Financial inclusivity across Africa
Each year, since 1971, the World Economic Forum (WEF) gathers in Davos, Switzerland, drawing influential leaders and global change-makers representing politics, business, culture, NGOs, among others. To learn what some of the brightest minds around the world are thinking, it is worth keeping an eye on the Davos sessions. Below are some of my thoughts on the session ‘technology and the 4th Industrial Revolution (4IR)’.
The session was introduced as follows: the speed, breadth and depth of this revolution is forcing us to rethink how countries develop, how organisations create value, and even what it means to be human. The Fourth Industrial Revolution is about more than just technology-driven change; it is an opportunity to help everyone, including leaders, policy-makers and people from all income groups and nations, to harness converging technologies in order to create an inclusive, human-centred future.
Emerging and developing markets could be the greatest beneficiaries of this tectonic period. The 4IR has the potential to fundamentally change in the way we live, work, and relate to one another. Technology has the ability to impact humanity in a positive way and drive inclusive growth across geographies and economic barriers. Together we have the opportunity to radically improve the socio-economic fabric of the African continent. It is vital that we don’t allow the opportunity to pass us by.
Many use the label the ‘African tech revolution’ and yes, as a developing market, there are definite pockets of tech expertise, but the reality is, these pockets only characterise a small minority of Africa’s people. The lack of communications infrastructure limits the availability of ubiquitous, high quality communications services and in most instances, cost remains a barrier.
With appropriate planning, thoughtful regulation, and deliberate and coordinated efforts Africa has an opportunity to skip generations of legacy technologies and deploy communications solutions that are contemporary and forward-leaning. These solutions may even surpass more developed geographies with legacy systems beholden to vested interests.
If high quality, affordable communications services that allow for internet and data access are the foundation for modern day economic growth, financial inclusion is the scaffolding for societal upliftment. The African continent is well-known for 'making a plan' i.e. innovating with the available resources; and M-Pesa is the posterchild. It is Africa’s innovative mobile currency and was operational and hugely popular long before fintech was 'cool'.
Digital value is an essential component if we are to deliver on the promise of financial inclusion. We need more people transacting digitally. Even those who are most impoverished should have access to financial services and be exposed to financial literacy initiatives.
A broad range of transformative financial services, including payments, remittance, savings, loyalty schemes, bonus programmes, insurance, and access to affordable credit, open up new channels for people. They provide opportunities, and security, as well as build trust in technology. At Capital Appreciation, we believe in businesses that do exactly that.
During this year’s WEF session, I was particularly interested to hear what Mohit Joshi, President of Infosys (an Indian multinational technology company, and a global leader in next-generation digital services and consulting) had to say.
Joshi’s focus was on the significant adoption of artificial intelligence (AI). He began by saying that AI was largely driven from the consumer perspective starting with social media platforms. These consumers then drove corporates to follow suit. The banking industry, he explained, was an example of a sector being an early adopter of AI in changing customer interactions. These being largely powered by chat bots with customers ‘talking’ to virtual agents. He further illustrated how AI has impacted the way data is collected, used, and consumed; making it possible for hyper-personalised products tailored to individual customers.
The WEF session closed with the following: “4IR is a new chapter in human development, enabled by extraordinary technology advances commensurate with those of the first, second and third industrial revolutions. These advances are merging the physical, digital and biological worlds in ways that create both huge promise and potential peril.” At Capital Appreciation we believe in the power of technology to transform. We are invested in the ‘huge promise’ and are determined to find sustainable solutions that will deliver a greater future for our continent and our world.
Bradley Sacks is the Joint Chief Executive of Capital Appreciation, a company focused on investing in and growing businesses that deliver compelling, innovative and disruptive solutions to Financial Institutions and users of financial services. For more see https://capitalappreciation.co.za/about/overview.