington and Burling.

Mr. Hamza expressed that although half of the mobile transactions worldwide take place in Sub-Saharan Africa, the potential of Finech on the continent is yet to be realized. Mr. Tadesse added that while mobile banking platforms are buoyant, access to credit remains a huge challenge on the continent.

Mr. Essieh underlined his point by asserting that there needs to be a movement from executing monetary transactions into building credit systems. Mr. Nonaka highlighted Africa’s growing exploration of the bitcoin currency, which panelists agreed might impact the future of financial services in Africa. Panelists concluded by emphasizing the need for continued innovation within the finance sector. H.E. Samuel D. Tweah Jr., Minister of Finance and Development Planning, Republic of Liberia H.E. Bukola Saraki, Senate President, Federal Republic of Nigeria From L to R: Matt Essieh, EAI Information Systems, Admassu Tadesse, TDB, Ben Haley, Covington and Burling, Tarig Hamza, Sudatel, and Michael Nonaka, Covington and Burling 2 From L to R: Brian Korn, Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, Peter Crawley, Citi Sub-Saharan Africa, Kalidou Gadio, Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, Bramuel Mwalo, Kountable, and Mark Pickens, Visa, Inc.

The second panel, “Digital Finance: The New Deal,” was moderated by Mr. Kalidou Gadio, Co-Chair Africa and Mena Group, Manatt, Phelps & Phillips. Panelists included, Brian Korn, Partner, Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, Mr. Peter Crawley, Managing Director, Treasury and Trade Solutions Head, Citi Sub-Saharan Africa, Mr. Mark Pickens, Senior Director, Global Financial Inclusion, Visa, Inc, and Mr. Bramuel Mwalo, Director, Business Development Africa, Kountable. Panelists discussed the ways in which Fintech is transforming the financial sector and financing on the continent. They agreed that Fintech is facilitating the structuring of deals from conception to delivery, as well as supporting access to financing