Africa - FinTech's Natural Fit and Next Frontier

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We’ve heard the sensationalism before – That the unbridled array of opportunities in Africa are either being “squandered”, “exploited” or just now seeping to the surface for globalization to capitalize on the ‘Rising Continent’ in timely fashion.

Though rhetoric, it’s no doubt significant, though that doesn’t make the voices behind it authorities on the continent. For we are routinely adapting to advances in enterprise as the youngest continent on the planet (as the African Development Bank has reported Africa has more than 200 million people aged between 15 and 24, which means approximately 65 percent of the population is made up of ‘millennials’), with dynamic evolutions in the provision of technological access and thusly, global inclusion occurring on a regular basis, cross-sectoral and throughout all walks of life.

Africa is simply growing at too quickly a pace to be dissected.

In truth, Africans are also well-versed in not only the present day-challenges to doing business but moreover the abundant prospects for affluence, indeed held back only by long-ingrained bureaucracy and the lack of fundamental access; barriers inevitable to be broken.

For the intrepid entrepreneur and through technological breakthroughs in, for instance, ‘cloud’-centric, aerial-implemented services, there is simply no better place to be in business, particularly the FinTech business, one which is just getting warmed up and with no ceiling in sight.

Wim Van Der Beek, a contributor to CNBC Africa and the Founder of Goodwell Investments, recently and rightly stated that African FinTech is particularly unique, non-partisan and is regarded highly as a viable enterprise on the continent.

For FinTech in Africa is non-disruptive; traditional brick and mortar banking institutions aren’t going anywhere. And where in many cases abroad, there are regulatory constrictions on implementing alternative, cutting-edge offerings in financial services, as “…[with] developed countries, the formal banking system is very widespread, with physical bank branches available in every city, town and village, this is not the case in most of Africa. [Africa] has not been financially viable for traditional banks to offer last-mile services”, according to Van Der Beek.

And so with diverse demographics today acclimatizing to utilize traditional and smart-phone-ready software to the betterment of their financial conditions, be it through the provision of insurance, loans or mobile banking services, FinTech hosts the leeway to continue to innovate.

Like all businesses operating effectively in Africa, there is no doubt public-sector opportunism in enforcing such regulations and while I disagree with constrictions detrimental to providing fundamental access in an industry just getting its legs, I do believe that corporate social responsibility (CSR) standards need to be set, if not exceeded by our sector.

So, while our software already leverages the penetration of ‘Big Data’ to better enable direct donations to people in need (family to family, corporate provisions, cutting out unnecessary middlemen), we choose to partner with Opportunity International to both grow our consumer base as a strategic business exercise (and MyBucks is now providing financial services to roughly 1.5 million customers, having offered over 700,000 loans in the process), but also to increase transparency while ensuring help arrives to those requiring it in a much faster manner than ever before.

Be social-empowerment-driven microfinance provided to a young woman allow her to now have access to a loan to start a business, for example, or to open a mobile bank account to secure savings, we stand proud to both join a global network of more than 40 socially focused microfinance partners and also to together play a lead role in emboldening that individual and the communities around her to sustainably develop. We know that in investing in the individual, we are creating more jobs and fueling Africa’s both ruralized and urbanized economies.

While social responsibility assuages many concerns as to the FinTech business model, there have also been lingering and justified doubts in the offering of loans, due to specific cases regarding a lack of understanding of one’s creditworthiness on many parts of the continent.

Now this is a problem not uncommon in emerging marketplaces around the world and one where FinTech truly needs to serve as a paramount thought leader.

MyBucks has accordingly designed and remain currently the only FinTech provider to offer malleable Artificial Intelligence (A.I.), a system which cuts through the unknowns of microfinance by effectively and on a perpetually-evolving-basis, analyze all relevant background data pertaining to the loan applicant to properly assess income standing and one’s ability to commit a viable return on our investment.

In 2014 alone, FinTech investment increased threefold from $4.05 billion to $12.2 billion. Indeed by pioneering next-generation proprietary software and fortifying an intricate network of like-minded global partners, we are proud to serve at the precipice of this industrial revolution in Africa, forging an offering warranting attention, commentary and support while differentiating ourselves from the pack.

For, beyond the speculation and sensationalism, as the continent rises, so do the prospects for prosperity within it.

Dave Van Niekerk is an acclaimed investor and Founder / Chief Executive Officer of the MyBucks enterprise. The views expressed are his own.