Kizito Okechukwu | June 21, 2023
The inaugural inclusive Fintech Forum focused on fostering strategies for the inclusive and sustainable development of Fintech. Over the past three days, policymakers, entrepreneurs, investors, corporates and foundations gathered in Kigali to align on the implementation, policies and partnerships that will harness technology to accelerate greater financial inclusion.
The forum was designed to bring leaders, investors and fintechs together to participate in impactful dialogues and meetings that will advance policies and regulations, as well as create meaningful long-term connections and partnerships to advance financial inclusion through Fintech for Good.
I was honoured to have been invited by the Rwandan Government to participate in a fireside chat to discuss Africa’s startup unicorns and the impact they should be making in Africa to address social ills. Joining me on the panel was ‘my brother’ the founder and CEO of Flutterwave, Olugbenga Agboola, a Nigerian fintech startup who has now founded what is dubbed the most valued startup in Africa, valued at US$3billion and having raised US$250million in 2022.
Agboola shared how Flutterwave has provided payment infrastructure for global merchants and has supported SMEs – even during the Covid pandemic – enabling SMEs to sell online on their platform. Although some will say that they have been in the media for various reasons over the past one year, I want to cut them some slack and say that as one builds a company and scales, it faces enormous challenges – just like any startup. Some naysayers might not remember how even various Tesla models were recalled when Elon started developing the electric car. It takes guts to innovate and build a whole new industry and companies like Flutterwave need all the support they can get.
For me, the concept of impact unicorns is all about people. A unicorn is a startup with a minimum value of US$1billion. Flutterwave has achieved this at a current valuation of US$3bn. For Impact startups, it’s not just about having the monetary valuation at US$1billion, it’s also about having a positive impact on 1 billion lives on the continent.
The majority of Africa’s economy lies in the informal sector – so how can fintechs not just provide a payment platform, but how can they help people better manage their finances, e.g. how can fintechs help that mama in the village own an asset? The same can also be said about healthtechs that focus on consultations with health practitioners – or the delivery of medicine – but how can healthtech startups also help people live a healthy lifestyle? Startups such as Max AB in Egypt, Sabi in Nigeria and Sokowatch in Kenya and many more, have all proven this possible by supporting informal retailers to access manufacturers and distributors with ease, while getting preferential rates for their orders.
The Fintech Forum was also attended by the President of Rwanda, Paul Kagame, the President of Zambia, Hakainde Hichilema and Tidjane Thiam, former CEO of Credit Suisse, and many more key stakeholders in the fintech ecosystem.
As startups continue to innovate and build in the tech space, they need the support of both private and public sectors, which need not be threatened by their innovation, but rather be supportive of their development and work together to craft progressive policies that will enable them, rather than hinder them. Corporates also have a role to play to ensure more collaborative partnerships with startups so that they don’t pose a threat to them, but rather become partners to enable and even possibly vertically integrate into their businesses.
Thank you, Kigali, for hosting me. Your optimism, passion and belief are exactly what Africa needs. Wishing you well as you continue to re-build and attract much needed investments in your beautiful country.
Kizito Okechukwu is the Executive Head of 22 On Sloane and co-Chair of the Global Entrepreneurship Network (GEN) Africa.
22 On Sloane is the largest startup campus in Africa. The campus offers disruptive startups and innovative SMEs a complete turnkey solution to scale, from the initial idea all the way to commercialisation, funding opportunities and access to markets. Its aim is to nurture the entrepreneurial mindset, ensure their sustainability, and explore development of new industries and contribute towards job creation in Africa.
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