Monday 06, November 2017 by Matthew Amlôt

Experts gather at Finnovation Africa: Ethiopia 2017

Finnovation Africa: Ethiopia 2017 opened at the Radisson Blu Addis Ababa, where more than 200 international FinTech experts together with African pioneers, investors, entrepreneurs and leading bankers, gathered to harness the FinTech revolution to boost strategic economic priorities such as financial inclusion and deepening – and how FinTech can make a positive and profitable difference in Africa.

Finnovation Africa: Ethiopia 2017 welcomed a line-up of keynote speakers, including Chris Principe, CEO of Chain2Trade, Inc. and publisher of FinFuture & Financial IT; Mountaga Diop, Founder & CEO of BelCash; Chidi Okpala, Group Managing Director of FinTech at Atlas Mara; Ken Njoroge, CEO of Cellulant; and Aaron Fu, Managing Director of MEST. This high-profile opening keynote session defined directions on Aligning the Role of Government Policymakers, Incumbent Banks, FinTech Innovators, Investors, Multilateral Agencies, millionOs and the Private Sector to Create a Dynamic Ecosystem for FinTech in Africa.

Speaking on the sidelines of the event, Mountaga Diop, Founder & CEO of Ethiopian FinTech trail-blazer, BelCash, said that, “Industry leaders from across the African and global FinTech industry gathered at Finnovation Africa: Ethiopia 2017 where they looked to harness the growing momentum around digital financial services into more inclusive and productive economies across Sub‐Saharan Africa. As the formal economy grows we see individuals, communities, and nations prosper and make progress on strategic growth and development priorities. When unbanked and underbanked communities have access to digital financial services, everyone benefits and FinTech can play a vital role in driving financial inclusion imperatives across the continent. There is an opportunity to change people’s lives while building scalable, profitable companies that consumers need and want.”

Chris Principe shared some insights while speaking on the sidelines of the Finnovation Africa event, “A very positive story, if one that is not yet well understood, is unfolding in Africa. New technology, new ideas and new business models are producing new opportunities. The distinctions between telecom services providers, payments services providers and financial institutions are breaking down. Innovative companies are using Blockchain technology and crypto‐currencies to resolve fundamental problems such as lack of access to electricity and lack of access to global financial markets. Finnovation Africa highlights how FinTech is transforming Africa for the better, facilitating payments, boosting financial inclusion and developing new enterprises. However, the conference does much more than that, as it engages key stakeholders to reveal how the entire world is changing. In many ways, Africa is a FinTech leader, rather than a follower.”

Another session held at Finnovation Africa: Ethiopia 2017 was the Leader’s Dialogue Live! session which presented a unique opportunity to gain a fresh perspective and first-hand insights in conversation with an African FinTech Pioneer. The live interview session featured Munir Duri, Chief Executive Officer of Kifiya, who stressed the innovative potential of financial technology in Africa, “The FinTech sector is driving disruptive innovation and transforming the financial services landscape across the continent. We firmly believe that the rapid growth in the application of financial technology is providing a platform to enable payments and increase access, helping the drive to digital financial services.” This high-profile session was moderated by Colin Don Schouw, Managing Director of the Fixer Group in South Africa.

In-depth sessions continued throughout the day featuring bankers and FinTech pioneers deliberating on key issues such as Blockchain – from Hype to Reality in Africa; innovations in the African payments landscape; and Finclusion & Islamic finance. High-profile speakers included Ameya Upadhyay, Principal, Investments of Omidyar Network; Salam Slim, Director, Global Solutions Lead – Islamic Banking at Oracle; Melaku Kebede, Vice President – Systems & E-Banking at United Bank of Ethiopia; and Jane Zhang, Founder & CEO of Shellpay.

The post-lunch sessions at Finnovation Africa: Ethiopia 2017 were focused on identifying and engaging exciting new African FinTech entrepreneurs. The Tale of FinTech Pioneers in Sheba Valley showcased the exciting innovations currently happening in Ethiopia, including trail-blazers such as Gebeya, YenePay, and Zayride, and featured insights from Zekarias Amsalu, the Founder & MD of IBEX Financial Consultancy Ltd.

The day concluded with the Wolves’ Den session, which again lived up to its billing as a powerful and ruthless session that enabled innovative FinTech start-ups and trail-blazers to real-time test the positive impact of their solutions with a panel representing savvy Investors/Venture Capitalists and seasoned African Fintech Pioneers. FinTech trail-blazers YenePay and ELEBAT Solutions both made their respective pitches while the “Wolves" asked the tough questions and provided the insights during a dynamic closing session to the event.