Segun Adeniyi: The Future of Fintech
Fintech is a word that few outside the finance world have heard of, but the Africa Fintech Foundry (AFF) is a name that is quickly becoming recognised everywhere. Powered by Access Bank, the AFF is revolutionizing the face of technology, not just in Nigeria, but across the African continent, and have won several awards for their impressive work.
The Guardian Life spoke to the head, ‘Segun Adeniyi about Fintech, AFF, and Technology evolution in the next 10 years.
Can you define fintech?
Fintech is technology and innovation that’s used to compete with traditional financial methods in the delivery of financial services. So, it’s essentially an emerging industry that leverages on technology to deliver financial services and products to consumers, and this could be in the areas of banking, insurance, investing – anything that relates to finance.
Your company’s focus is on startups; do you feel a responsibility to the new generation of African tech?
Yes. We nurture and empower them and open up opportunities to help them grow. To mention a few, we do that in a number of ways, one is to open up opportunities within our ecosystem, so essentially, they can provide services to us and/or our customers; another, by leveraging our investor network to help them become commercially valuable in their journey.
What has been your best and worst moments in the industry?
My best are the opportunities. I have had to drive transformation and new thinking. Being able to ride on previous successes of AFF and build to a stage where we have become a thought leader for Fintech innovations and disruptions, reviewing and assessing over 100 African start-ups every quarter is very fulfilling.
My low moments are the points where people tend to attribute mediocrity to being in Africa, there are points where technology hasn’t worked well, and I’ve been told it’s because we’re in Africa. I find it very annoying especially when I think about how things have changed in the past couple of years. For example, I know a plethora of people who rely on Whatsapp as a form of communication instead of using phones to make personal calls OR Netflix for streaming, rather than Cable or Satellite TV.
I believe and have seen that technology can and is working in Africa. If foreign firms can build platforms that work for us, how much more we that truly know ourselves, our problems and our needs? I look forward to seeing more African companies build solutions being used globally.
How do you choose the startups you mentor?
We’re open to all Technology businesses at different levels of maturity. To mention a few, we have some metrics we use in the selection process – alignment on the problems they solve, the uniqueness of the solution they provide, the potential for opening new markets, risks they are exposed to, and their readiness/understanding of their competitive landscape.
What are you currently doing to spread awareness of fintech?
We are passionate about creating an enabling environment for Fintechs. We are progressively empowering Fintechs by providing opportunities to leverage our experience to validate their solutions commercially and expose them to investors for enablement. We are taking further leaps to influence regulations around the space in order to make it a healthier environment for key stakeholders i.e. innovators, investors, Banks, and consumers. This will allow regulators know what to regulate, how to regulate it, protect investors, as well as drive commerce.
Do you feel that AFF sets the standards and how do you stay on top of the game?
Very clearly, we are a leader in this space and the services we have rolled out assert that. We have won a number of awards, especially around digital enablement within the Financial Services industry. We are totally focused on providing mentorship and supporting startups through our accelerator programs and hackathons.
Something that further affirms our position is the conference we completed last week which was themed Digital Gold Rush: Building a Sustainable Tech Economy. It is the largest Technology conference in Africa with about 8,000 attendees physically and 5,000 online. Focused around the fact that Data is the currency for the new and growing economy, besides delivering some key thought-led and knowledge sharing interactive sessions and masterclasses, we also showcased some innovative solutions from startups within our ecosystem.
What do you think the technological face of Africa will be like in ten years?
There’s already a growing confirmation that technology has become an enabler across a multiplicity of industries. Africa is getting a good share of that because there’s a lot of innovation going on locally today. Yes, you can argue that they’re slightly rough around the edges, but there’s also a lot of focus from the investment community to bring out the diamonds in the rough. I think the new face of technology is going to be birthed out of a focus on solving real socio-economic problems and they’re going to be harnessed primarily by the investors and regulations that come in to enable good investments within Africa.
10 years from now, I imagine there’ll be new definitions of asset ownership as the sharing economy grows (e.g you can stay in another person’s house or fly in another person’s private plane etc.); simplication of connected ecosystems (e.g controlling fridge temperature remotely); and advancement from mind-controlled technology to brain-controlled interfaces (e.g progressing from saying “Hey Siri” to thinking “Hey Siri” on an Apple device).
Fintech is a word that primarily revolves around material profit. How do you define success?
Success is beyond material profit to me. It is about leveraging a wealth of knowledge and experience from the perspective of impact and knowledge that you’re able to share with people and businesses and that all parties derive value from. It is about being able to leverage more technology in order to deepen experience and exposure within communities. Being able to drive empowerment for financial inclusion and deliver services to be more pervasive to the undeveloped and underdeveloped environments. Being able to help businesses in other industries, for example, technology being used in agriculture to help farmers in rural areas. Being able to eliminate human errors, being able to create career options for the masses and empowering people. For me, those are examples of success.