Chijioke Dozie of Carbon: Exploring Africa’s fintech success story
Chijioke Dozie is the CEO and co-founder, Carbon. Here, Dozie takes a look into the dynamic African fintech landscape, as well as the opportunities and challenges that abound.
Exploring Africa’s fintech success story
For those that are not too familiar with financial systems in Africa, if I told you that one of Africa’s biggest problems is money, you may think I was talking about poverty. Although that would not necessarily be incorrect, I am actually talking about the challenge of effective and efficient access to money and the wide range of issues that beset financial services across the continent.
For starters, it costs money to use money. Across the continent, using an ATM, whether to withdraw cash or check your bank balance, costs money. You are also charged for bank-to-bank transfers and remittances. People are effectively taxed for accessing and using their own money.
There is also the issue of access to credit. For a variety of reasons, many African countries do not have the infrastructure that allows financial systems in develoAped markets to ascertain credit-worthiness. As a result, there is very limited access to loans and those that do get access are charged exorbitant interest rates.
African fintech is booming
It is in the context of these and other challenges that African innovators and entrepreneurs are developing fintech solutions. From payment solutions that don’t charge users for using their money to platforms that facilitate easy-to-access short-term loans, the African fintech scene is booming with a wide range of solutions. All hoping to address at least one of the challenges that face the continent’s financial service sector.
Even established global brands are getting in on the action. Mastercard recently announced that it has teamed up with telecoms provider Vodacom to launch VodaPay Masterpass, a digital payment platform that enables consumers to load any bank card into a secure digital wallet downloaded as an app on their smartphone. This allows them to pay for their needs and wants to match that same “always on” mindset using their smartphones.
Using a combination of technology, an understanding of unique needs and a knowledge of longstanding financial traditions, new platforms that are made by Africans for Africans are springing up all over the continent. For example, there is a Nigeria-based startup using machine learning to calculate the credit-worthiness of consumers who don’t have a credit history, opening the door to marginalised groups in the financial community. In many cases, female entrepreneurs are most affected by lack of access to financial services. Many of these women have been consistently overlooked but now have access to advisory services, loans and other financial services to help them scale their businesses.
Startups are receiving more funding
If the stats on startup funding in Africa is anything to go by, it looks like the boom is set to continue for a while. Of all the African startups that received funding in 2018, almost a third (32.6 percent) were fintech businesses - a greater percentage than any other sector. In Nigeria, African’s biggest economy, the dominance of fintech funding is even more pronounced. Over 80 percent of total funding raised by startups in Q1 of 2019 was raised by fintech. A financial service provider also got the highest amount of funding.
According to the Finnovating for Africa 2019: Reimagining the African financial services landscape report, Africa’s fintech companies have grown from 301 in 2017 to 491 (at the last count). African fintech ecosystem has grown by 60 percent in the last 24 months and fintech companies have raised more than $320 million in funding since 2015. In 2018 alone, $132.8 million was raised, making it the best year the sector has ever had.
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There is growth across the continent
From Nigeria to Kenya and from Morocco to South Africa, fintech solutions are springing up, providing unique solutions to many longstanding issues as well as introducing new and innovative ways to address previously unidentified challenges. The rapid adoption of mobile phones has also created a golden opportunity to deliver a range of tailored solutions that will connect the hitherto unbanked with the benefits of the mainstream financial system.
When you consider that these solutions are being built and honed in some of the most hostile business markets in the world, and seeing incredible traction, you have to ask how soon we should expect to see these solutions in markets outside Africa.
The African fintech story is indeed one of the biggest success stories coming out of the continent. As the story develops, it will be very interesting to see what other successes lie ahead of this vibrant and innovative scene that some of us have the huge pleasure of being a part of.
5 minutes with... Janthana Kaenprakhamroy, CEO, Tapoly
Founder and CEO of award-winning insurtech firm Tapoly, Janthana Kaenprakhamroy heads up Europe’s first on-demand insurance platform for the gig economy, winning industry awards, innovating in the digital insurance space, and leading with inclusivity.
Here, Business Chief talks to Janthana about her leadership style and skills.
What do you do, in a nutshell?
I’m founder and CEO of Tapoly, a digital MGA providing a full stack of commercial lines insurance specifically for SMEs and freelancers, as well as a SaaS solution to connect insurers with their distribution partners. We build bespoke, end-to-end platforms encompassing the whole customer journey, but can also integrate our APIs within existing systems. We were proud to win Insurance Provider of the Year at the British Small Business Awards 2018 and receive silver in the Insurtech category at the Efma & Accenture Innovation in Insurance Awards 2019.
How would you describe your leadership style?
I try to be as inclusive a leader as possible. I’m committed to creating space for everyone to shine. Many of the roles at Tapoly are performed by women and I speak at industry events to encourage more people to get involved in insurance/insurtech. Similarly, I always try to maintain a growth mindset. I think it’s important to retain values to support learning and development, like reliability, working hard and punctuality.
What’s the best leadership advice you’ve received?
Build your network and seek advice. As a leader, you need smart people around you to help you grow your business. It’s not about personally being the best, but being able to find resources and get help where needed.
How do you see leadership changing in a COVID world?
I think the pandemic has proven the importance of inclusive leadership so that everyone feels supported and valued. It’s also shown the importance of being flexible as a leader. We’ve had to remain adaptable to continue delivering high levels of customer service. This flexibility has also been important when supporting employees as everyone has had individual pressures to deal with during this time. Leaders should continue to embed this flexibility within their organisations moving forward.
They say ‘from every crisis comes opportunity’, what opportunities do you see?
The past year has been challenging, but it has also proven the importance of digital transformation in insurance. When working from home was required, it was much harder for insurers to adjust who had not embedded technology within their operating processes because they did not have data stored in the cloud and it caused communication delays with concerned customers at a time when this communication should have been a priority, which ultimately impacts the level of customer satisfaction. This demonstrates the importance of what we are trying to achieve at Tapoly in driving digitalisation in insurance and making communication between insurers and distribution partners seamless.
What advice would you give to your younger self just starting out in the industry?
Start sooner, don’t be afraid to take (calculated) risks and make sure you raise enough money to get you through the initial seed stage.