COVID-19 has perhaps been the biggest recent reminder of just how global and interconnected our world has become over the past few decades. Similarly to how people have gained the ability to travel virtually anywhere on the planet and that more people will gain the accessibility to do so over time, knowledge has also gained the ability to span globally and has given more opportunities to individuals than they may be able to achieve just independently. For much of the past century the US was seen as the leader in the world’s rapidly evolving fintech world, but for the past two decades Asia, and specifically China, have really taken the reigns and curated many innovations such as smartphone apps like WeChat, Alipay, and the now worldwide phenomenon TikTok. But there have been other parts of the world filled with fintech prodigies waiting in the shadows which are now finally coming to light, such as those in Latin America which entrepreneur friendly company Techstars has recently taken an interest towards. Now, many countries in Africa such as Kenya are making major strides in the fintech world.
For many recent years, Africa has seen a large disadvantage in competing in this space with countries such as the US and China due to widespread lack of resources, specifically internet access and smartphone distribution. However, recently this technology has been coming to many African countries, such as Kenya, and instead of having to spend lots of years playing catch up they seem to be making leaps and bounds of progress already. For example, telecommunications company Safaricom has been leading the trend since 2007 with its M-Pesa money transfer service allowing customers to transfer money without the use of an internet connection and rather using technology similar to text messaging. On top of this, mobile network virtual operator Equitel has combined the need for telecommunications and banking to be available on users’ smartphones locally. These two companies are widely to thank for allowing Kenya and similar African nations to get involved in the world’s vast financial markets.
Not only are Kenya’s breakthroughs in fintech remarkable, but they should also serve some lessons to other countries abroad. For one, remember that smart innovation comes out of necessity. A large reason as to why Safaricom and Equitel made the moves they did was purely out of necessity to allow the country to participate in seamless financial activities based on the challenges of having limited internet access. Also, remember to establish trust within your community. It’s hard for people to trust, empathize with, and support global corporations, but local businesses that have their community’s best interests in mind garner not only respect, but most of the time financial success.