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Fintech: You cannot kill an idea whose time has come 

Fintech: You cannot kill an idea whose time has come 
September 11
08:27 2021

One of the things I learnt very early on in life, is that you cannot kill an idea or a person whose time has come. And I say this especially within the context of recent technological advancements and what can be described as subtle resistance by the Nigerian government even when it prides itself for having a ministry, whose objective is to drive the growth of the digital economy.

From Amazon, Apple, Google, Facebook, Microsoft and others, technology has enabled human interaction and has proved to be the game changer. This is the reason I find it curious, that as a country, we are yet to embrace technology and new media in its fullness. I even reckon that most of our challenges can be solved if we tap fully into the ubiquitous power of technology and digital media. As a matter of fact, the much talked about “Nigerian corruption” which continues to rear its head like a stubborn and recalcitrant demon, can be significantly addressed with the right application of technology.

But I hate to sound like a broken record, everything is always going to be about governance, it is impossible to isolate our lives from political outcomes, and I will continue to shout this even from the mountain top, that we must get leadership right. I mean the government determines the outcome of our lives, it is what determines if we get access to fair wages, access to quality education, health, utilities, and basic amenities. Businesses are also largely influenced by government policies, including the price of even food items and other commodities.

Sometime last month, I was a guest on Rubbin minds – a weekly television show that is known for celebrating contemporary culture and amplifying youth voices, anchored by the inimitable Ebuka Obi-Uchendu. We had a discussion on Nigeria’s leadership gap and how we can fix it particularly in the light of the recent clampdown on some of the indigenous fintech start-ups. It was my opinion that as we approach a post-oil global economy and in the light of already proposed ban on fossil driven cars and internal combustion engines by countries like Norway, France, United Kingdom and even Germany, technology enabled services, including Fintech, cryptocurrency have the potential to galvanise our economy.

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Financial technology also known as Fintech, are institutions that are revolutionising finance, investment and providing access to financial services through the power of digital technology. They also help to promote the culture of financial discipline through targeted savings, FinTech like Piggy Vest especially offer this service. Most recently, one of the Fintech companies, Flutterwave attained a Unicorn (a valuation of over $1bn after raising about $170m), it successfully joined three other African payment companies and most notably Interswitch, another Nigerian payment start-up, on the prestigious Unicorn list. What is however common to most, if not all the fintech companies is that they are owned and managed by a team of young people.

Through their work, they are providing economic opportunities, employment, liberalising financial services and providing unlimited access that transcend the walls of traditional banking institutions. Despite this demonstrated effort, the Nigerian government through the CBN appears to be bent on regulating them. Recently, the CBN obtained a court order freezing the accounts of 4 investment platforms, namely Risevest, Chaka, Bamboo and Trove for 180 days.

While the idea of regulation may not be bad in itself, as a matter of fact, regulation will help to protect customers, the way the CBN conducted itself in this and many other instances is very suspect and disturbing. Let’s agree for a moment, that some of the investment platforms have run against the law, but I understand that empathy is a vital aspect of leadership, as well as engagement and consultation. I would expect that on the merit of the service they provide, the regulator would engage with them in a way that it does not signal uncertainty and an attempt to kill honest effort like this one. And it is difficult not to think otherwise, considering the way the CBN, in February, ordered all financial institutions to stop facilitating cryptocurrency transactions and other digital assets. Also, in the light of the current Twitter ban which has adversely affected many businesses – big and small.

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And one would expect that in the face of the serious unemployment challenges we currently face as a nation; government would embrace every form of innovation that helps to empower young people and engage them in a constructive manner. And like I have said many times, that we have over 23 million unemployed people is enough security risk that should keep the political leadership up almost all night.

Like Fintech, Cryptocurrency, and every other aspect of digital technology. Technology always has a way of asserting itself. It is, therefore, my unsolicited advice to Nigeria’s political leadership at all levels to stop this continued attempt to either resist advancements in technology or project their own paranoia, because it is simply the case of how no one can kill an idea whose time has come, such attempt will remain futile at best!

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