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Fintech Isn’t Disrupting Africa’s Financial Industry…It’s Building It

African fintech is not disrupting the existing financial service providers. This is because, in many areas of the continent, there is nothing to disrupt, with large swathes of the low and lower middle income segments unserved or under-served when it comes to formal financial services.

Across most of the continent, there is no formal banking or financial infrastructure in rural areas, due to the high cost of rolling out banking infrastructure. Even those in urban areas are priced out of more developed financial services such as credit and insurance.

This is in sharp contrast to developed economies, where traditional banks and institutions have a broad presence, and the majority of consumers are able to get loans or purchase insurance. There, fintech is about disrupting these markets to offer better services at lower cost. In most of Africa, it is disrupting nothing at all at this point, because financial services still remain inaccessible to many in the lower and middle-income segments.

Banks have, in a way, admitted their own failure in building sufficient and accessible infrastructure by leaving the rollout of mobile money services mostly to mobile network operators. These mobile wallets are functioning as bank accounts in most cases. They offer better services at lower cost and this means there is likely to never be a need for most Africans to adopt traditional banking services. The products that traditional banks have to offer are not relevant to these unserved or under-served customers.

Therein lies the real opportunity for fintech startups in Africa. Rather than disrupting an existing infrastructure as their counterparts in the developed world are, they are in fact building a whole new infrastructure of their own. The uptake of mobile money across the continent, and the access mobile wallets have then offered to other financial services such as insurance and loans, show that fintech offerings have the potential to succeed across Africa.

One such example of groundbreaking, innovative fintech is MFS Africa, which has connected 80 million mobile wallets in Africa, enabling cross-currency, cross-border, cross-network payments through entirely new infrastructure. Another example is Nomanini, which is rolling out a payments platform for informal merchants across the continent. This is the exciting thing about the fintech revolution in Africa. It is building an industry from scratch, and doing things traditional banks could never do themselves.

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Banks have, in a way, admitted their own failure in building sufficient and accessible infrastructure by leaving the rollout of mobile money services mostly to mobile network operators. These mobile wallets are functioning as bank accounts in most cases. They offer better services at lower cost and this means there is likely to never be a need for most Africans to adopt traditional banking services. The products that traditional banks have to offer are not relevant to these unserved or under-served customers.

Therein lies the real opportunity for fintech startups in Africa. Rather than disrupting an existing infrastructure as their counterparts in the developed world are, they are in fact building a whole new infrastructure of their own. The uptake of mobile money across the continent, and the access mobile wallets have then offered to other financial services such as insurance and loans, show that fintech offerings have the potential to succeed across Africa.

One such example of groundbreaking, innovative fintech is MFS Africa, which has connected 80 million mobile wallets in Africa, enabling cross-currency, cross-border, cross-network payments through entirely new infrastructure. Another example is Nomanini, which is rolling out a payments platform for informal merchants across the continent. This is the exciting thing about the fintech revolution in Africa. It is building an industry from scratch, and doing things traditional banks could never do themselves.

The GSMA Mobile Money Code of Conduct, the SMART Campaign and the UN Principles for Responsible Investment are already providing a useful set of guidelines, but all of us involved in fintech in Africa as operators or investors must do more to ensure the end-user of mobile financial services is protected.

Source: qz.com

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Written by PH

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