A section of tech entrepreneurs has called for flexible government regulation that is willing to take risks on unprecedented and unusual ideas. Speaking in Kigali, Rwanda in front of African Presidents, policymakers, and industry experts, the group has asked African states to invest more money in technology.
The call to action emerged at a just-concluded event known as the Next Einstein Forum (NEF).
It was also noted at the event that between 300 million and 500 million African people are either un-banked or do not have credit histories that allow them access financial products, while those in formal banking are looking for faster and safer ways to save, invest and borrow money.
NEF representatives said that with this in mind, technology alone cannot solve the problem, it has to coupled with regulation that supports innovation.
“Where the money meets the technology, that’s what you call fintech,” said Rwanda Finance Minister Claver Gatete.
“The speed at which fintech is developing is amazing, that’s one of the reasons we have a $100 million innovation and we want to bring up to $1 billion,” he added.
Rose Muturi of Tala, a smartphone app using alternative data like potential clients digital habits to formulate a credit score and deliver instant credit to them, said regulation had to catch up because fintech overlapped between banking, the consumer sector and many other sectors.
“We look at the way you use your smartphone. Everything you do on it, that forms part of your digital footprint. Where you spend your time online to how you save names on your phone … these pieces of data can tell us whether you’re a fraudster or not,” she explained.
The company has given loans to 1.5 million people worth around $300 million since launching three years ago.
Meanwhile, a presidential panel that opened Day 2 of the 2018 Next Einstein Forum Global Gathering in Kigali this week lifted the level of debate at the conference a notch higher as policymakers and scientists grappled with the practical implications of creating knowledge-led societies.
President Macky Sall of Senegal and his Rwandan counterpart, Paul Kagame led the discussion, reflecting on past policies and future plans necessary to nurture the creative, skilled and populations that will form the bedrock of knowledge-led economies.
The white paper on which the discussion focused was jointly prepared by the NEF, the Sustainable Development Goals Centre for Africa, the African Academy of Sciences and Carnegie Mellon University Africa.
President Sall called on African states to balance the focus on improving the quality of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) subjects in higher education, with policy reforms that were able to attract foreign investment into the continent’s technology sectors.