Rwanda is establishing itself as a fintech hub. In fact, the country recently hosted and participated in a three-day Inclusive FinTech Forum which brought together financial technology practitioners and enthusiasts from various backgrounds. Participants included regulators, innovators, investors, amateurs, and individuals from all walks of life.
The forum provided a platform for captivating discussions about the remarkable evolution of financial services and technology. It was a nostalgic reflection on the days when bank transfer applications were filled out, and we anxiously waited for days for the money to reach its destination. Now, we find ourselves making instant local and international transactions and payments with just a few taps on our phones.
During the forum, both President Kagame of Rwanda and President Hichilema of Zambia reflected on the past challenges of sending money across borders and the unreliability of financial services. President Kagame emphasized the frustrating reality that sometimes the money never even arrived. While the forum provided a trip down memory lane, it also addressed the current challenges facing the fintech sector and explored strategies to overcome them.
Moving forward, special efforts need to be invested in reinforcing critical areas such as infrastructure development, robust data-sharing capabilities, and effective regulation to safeguard consumers, especially the most vulnerable. In addition, fostering inclusivity and promoting collaboration across the sector should be a focus for all stakeholders.
Regulators are urged to establish more stringent fintech laws and regulations. As the fintech industry continues to innovate and disrupt the financial sector, it is vital to recognize the inherent risks that come with these advancements. Scammers are becoming increasingly sophisticated, necessitating robust governance and regulatory frameworks. As Tobias Adrian, IMF Financial Counsellor and Director of the Monetary and Capital Markets Department rightly remarked, “It’s not just about technology; it’s also about governance, which sets the rules of the game.”
Furthermore, innovators and investors should prioritize developing products and systems that effectively address customers’ pain points and prioritize affordability and inclusivity. The goal is to foster innovation within an environment that aligns with public policy objectives. This requires extensive work in testing architectures, exploring emerging technologies, and establishing solid legal and governance foundations.
All participants in the fintech services realm must heed Margaret Miller’s wise words: “These opportunities come with potential risks, such as (un)fair lending practices related to unmonitored use and analysis of big data or increased systemic vulnerabilities due to cybersecurity threats.”
As fintech services become integrated into our daily lives, it is paramount that we prioritize the interests of everyone while developing products, enacting laws, and providing services to ensure inclusivity for all.
Being both a woman and African, it is my observation that equal representation is still lacking in the fintech sector. Thus, special attention should be given to underrepresented groups such as women and people living with disabilities. By doing so, we can harness the full potential of fintech while safeguarding consumer well-being.
The Inclusive FinTech Forum served as a powerful reminder of the remarkable strides we have made in merging finance and technology. However, it also highlighted the challenges that lie ahead. As we navigate this exciting and dynamic landscape, we must keep the delicate balance between innovation, affordability, inclusivity, and risk mitigation at the forefront of our minds.
By embracing collaboration, sound governance, and inclusive practices, we can overcome these challenges and pave the way for a future where fintech continues to revolutionize financial services, making them accessible and beneficial to all.
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