We had our Social Meet 7.0 event in Lagos which had in attendance notable speakers across the finance and technology sectors. The event explored the topic “Strategic Readiness for 2021” and was an opportunity for stakeholders and industry players to discuss the developments in the fintech ecosystem, the impact of COVID-19, and what would shape developments in 2021.
Our President, Mr. Ade Bajomo, gave the opening remarks. He stated that the timing for Fintech Social Meet 7.0 was appropriate as he praised our pioneer President, Dr. Segun Aina, who was instrumental to the evolution of the Association and the growth of Fintech in Nigeria. He thanked members for the work they had done in sustaining the activities of the Association in the year 2020 characterized by the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic. According to Mr. Bajomo the word COVID has brought a lot of connections in the year and reinforced the need for digital acceleration. “The Fintech digital acceleration is making a fundamental change in Africa and the world at large. The role of Fintech is to see the diversity and development of the entire ecosystem. 2021 offers a lot of opportunities for everyone and in particular, the Fintech Association of Nigeria” Mr. Bajomo said.
The event featured a panel session which discussed the topic “Strategic Preparations for 2021” Mr. Olatunbosun Alake Special Adviser on Innovation & Technology to the Governor of Lagos State, speaking on what to look out for in 2021 said the government was looking for a more resilient city and state with robust communication infrastructure. He said from a technology perspective, the advent of COVID-19 changed business models and brought to the fore the need for the economy to be more resilient. According to him, Lagos through its innovation department came up with a technology master plan last year premised on the four pillars of Infrastructure, Funding, Talent, and Data access. He said, to make the government more effective and efficient there was a need for a robust digital infrastructure. To this effect, the SA on Innovation and Technology said Lagos State was installing 6,000km of fiber optic cable and expanding to metro fiber ducts which would catalyze private sector investments.
In 2021, the government’s objective would be to look into the first phase of 3,000km of fibre optic caballing which would be completed in 2021, while the second phase involving another 3,000 km would be implemented before the end of 2023. According to him government buildings, schools, and hospitals would be connected and this would extend to the private sector, thereby providing an enabling infrastructure for the fintech industry.
Odunayo Eweniyi Co-Founder/COO PiggyVest Fintech speaking on digital skills, funding, and regulation said Nigeria had witnessed remarkable growth in skills and human capital, with the majority going overseas and few retained at home. She agreed with the SA to the Lagos State Governor on Innovation, that digital infrastructure was critical for the industry. She identified infrastructure, capital, and the market as the three drivers of the Fintech revolution. For regulation, she stressed the need for a relaxed approach and described the Fintech space as an industry worth investing in.
Looking at the issues of Cybersecurity and Inter-Operability, the Chief Information Officer (CIO) Stanbic IBTC Holdings Nigeria, Mr. Okechukwu Iroegbu, said there was a lot that needed to happen from a regulatory perspective. He cited the cloud as an example of a tech space that needs a clear agenda on policy and regulation in Nigeria. He said the market in Nigeria was large enough to deepen the Fintech ecosystem in Nigeria and called for more collaboration between the regulators, banks, and fintech. He made a strong case for an alignment in the nation’s data and identity collection points as this would help in effective planning and development in the country.
The Co-Founder, Bluechip Technologies Ltd, Mr. Olumide Soyombo said education was important and cited Silicon Valley as a company that created access to foreign capital in Nigeria. The Venture Capitalist said his Company had invested in several start-ups in Nigeria since 2014 and singled out Piggyvest as one of the success stories. Speaking on the Lagos Smart City, Mr. Olatunbosun Alake, said the agenda is predicated on several factors to capture about 30-40m citizens in Lagos by 2035. He said it was an opportunity but also a challenge that will involve collaboration, strengthening the infrastructure, and effective planning. This according to him will cover education, health, and even transportation.
He called for conscious steps to engage the lawmakers on legislation that could improve the adoption of technology and the development of smart concepts and frameworks that could improve the lives of citizens and businesses.
Eweniyi, giving her perspective on financial inclusion said efforts must continue in the banking and agent network architecture to add more people to the formal sector. She quoted from Bill Gates in 1994 who said “Banking is essential but Banks are not” she said, credit was important but sustainability was the key question on how to include more people.
On the 2021 outlook, Iroegbu said leveraging technology to educate the customer on financial services will be key and re-emphasized the importance of collaboration across the ecosystem. Soyombo also stressed the need for more Nigerian private equity and venture capital player to start investing in start-ups and enable them to scale in their operations. The panelists all agreed that collaboration, digital infrastructure, product development, and enabling regulations were the way to go for fintech.
The Chief Operating Officer for Fintech Association of Nigeria, Dr. Babatunde Odrimah, in his closing remarks said the Fintech Association has a forum called “Reguvator” which brings together all the regulatory agencies to discuss issues in their various sectors. Dr. Obrimah said regulation must not kill innovation and there is a need to educate Nigerian investors on intellectual property rights and to understand how the fintech system works. In terms of skills, Dr. Obrimah said Fintech Nigeria is partnering with Universities to train 100,000 students annually to develop their skills.