Who shall tell our stories?

I have spent the last few months reading, researching and discussing with many payments industry experts on what the new wave of FinTech and payment innovations mean for the world, Africa, you and most importantly me.

I’m sorry that I have to use the FinTech jargon. Just like big data, cloud, etc. FinTech as a buzzword is already annoying the heck out of me!

Opinions, just like the sands of the Eleko beach, are many, cheap and quickly forgettable. However, what is not disputable, is that a lot of innovative things are happening all over the world and it is likely that the financial world as we know it may be gone soon.

Meanwhile, if I ask the average Joe or Jane, as the case may be, about the companies leading these packs, you get fancy names like Atom, WeBank, Ant Financials, Stripe, N26, Monzo, etc. Everyone is talking about BlockChain, Open Banking, PSD2, Trump, etc. So where is Africa?

Before anything else, I need to say that Africa is not a country!

I’ve had the opportunity to talk to many companies doing fantastic things in different countries in Africa, but the average African doesn’t know about them. Yeah, you want to mention M-Pesa? Vodafone invented M-Pesa for Safaricom in Kenya and Vodacom in Tanzania and partly funded by DFID.

While the world is begging the USA to start doing instant interbank transfer, Nigeria and other countries like Zimbabwe have been doing it for centuries, but who knows? Outside of Africa, more people know about UK’s faster payments than Zimbabwe’s ZIPIT. Does ZIPIT means “to keep quiet”?

Tax collection is a mess in Nigeria, but the TSA platform from Remita is sufficiently more advanced than what can found in other countries, but who knows?

mCash, recently launched in Nigeria, promises to upend merchant payments but hardly did the story get beyond the border before it was rudely sent back home.

MyCash is a pure-play digital bank in Zimbabwe run out of a tiny office on a shared infrastructure, but I can bet that you are reading about it here for the first time.

Africans may not have achieved the level of development seen in western countries and Asia, but not everyone has been sitting around climbing iroko trees. However, while we may be furiously developing payment and other technology solutions, hardly do we get the word out.

If we think others will tell our stories, we may have to wait until chicken grow teeth. Letting the world know isn’t just about the beautiful 15 minutes of fame that everyone craves, but more importantly, to encourage our youth that good things are also possible in Africa.

Even though the technology behind M-Pesa may have come from Vodafone, the airtime it got spurred the rapid development of mobile money across Africa, and it is one of the good things exported by Africa to the world.

We need more beautiful stories to be told. But much more, we need storytellers.

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