Fintech: An idea whose time has come
Sir: You cannot kill an idea or a person whose time has come, especially within the context of recent technological advancements and what can be described as subtle resistance by the Nigerian government, even when it prides itself on having a ministry, whose objective is to drive the growth of the digital economy.
From Amazon, Apple, Google, Facebook, Microsoft and others, technology has enabled human interaction and has proved to be the game-changer. I find it curious, that as a country, we are yet to embrace technology and new media in its fullness. Most of our challenges can be solved if we tap fully into the ubiquitous power of technology and digital media. As a matter of fact, the much talked about “Nigerian corruption” which continues to rear its head like a stubborn and recalcitrant demon, can be significantly addressed with the right application of technology.
But everything is always going to be about governance; it is impossible to isolate our lives from political outcomes, and we must get leadership right. The government determines the outcome of our lives; it determines if we get access to fair wages, access to quality education, health, utilities and basic amenities. Businesses are also largely influenced by government policies, including the price of even food items and other commodities.
As we approach a post-oil global economy and in the light of the already proposed ban on fossil driven cars and internal combustion engines by countries like Norway, France, the United Kingdom and even Germany, technology-enabled services, including Fintech, cryptocurrency has the potential to galvanise our economy.
Financial technology also known as Fintech, are institutions that are revolutionising finance, investment and providing access to financial services through the power of digital technology. They promote the culture of financial discipline through targeted savings. What is common to most, if not all the Fintech companies is that they are owned and managed by a team of young people.
Through their work, they are providing economic opportunities, employment, liberalising financial services and providing unlimited access that transcend the walls of traditional banking institutions. Despite this demonstrated effort, the Nigerian government through the CBN appears to be bent on regulating them. Recently, the CBN obtained a court order freezing the accounts of four investment platforms for 180 days.
The idea of regulation may not be bad in itself; regulation will help to protect customers but the way the CBN conducted itself in this and many other instances is very suspect and disturbing. Let’s agree for a moment, that some of the investment platforms have run against the law but I understand that empathy is a vital aspect of leadership, as well as engagement and consultation. I would expect that on the merit of the service they provide, the regulator would engage with them in a way that does not signal uncertainty and an attempt to kill honest effort like this one.
And one would expect that in the face of the serious unemployment challenges we currently face as a nation; the government would embrace every form of innovation that helps to empower young people and engage them in a constructive manner. That we have over 23 million unemployed people is enough security risk that should keep the political leadership up almost all night.
Technology always has a way of asserting itself. It is, therefore, my unsolicited advice to Nigeria’s political leadership at all levels to stop this continued attempt to either resist advancements in technology or project their own paranoia, because it is simply the case of how no one can kill an idea whose time has come; such attempt will remain futile at best!
• Seun Awogbenle.