18 May 2017

Rwanda: How Rwanda Can Leverage Financial Technology to Drive Inclusion

Photo: Nadege Imbabazi/The New Times
More and more Rwandans are using e-payment facilities, like Visa credit cards, to settle bills.

A two-day conference dubbed, "Dot Finance Africa," opened in Kigali yesterday with experts in finance and information technology sectors calling for leveraging of financial technology (FinTech) to drive financial inclusion.

The second edition of the Dot Finance Africa (DFA) conference is one of the largest gatherings of financial technology professionals.

It brings together more than 500 financial industry leaders from 60 countries. It is being held under the theme, "Transforming Africa for the FinTech Age."

Speaking during the opening ceremony at the Kigali Convention Centre, Dr Diane Karusisi, the chief executive of Bank of Kigali, said digital services are raising the competitive bar in every sector of the economy, one of which is the banking field.

Karusisi added that FinTech has unprecedented role in driving financial services.

"Financial services field is among sectors set to be disrupted by digital innovations in Africa and worldwide. FinTech is not disrupting traditional financial services providers but complementing them to meet needs of unbanked population. It is playing a significant role as facilitator of economic growth to transform Africa," she said.

"As a banker, I see huge opportunities in FinTech solutions, which will harness new technologies to lower transaction costs. With digital innovations, we can also deal with inefficiencies in several value chains especially in agriculture. Banks also have a chance to tap into big data to improve product offering and access to credit for SMEs, consumers."

While advances in digital financial services are promoting inclusion and creating new opportunities for many people in Africa who are still excluded from access to formal financial services, experts underscored the need for financial services operators to develop customer-centric innovations.

Lucy Mbabazi, the country manager of Visa, said it is critical for financial services operators to innovate around the customer needs as financial services sector continues to be disrupted.

"Every technology innovation can be promising, but those that are interoperable, consumer-centric, secure, and tap into the power of mobile phones, are more promising. As FinTech is driving financial services, operators need to innovate around the needs of the people," she said during a panel discussion.

Benjamin Nyakeriga, the chief development officer at the Development Bank of Rwanda, said that while banks are currently undergoing massive shifts as technology advances, more services and products are being created.

Yves Eonnet, the chief executive of TagPay, a mobile financial service platform helping mobile money providers reach millions, said FinTech is creating challenges as it disrupts traditional value-chain and business models, and new mechanisms should be devised to ensure consumer-protection in a rapidly-changing technology environment.

He urged banks to play an important role to facilitate digital payments and transactions in their local economies in order to drive financial inclusion.

Experts indicated that having such big conferences gives them a platform to share experiences and learn from other players to really step up digital capabilities, as well as create more partnerships with different countries.

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