Financial experts have called for policies and programmes that support startups, especially those in the Fintech space, as part of deliberate efforts towards stimulating the economy in the post-COVID-19 pandemic.
This was the unanimous view of speakers during Fintech Association of Nigeria (FintechNGR) webinar titled “Enabling Speedy Business and Economy Recovery through Regulation” held on the 25th of June 2020.
The Webinar which saw attendance from major financial technology players across the world was geared towards finding solutions for the financial technology industry in Africa post-COVID-19.
The discussion which was moderated by Professor Olayinka David-West, an academic director & member, Management Board, Lagos Business School, saw contributions by Dr Segun Aina, Chairman, Africa Fintech Network and the President, FinTechNGR; Sopnendu Mohanty, chief fintech officer, Monetary Authority of Singapore; Vimal Naikeny, advisor to Management on Technology, Bank of Mauritius; Marius Jurgilas, board member, Bank of Lithuania; Kashifu Inuwa Abdullahi, the director-general and CEO, National Information Technology Development Agency of Nigeria.
The discussion was kicked off by David Krujff, the Co-Lead at the Cambridge Centre for Alternative Finance who spoke about the role of the Cambridge Centre for Alternative Finance and the studies the academic centre is carrying out to support the recovery of economies and industries Post-COVID-19.
Krujff said that the Cambridge Centre for Alternative Finance has collaborated with various governments across the world in the wake of the COVID-19 debacle currently facing the world.
He noted that the centre is currently undertaking a three-fold research into the impact of the COVID-19 realities.
According to him, “The latest regulatory rapid assessment study we are conducting is in three folds. The first is to access the impact of COVID-19 for both industries and regulatory participants and how it relates to FinTech and digital finances.
“Secondly, we need to understand and provide insights on specific FinTech and other digital financial services related regulatory challenges, issues and needs in light of Covid-19 covering activities such as mobile payments, crowdfunding, digital services and digital credit.
“Thirdly we will need to highlight or and provide insights on ongoing and planned regulatory innovation initiatives such as innovation offices during the COVID-19 crisis.”
The President of Africa Fintech Network, Dr Segun Aina, spoke next, hailing Nigeria’s recent response to the COVID-19 pandemic by the way of an economic stimulus package worth 2.3 trillion Naira.
Aina said, “I believe this discussion is very important and timely and will help us take necessary steps to see how we can insure immediate economic recovery.”
The Chief Fintech Officer, Monetary Authority of Singapore, Sopnendu Mohanty, was called upon next to deliver his address.
Mohanty focused his presentation on the business and economic recovery in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, especially as it pertains to Asia.
He noted that due to the pandemic, most economies had shifted from efficiency and productivity to a state of resilience and sustainability.
He said that downward spiral led governments and industries in Asia think right and make things right so that there will be no repetition of the same mistakes in the future.
Mohanty explained that regulators and government must focus on the three (3) Cs Cashflow, Customer flow and Capital flow, stressing that understanding the dynamic interaction of these 3Cs will help governments and regulators come up with policies that will revamp economies.
In his own words, Mohanty said, “The Covid-19 pandemic has given us the opportunity to think and set things right so that we do not repeat some of the mistakes we made before the pandemic. Another thing is that the pandemic has also led to the digitization of almost everything as people have to depend on digitalization for survival and technology connectivity has become a new norm which means that many developing countries in Asia and Africa have been forced to develop their technology.”
Talking about Singapore’s specific response, Mohanty said, “Talking about the response in Singapore, four fiscal response systems were being formed. Almost 20% of the GDP was used to support the citizens and businesses during the crisis. The first narrative to arrive at a new normal is the engine and Connected Financial Services. As a result of this, at the end of the year in Singapore, banks should be able to share their finances, we also have a more trusted distribution system.”
Commenting on the collaborations between Africa and Asia, Mohanty said, “There will be a lot of collaboration especially between Africa and Asia, this will also lead to the spirit of experimentation as we will have to keep experimenting so we can understand the market business better and make more useful decisions.”
In conclusion, Mohanty discussed the Global digital infrastructure and how it enhanced digital identity, data, and payment, saying, “I also believe that in a digital world, the citizens should be able to give their consent on who they want to share their data with and how their data is being utilized.”
Next, Vimal Naikeny was called upon to discuss the situation in the eastern part of Africa. He noted that the mistake committed previously was that governments in the region were a bit slow to adopt digitized businesses. He however noted that due to the pandemic, governments became more receptive of digital businesses and allowed them to operate seamlessly.
According to him, “We also allowed the banks into adopting digitized forms of banking which were efficient during the lockdown. We allowed e-payment transactions to grow. We also took in numerous measures in terms of supports and palliatives. We set up a company called the Mauritius Investment Corporation as a special purpose to enhance job security and the Central bank injected about 1.5 Billion dollars in the market to help stabilize the nation’s economy. There is also a special relief fund given to customers.”
Shining a light on Europe’s response, Marius Jurgilas a Board Member at the Bank of Lithuania said, “In the context of FinTech and innovations, Bank of Lithuania took the view that we had to, first of all, create an enabling environment in multiple dimensions which gave all competitors an enabling ground to compete. This is also the case in other European countries as well where we have open banking, equity in business standards and creating skills and enabling locally grown businesses to compete and grow.”
He went further to say that Lithuania and other European governments opted to create an enabling infrastructure for businesses to flourish.
On the role that Fintech has to play post-COVID-19, Jurgilas said, “FinTech plays a helpful role because the usual financial system which we have developed and participated in is very good at providing finance in the form of debt and now we are facing a situation of an under-capitalized economy. So, the only way to put businesses back into business is to provide not debt finance but to provide equity finance. This is where FinTech can come in by providing start-up capitals for businesses to operate.”
Dr Segun Aina was next called upon to discuss what the Africa Fintech network and Fintech Nigeria is doing in terms of equity in terms of monetary injection into the Fintech community.
He said, “At Africa Fintech network which comprises an ecosystem of about 33 African countries, we provide advocacy and support most especially for the emerging Fintech companies.
“We also partner with several African organizations to see how we can help develop funding arrangements that are relevant and meet the needs of the different players. We also work with organizations such as the African Union and some others as part of the team that adds input to the African digital transformation which also contains various funding elements for Fintechs. We also help Fintechs access funds with stimulus packages.”
He pointed that the fintech network usually sources funds from governments and grants from international organizations, and that the network’s main role is to “accelerate the funds and also encourage our innovative and brilliant minds to be creative in helping to solve our local challenges and also help them transfer these ideas across Africa and the rest of the world.”
The Director-General, National Information Technology Development Agency, NITDA, Mr Kashifu Inuwa Abdullahi, in his own contribution called on financial institutions in the country to increase lending access for Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs), especially, startups in the Financial Technology (FinTech) ecosystem in order to promote financial inclusiveness in the country.
According to Mr Inuwa, “the COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately impacted SMEs around the world, Nigeria inclusive. Traditional bank lending process has long been a barrier to accessing finance for SMEs in Nigeria.”
He outlined the role that NITDA has played in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic in Nigeria, saying, “immediately the government pronounced the lockdown, NITDA constituted a 10-man committee named Tech4Covid with objectives to identify innovative solutions to address the pandemic; provide enabling policies and incentives to cushion the impact of the pandemic; and build massive digital skills to reskill the region to leverage technology in different sectors.”
The NITDA boss concluded by calling on people to leverage on IT to provide a coherent response to the COVID-19 debacle.
According to him, “We need to digitize everything, and you can’t argue with the fact that if you don’t digitize you will die.”
There was a special presentation by ‘DeRemi Atanda of SystemSpecs on how Remita has become a special purpose vehicle for revenue collection by the Federal Government; and used by large, medium and small businesses to harmonize their transactions.