In this interview, Ade Bajomo, Lead Digital Technology and Operations, Access Bank speaks to Princewill Ekwujuru on the bank’s facilitation to create a technology hub that brings together innovators who have technological solutions to human problems and how this encourages growth in the banking sector. Excerpt:
What led to the Af-rica Fintech Foundry and Disrupt Conference initiatives?
Africa Fintech Foundry (AFF) is a tech hub that runs an accelerator program which finds people with great ideas and technology solutions that solve human problems. After we find these innovators, we give them incubating facilities to encourage their growth and development.
The inspiration behind Disrupt aligns with Access Bank’s goal to leverage technology to make lives easier. The 2019 AFF Disrupt is the second edition of the conference. The first was in 2017. This year, we had roughly 8,000 participants. Our theme was: Digital Gold Rush: Building a Sustainable Tech-Economy, which symbolised the value that Fintech has to offer.
The conference has many elements that work together to create more jobs, and a more enjoyable customer experience. Disruption is not just for the sake of disruption – it is to create value within the economy. In driving this value, we included people like Brett King, known for his futuristic perspectives on Financial Services and Banking. Brett runs a company called Moven, which is a purely digital bank.
We also had Silicon Valley entrepreneurs who have set up companies from zero, and run successful technology firms across the world. Panelist, Paul Bragiel, runs over 200 firms globally, many of which are in Asia and Africa. He probably has one of the largest footprints in Africa. This conference is genuine, with the goal to help people listen, connect, meet, think, discover, dream, learn, and empower. Disrupt centers around discussions that make you to think, help you connect to the ecosystem, and encourage you to create value.
Speakers are well selected across board. Master classes are led by reputable people who are leaders in their own spaces. We encourage and showcase the best startups that we find.
Between 2017 and now, how many companies have tapped into the innovation to grow their businesses?
I believe most companies are now interested or know that going digital is inevitable; there’s no doubt about that. I would say roughly 30 per cent are actively doing something about being disrupted. People have to wake up and realise that it’s inevitable. Every business is digital; your business can only run at the speed of software.
You talked about incubating some Fintechs; in total, what is the size of the Fintech industry as it relates to the economy, what is its contribution to the Nigerian economy currently.?
Last year, approximately $120 billion was invested in Fintech globally, but less than 1 per cent of that came to Nigeria. Nigeria likely garnered around $150 million. We’re competing primarily with Kenya and South Africa, even though Morocco and Egypt are coming up fast. We’re doing well, we’ve attracted some interesting investments and more are still coming in.
Nigeria has an attractive demography, with interests in issue resolution. There are various problems that need solutions in our country. Nigeria has financial inclusion, agriculture and health service challenges, amongst others. There are a plethora of problems to solve. Who are the best people to solve these problems other than Nigerians? We understand those issues better than anyone else, but everybody needs to be involved. We believe we’re doing our part, that’s why we do things like Disrupt. The government is also very active in creating an environment that attracts investment, especially to Fintechs. We need to do more as a country and across the globe.
For a bank that is into disruptive technology, how have your operations helped? Aside incubating, is your program for only those in Lagos, or it is across Nigeria – what is the spread?
Our spread is global; we operate in 15+ locations globally. So wherever the ideas come from, wherever the problems are, and wherever the people are, we will go and get them. Many of the ideas come from Nigeria, but a lot of the technology and ideas are developed in places like Rwanda, where they’re also solving unique problems. Back home, we have a product called PayDay Loan which runs on USSD. I dial a USSD code, and in under 4 seconds, the technology matches a person’s phone number with their account number, checks their account, verifies their last 3 salaries, and checks whether or not they’ve been delinquent on loans. If everything checks out, the technology prompts the user to ask how much they would like to borrow, and, if the person has an Access Bank account, they receive an alert almost immediately.