accelerating the future of fintech in africa - the spark youth empowerment platform in nigeria

Accelerating the Future of Fintech in Africa

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– By Lanre Solarin

Given the opportunity, the average Nigerian youth will take advantage of every opportunity announced on mainstream media, as long as it holds the prospect of helping them achieve their dreams. This is why this economy can never get tired of brands and institutions looking to make positive change in the lives of many. Access Bank, which is presently one of the five largest banks in Nigeria in terms of assets, loans, deposits and branch network, understands that to thrive in a fast paced economy, with technology as the catalyst, it needs to continuously create value while being flexible enough to adapt to change.

accelerating the future of fintech in africa - the spark youth empowerment platform in nigeria

In an interview with Ade Bajomo, the Executive Director of Operations and IT at Access Bank, he affirmed the fact, stating that the bank believes in driving innovation, digital financial services, financial inclusion, secure banking services, speed and enhanced services. It also believes in enhancing the capability of the wider ecosystem – the youths.

As he stated, “I can say that Herbert Wigwe (Chief Executive Officer, Access Bank) is the top digitally aware financial services CEO in Africa today because he understands instinctively, that the financial services landscape needs to adapt fast, innovate, and either disrupt itself internally to remain relevant to its customers, or wait to be disrupted by Fintechs and other new players”.

Ade Bajomo added: Customers today want fast, personalised financial services that can be accesses in a simple, efficient and seamless manner, from anywhere and at anytime. The millennials in particular thrive on innovative solutions. This is what we constantly move to achieve with our digital solutions. One way Access Bank has created value to stay at the forefront of innovation is by providing access to content that the wider ecosystem desires. They’ve done this through the innovative social interaction platform known as Accelerate TV.

accelerating the future of fintech in africa - the spark youth empowerment platform in nigeria

Accelerate TV

Inspired by Access Bank, this platform is targeted at professionals and youths interested in world trends in order to stay informed. It’s a fulfilment of the bank’s promise to cater for the needs of its heterogeneous customer base – they identified a gap and decided to fill it up.

It’s a haven for creatives, doers, thinkers, champions and everyone in between. Accelerate TV empowers the audience by being the lightning rod for cultural provocation, documenting Nigerian/African stories and pop culture while ensuring they continue blazing the trail in new directions.

With several shows and publications under their belt, championed by a creative pool of next generation writers, stylist videographers and image makers, this multimedia outlet is stopping at nothing to ensure that as they blaze trails at top speed, they’re taking millennials along.

Asides inspiring the creation of a forward-thinking media platform, Access Bank is also keen on helping new start-ups create an enabling environment to thrive. As stated by Ade Bajomo, “We need to provide easier access to technology, better training, capital and a strong but agile 21st century regulatory environment. In Africa, we have the opportunity to create innovative digital financial services to solve our unique problems by leveraging global technologies.

Look at past industrial revolutions for instance. We first had the invention of the steam engine, then we had mass production. Next, was the electronics revolution when the ENIAC was built. But where was Africa in all this? This is the fourth industrial revolution and it’s exciting for Africa because of a few reasons:

  • There’s accessibility.
  • We have the highest number of innovative and entrepreneurial youths.
  • We can now solve our problems. We can take expertise from abroad to create local solutions and still get better results.”

accelerating the future of fintech in africa - the spark youth empowerment platform in nigeria

Empowering Africa Through Fintech

Africa Fintech Foundry (AFF), unveiled December 2017, is a fintech accelerator that’s powered by Access Bank. AFF’s goal is to create new opportunities in Nigeria and Sub-Saharan Africa, providing the investment and support that tech entrepreneurs need to launch and scale up, while mitigating any risks.

It’s a platform designed to inspire and challenge African innovators, entrepreneurs and developers. AFF makes this possible through networks – via its ecosystem of and associates partners, including Fintech Nigeria.

The idea of having an accelerator program was conceived in 2016 when Access Bank brainstormed ways to introduce more innovation into the economy and maintain long term relevance. As a forward thinking bank, Access Bank is always on the lookout for ways to create value for their shareholders and customers. To achieve this, Africa Fintech Foundry was created in 2017 to provide African tech start-ups seeking to launch their products, with capacity building and training in business development. They’d also make access to capital easier, facilitate partnerships and will drive the introduction of top notch Africa-led innovation solutions.

Through AFF, Access Bank plans to generate new products and enter new markets. It is also an avenue for creative people, such as innovators and developers to achieve success, thanks to its digitally-savvy team that provides advice, support and finance for these start-ups.

accelerating the future of fintech in africa - the spark youth empowerment platform in nigeria

‘Our vision at AFF is to bring innovative digital financial services originated by Africans to the world; and to bring the world to Africa through digital innovation’. Bajomo added. As a financial institution, Fintech (financial technology) was a viablearea of technology to focus on. It involves the use of software and other technology to support or enable banking and financial services.

//Re:Code Nigeria 2017

On March 24 to March 26, 2017, Africa Fintech Foundry organised a 48-hour hackathon titled ‘//Re:Code Nigeria’, with N2.75m to be won. This hackathon, which was the first of its kind in the financial services industry, attracted multiple teams of talented developers, designers, problem-solvers, and innovative thinkers to tackle challenges in the financial services industry, and was supported by industry giants such as Microsoft, IBM, Access Bank, and Idea Nigeria.

With collaboration from Access Bank, the objective was to ensure that shareholders’ value and growth in tomorrow’s complex financial technology ecosystem can be delivered. Through the hackathon, Access Bank was ready to create the future now.

As Ade stated, “The unique thing about our hackathon is that we’re not just solving problems for specific people. We’re solving problems for specific streams of businesses and industries.”

The participating teams had the privilege of building hands-on solutions that leveraged application programming interfaces such as Microsoft’s Azure cloud computing infrastructure, IBM’s Bluemix artificial intelligence platform and Access Bank’s digital financial services platform.

accelerating the future of fintech in africa - the spark youth empowerment platform in nigeria

17 teams participated and created several applications and services creating a fusion between customers and banking services, with 3 teams emerging as winners.

The winning team created an app called “Voice It” which activates banking transactions via voice. By simply tapping a button, customers can speak into the application and initiate transactions such as bank transfers, checking account balance, mobile recharge, etc.

The second place team, called Paysense, developed a bot, nicknamed “Victor”, which provides payment solutions and easy access to financial advice and uses this information to create customer profiles based on spending habits. This provides the bank with information needed to make better financial decisions with respect to giving out loans, and more.

The third place team created a financial assistance app called “Fissit” which helps users manage money and make payments from any messenger app – Facebook messenger, SMS or Slack.

Every participant received one month Azure subscription while the winners received a full year’s worth of Azure, BizSpark and MSDN subscription worth over $10,000, with one selected team receiving admission into Africa Fintech Foundry’s 17-week accelerator program worth a $50,000

early stage investment.

accelerating the future of fintech in africa - the spark youth empowerment platform in nigeria

//Re:Code Nigeria 2018 – The Biggest Hackathon in Nigeria, Ever.

The second edition of //Re:Code Nigeria Hackathon themed “2018 Data Hack” took place between July 20th and July 22nd, 2018, and attracted a new set of innovators and developers with the objective of creating innovative solutions in response to challenges in some of Nigeria’s leading sectors such as Fast Moving Consumer Goods, Agriculture and the Financial Services ecosystem.

Some of these problems include, but not limited to:

  • How financial technology can address supply chain challenges (from finished goods to retail) in the FMCG sector.
  • Leveraging big-data analytics, identity management and behavioural analysis to identify customers’ needs, providing investment advice & lending services.
  • Financial Inclusion for the agricultural and related sectors with a focus on improving credit scoring and financing opportunities for small and medium scale operators.

accelerating the future of fintech in africa - the spark youth empowerment platform in nigeria

With over 300 registrations, it was great to see young people trying to do the right thing and build their own businesses, without relying on government. For Ade, he desires that out of AFF, the next round of people like Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, etc. emerge as this will benefit Nigeria specifically, and Africa as a whole. “Our vision is very big”, he stated.

The 2018 edition was also supported by industry leaders such as Unilever, DELL, AFEX, Microsoft, IBM, SaS, Hitachi, Coca-Cola, amongst others to help leverage and create value for the ecosystem.

‘Our partners were extremely pleased with the outcomes and the usefulness of the solutions that arose from the event and will be rolling them into their businesses.

Africa Fintech Foundry has an accelerator program that opens its doors to start-ups with good ideas. They then fine-tune those ideas and help them grow from start-ups into enterprises that can actually stand on their own in the market.

Also, through the AFF Disrupt conference, the foundry helps raise awareness about the importance of technology and building an ecosystem. It’s like a festival to celebrate, discover the best technical ideas, to inspire and give people confidence around driving their own innovations.

Start-ups can take advantage of opportunities at Africa Fintech Foundry by reaching out and applying to be a part of the start-up accelerator program (www.africafintechfoundry.com). The hackathon is run at least twice a year and from that, 3 potential cohorts are chosen to go through an intensive accelerator program for 20 weeks, which helps them understand how to turn their innovation into successful enterprises by learning secrets in business and marketing. Mentors come in to teach about entrepreneurship, projections, finance, legal matters, etc.

There’s still more to come from a bank that makes innovation the watchword for key business decisions. Tech start-ups can leverage the resources made available at AFF now and get started in achieving their dreams, and disrupting the market, one solution at a time.

You can catch up on some of the action from the //Recode Nigeria 2018

Hackathon on Twitter using the hashtag #RecodeNigeria2018.

 

Editor’s note: This article was originally published in the Spark Magazine. Find the magazine here to read other articles.

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