How fintechs can improve financial inclusion in Francophone Africa

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This article was contributed to TechCabal by Noel K. Tshiani. Tshiani is the founder of Congo Business Network. The organization was established in October 2018 in New York to identify and connect decision makers in the public and private sectors with the goal of promoting entrepreneurship and taking bold initiatives that contribute to economic growth.

When I moved from Kinshasa to Washington, DC in 1996, there was no mention of fintech at the time in my community. In fact, I didn’t have a cell phone until the early 2000s. Access to banking services across America relied on having access to a physical branch to perform most banking transactions that can be done today on a smartphone or a website on the computer.

Smartphone ownership and high-speed Internet access have transformed the way people access and interact with banking institutions in the United States over the past 25 years. Where financial innovation took more than 2 decades to arrive in America, French-speaking African countries can get there faster if governments and telecommunications companies can make the necessary investments to build faster Internet infrastructure.

The number of smartphone owners is expected to increase to reach 64% by 2025 in sub-Saharan Africa, according to the GSMA’s recently released State of the Mobile Money Industry 2022 Report. By making it easier to open a mobile money account to carry out transactions such as buying phone credit and paying for a taxi, financial inclusion rates in Francophone Africa will increase significantly over the next 3 years. .

The most developed economies of Asia, America and Europe have one thing in common: a developed banking system. Francophone African countries do not have to build traditional banking infrastructure to achieve financial inclusion, especially among youth or women.

Mobile money is the key to increasing access to banking services in rural areas of African countries. Therefore, efforts should be made by central banks, ministries of finance, ministries of telecommunications and government agencies that collect fees and taxes to inculcate the culture of digital transactions and discourage people from paying primarily in cash. .

Since April 2019, Congo Business Network and the Africa Fintech Summit have partnered for editions of the events held in Washington, DC, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Cairo, Egypt, and next month in Cape Town, South Africa. The objective focused on raising awareness of how fintechs can contribute to the Congolese economy, given the vast geographical territory of the country which makes it extremely difficult to build a traditional bank branch outside of Congo. Kinshasa, Lubumbashi, Goma and Matadi.

I was delighted to see representatives from the central bank of Congo attending last year’s event in Cairo when we met with representatives from the central bank of Egypt to learn how they built the fintech ecosystem Egyptian and how we can learn from this experience in Kinshasa. .

For the 8th edition of the event to be held in Cape Town next month, the Ministry of Entrepreneurship and Small Business, the National Agency for the Development of Entrepreneurship in Congo, as well as the incubator Ishango Startups Center will attend with the intention of meeting investors, finding business partners and gaining media exposure.

For a country of 100 million inhabitants where only 10% of the population has access to bank accounts, I encourage the Congolese government to continue to simplify regulations for mobile money operators, to improve the business climate and to help fintech startups grow by providing solutions that meet the needs of consumers and merchants.

With courage, these actions will increase financial inclusion rates across the country and contribute to economic growth and job creation for the 70% of the country’s population who are 25 years old or younger.

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