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Tech entrepreneur reflects on challenges of cashless economy

Stone Atwine

By: Andrew S. Kaggwa

Financial technology experts from 40 African countries are converging this month in, Lagos, the commercial city of Nigeria, to share their innovations, rethink their current models and gain valuable market insight of the African digital financial services market.

Stone Atwine, the Ugandan CEO and founder of both YETU Credit Finance and Useremit will be among them.

Useremit is a mobile payment service that allows people to make real time money transfers from a debit or credit card from all over the world to registered mobile money users in Uganda, Kenya and Rwanda. YETU Credit Finance meanwhile offers mobile-based loans for civil servants and other employees.

Atwine describes himself as a financial technology entrepreneur who has worked on many projects in developing economies and says he was invited to speak at the Cashless Africa Summit because of another venture he is working on that will handle payments for utilities, charities, donations and money transfer.

“It’s a game changer. I’ll be announcing it soon,” he says.

The theme of the two day conference dubbed ‘Cashless Africa Expo 2017’ to take place on March 22 to 23 will be ‘The Future of Finance.’

The expo will bring together financial technology (Fintech) providers, mobile network operators, financial institutions, mobile money providers, card services, financial institutions, application providers, regulators, microfinance organizations,  and individuals in the ecosystem in Africa and beyond.

The event is part of the Mobile MoneyAfrica conference series which is a leading and influential event for the mobile financial services, remittance, banking and associated industry in Africa in the last eight years. The expo is an exclusive platform for thought leaders of the industry from across the globe to gather and deliberate on the challenges and opportunities in the sector.

Mobile phone penetration in Africa exceeds bank accounts and bank cards ownership combined hence any development of Africa’s cashless economy is being seen as phone based. A cashless economy is one where transactions are not done with physical cash but through digital.

According to the organisers website, ‘CashlessAfrica Champion Awards 2017’, will be handed out to reward creativity, commitment and excellence in the digital financial services industry across Africa. They will cover financial technology providers, mobile network operators, financial institutions, mobile money providers, card services, financial institutions, application providers, regulators, microfinance organisations and individuals in the ecosystem in Africa and beyond.

Categories will include: Financial Inclusion Product of the Year; Micro Finance Enabler Platform; Remittance Enabler Platform; Best Mobile Money Product Innovation; E-Commerce Service Provider of the Year; Best Mobile Mobile Money Service; Best Low Cost Remittance Provider; Best FinTech Start-Up; Best Digital Travel Product / Service; Remittance Personality of the Year; FinTech Thought Leadership Award; E-Product of the Year and FinTech Product Innovation.

Other categories are: Innovation in E-Lending; Best Agency Banking Provider; Innovation in Mobile Money; Innovation in Digital Banking; Best FinTech-Bank Collaboration of the Year; Best Money Transfer Company; Insure-Tech Startup of the Year; Best E-Travel Service and Best Payment Gateway Provider.

Technology is changing the workflow and processes in the financial services industry across the globe. However the future looks bright as business tasks once dominated by paper currency and humans are now being completed entirely on digital platforms. This promises big changes to banks, insurers, investment firms and real economy served by the finance sector.

According to figures by The World Bank, in sub-Saharan Africa, only 30% of adults have access to bank accounts. Compare this to Latin America, another emerging market, where the figure stands at 51%,

Because of the proliferation of mobile phones in Africa, mobile transfers also known as mobile money services (MMS) are the most common non-cash-based currency systems.

Statistics from the World Bank show that mobile phone penetration in Sub Saharan Africa is the highest in the world at 82 %. Europe and Asia have the lowest penetration at 30 %.

A recent paper by Bank of Uganda, says mobile money is significantly reshaping Uganda’s financial sector.

“Commercial bank accounts have remained more or less constant at about six million over the years while mobile money accounts have increased to 21 million,” Kelvin Kizito Kiyingi, deputy director of communication at Bank of Uganda, says.

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