The first ever Africa Fintech Unconference 2017 held in Accra, Ghana from March 23rd to 24th offered Kenyan Fintech innovators the chance to learn from each other and network with other Fintech innovators from across the continent. The two-day event brought together fintech innovators, thought leaders, banks and other established financial players in the emerging Fintech sector to enable Fintech companies to engage in smarter pan-African partnerships in a fast-moving industry that is ripe for consolidation.
An unconference is an open, participant-driven event designed to; enable rapid exchange of information and ideas, provide a space for conversations that matter and foster the development of collaborative relationships. The content is proposed and provided by the participants, and is often determined on the day of the event.
The Unconference was organized by; Financial Inclusion on Business Runways (FIBR) an innovative Research and Development project which seeks to demonstrate how smartphones can accelerate and deepen financial inclusion in developing countries. FIBR is an initiative of Bankable Frontiers Associates (BFA) which creates new ways to connect low-income populations to financial services that meet their needs.
The MasterCard Foundation which works with visionary organizations to provide greater access to education, skills training and financial services for people living in poverty, primarily in Sub-Saharan Africa, was also one of the organisers). Also present was Branch.co who offer micro financing and credit to emerging markets easily and fast without the barriers of traditional microfinance and Ecobank among many others organisations.
Partners in the Unconference included Nomanini which means ‘Anytime’ in Siswati which provides affordable access to payments for everyone, and Catalyst Fund, a philanthropic grant fund at the forefront of Inclusive Fintech, an initiative supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and JPMorgan Chase & Co.
Kenyan firms present at the Unconference were Lendable, PayGo Energy, Umati Capital, Interpay, Musoni, Sokowatch, Farmdrive and Rafode Ltd.
The premise behind the unconference idea is that the sum of the expertise of the people in the audience is greater than the sum of the expertise of the people on stage. The African Fintech Unconference is about empowering attendees to share their expertise.
The African Fintech Unconference envisions the participants to; go with the flow, follow their passion and go to the sessions they are interested in and take responsibility for their own learning.
At this year’s Unconference, Amolo Ng’weno, East Africa Regional Director at BFA said, “We are looking to the growing fintech market in Ghana as a complement and counterpart to the East Africa Fintech sector, by cultivating, comparing and connecting what is happening in the West and East regional markets. Fintech companies across the continent, including those based in Kenya, are also turning to Ghana as an attractive market to expand into, for which bringing the Unconference to Ghana, was compelling and exciting.”
The Unconference focused on diverse sessions with good counsel. This were;
For Fintech actors working towards financial inclusion, customers need more than services or products. Customers need tools in which they can make money “work” in different ways for their needs and how they live.
Best practices for Fintech companies seeking partnerships with established players. This means ensuring customer needs inform partnership, understanding and defining clear goals, fostering trust and transparency early on, as well as structuring fair upside for each partner.
Best practices for Fintech companies seeking to gain trust with their customers need to take great care to be consistent and transparent. This follows through with promises, leverage channels that are already trusted by customers and hire local people who have knowledge and networks in the target markets.