As fintech grows, so also are the challenges associated with it. PELUMI BOLAWA writes on how FSI builds inclusiveness for women and young fintech innovators
Financial Services Innovation, in partnership with the Central Bank of Nigeria, Nigerian Inter-Bank Settlement System and Flourish, is focused on improving the financial technology space through the inclusion of young and women innovators.
Financial regulators are in the financial market to provide solutions for fintech startups and encourage financial inclusion. Due to this increase, young and women innovators face different challenges.
These challenges include high level of poverty, channelling innovations, as well as collaborations with regulators and financial institutions.
Data by the National Bureau of Statistics in 2020 revealed that 83 million (40 per cent) Nigerians live in poverty and estimated that the figure would rise to 90 million (45 per cent) in 2022. According to a report by PricewaterhouseCoopers in March 2020, women account for 41 per cent of businesses in Nigeria. Enhancing Financial Innovation and Access reported in 2020 that only 64 per cent of Nigerians are financially included and that 38 million (36 per cent) are adults. EFInA revealed that women that are financially excluded amount to over 55 per cent. Out of the 25.1 million excluded in the North, 13.1 million are women.
Sigh of relief
To build this gap, FSI partnered with Arewa Tech Hub to host women’s hackathon challenge in the northern part of Nigeria; it is known as ArewaFemtechFest. The virtual hackathon challenge was organised to “proffer and develop innovative solutions to tackle the challenges faced by unbanked and under-banked female entrepreneurs in northern Nigeria,” according to the Executive Director, FSI, Aituaz Kola-Oladejo.
“Africa needs to be deliberate about building enduring businesses, leveraging tech-enabled services. Hence, we, at FSI, have chosen to partner with Startup Arewa to proffer fintech solutions to women entrepreneurs in the North whom we believe can contribute more to the Gross Domestic Product when they become financially included,” she added.
Founder of Startup Arewa, Mohammed Jega, stated that poverty was known to affect more women than men due to disparities in education, employment and economic growth opportunities.
He said, “Startup Arewa is excited to have this partnership with FSI to encourage financial inclusion among women entrepreneurs within the northern region, by proffering simple and easy-to-use fintech solutions to increase their participation in setting up businesses, which we believe will reduce poverty in the North.”
The event provided unique and easy fintech solutions: innovative payment, savings and credit fit for women Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises in Northern Nigeria.
At the challenge, the winner a N3m prize, while N2m and N1m were awarded to first and second runners-up respectively.
Arewa Tech Hub is a northern Nigeria social capitalist initiative aimed at creating unprecedented path to scale for mavericks driving social change to bridge the technology gap in the region.
Providing financial aid, regulation
The core objective of FSI, according to a statement made available to Financial Street, is to accomplish the task commissioned to it by CBN to encourage fintech innovations that operate in a unified system. Through its programmes, policies and advocacies within CBN framework, FSI serves as means of enlightenment for fintech startups.
“Like people, countries must evolve. We must create an environment which enables our people, young and old, as well as the country, to take control of our tech future,” saidCBN Deputy Governor (Operations Directorate), Adebisi Shonubi.
Fixing fintech challenges with hackathon
FSI launched the first ever innovation sandbox in Africa in 2019 at the official opening of the community. “Charting a course for financial innovations in Nigeria and to empower fintech startups is why and when FSI was birthed,” Kola-Oladejo said.
Fintech innovation sandbox is meant to shed infrastructure for the financial services industry. It is a platform for innovators to set out their ideas and build applications without speculated barriers.
FSI hosts a community of over 3,500 innovators getting out applications on its sandbox. It equally provides 51 Minimum Viable Products.
“The ED expressed excitement in leading this charge at FSI, where we hope to build an inclusive ecosystem of fintech innovators,” she said.
Team Lead at Digital Technologies, who won the maiden edition of FSI PayAsYouKnow Hackathon, Kingdavid Ehindero, said, “FSI organised a hackathon and with our solution at Digital Technologies, we won the first prize. A lot of Nigerians are still unbanked and the banking solution has proved insufficient. So, as a solution provider, it was just right there for us to go into the fintech industry and provide solutions to these problems.”
According to the CEO, Pennee Technologies, Emmanuella Mejero, being a part of the FSI mentorship programme in 2020 created an opportunity for her to meet a lot of people.
She added, “Some of them turned out to be mentors beyond the programme for me. One of the mentors there introduced me to an investor in my company.
“Talk about collaboration; it is like just meeting the other founders and learning from them as well.”
FSI, through its inclusive programmes, as made available to Financial Street, has been organising tertiary institution-based technology challenges, bringing together undergraduates from different institutions across the country.
Opportunity to be the ‘Face of FSI’ on campus; access to the fintech innovation sandbox and community; access to FSI’s capacity building programme and materials; access to FSI’s mentorship network; opportunity to join the FSI founders’ community; and opportunity to showcase innovations on FSI’s Appstore are some of the benefits of the challenges.
Also, they provide access to prospective employers, start-up clinics to nurture ideas, and training on the use of Application Programming Interfaces via code labs.
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