Blog: UK Convention’s Flashback: Martin Labbé, International Trade Centre on How can NGO’s support local partners?

UK Convention’s Flashback: Martin Labbé, International Trade Centre on How can NGO’s support local partners?

Martin Labbé, Tech Sector Development coordinator and NTF IV Programme manager, International Trade Centre.

At the 9th Uganda-UK Trade & Investment Convention – FRIDAY, 13TH SEPTEMBER 2019 – London Hilton on Park Lane 22 Park Lane, London, W1K 1BE | Main theme: “UNLOCKING UGANDA’S INVESTMENT POTENTIAL” | Sub theme: “Fintech – Unlocking Uganda’s Potential”.

How can NGO’s support local partners (role and scope of ICT)?

Martin Labbé, Tech Sector Development coordinator and NTF IV Programme manager, International Trade Centre

Martin expressed disappointment for not having Zianah Muddu, General Secretary, Africa Fintech Network and Engagement Partner at FITSPA joining her at the Convention because of delays in getting her visa on time.

The International Trade Centre (ITC) is a multilateral agency which has a joint mandate with the World Trade Organization and the United Nations through the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development. Through its work, the ITC contributes directly to 10 of the Sustainable Development Goals.
ITC supports start-ups around the world especially in Africa to go to international markets. In the Tech sector, ITC has been doing it for 10 years mainly in Africa and south Asia, working with established IT companies and Tech start-ups having a particular focus on FinTech because they are extremely successful on the continent and because they support financial inclusion. Financial inclusion according to World Bank definition is where individuals and businesses have access to useful and affordable financial products and services that meet their needs that are delivered in a responsible and sustainable way.
Financial technology, often shortened to Fintech, is defined as the technology and innovation that aims to compete with traditional financial methods in the delivery of financial services. It is an emerging industry that uses technology to improve activities in finance. Banks are moving to the FinTech’s space and new players are coming in the sector, disrupting the market, taking the financial and innovation industry by storm and increasing it with lots of opportunities. 1.8 billion adults around the world do not have access to financial services, at the same time, among the 1.8 billion, 1 billion have mobile phones and half of them have smart phones giving them access to a whole range of innovative financial services digitally. With the cost of handsets going down, as a result, they have been increasing in the number of digital financial services on the continent. Every year, there is double digit growth in venture capital in Africa which mainly goes to three leaders countries, South Africa, Nigeria and Kenya followed by a long tail of others countries including Uganda where much smaller investment is going to.

For instance, in Uganda Safe Boda has been able to attract investment and has gone from series B and soon moving to series C but most other FinTech companies are still in series A and it is a challenge to get them to connect to investors willing to invest over $8 million plus.

Nigeria’s financial digital services and names like Flutewave, Paystack, Interswitch are some of the companies that are not only successful on the huge Nigeria domestic market but also elsewhere on the African continent. This is a good example on how to develop a product that services both the domestic market but also foreign markets. For these to work in Lagos and Kampala, a combination of factors to build a strong ecosystem to support FinTech sector is needed.

Infrastructure is needed before anything else, as without infrastructure nothing can be possible.
The progression in financial technology has been possible because the internet infrastructure was put in place. The government of Uganda plays an important role in facilitating the deployment of infrastructure and also in making sure that the policies and regularities that are affecting the financial sector and FinTech are both supporting the development of the private sector in the FinTech and at the same time, taking into account the interest of the public.

London has a good example of Regulatory sandbox that allows businesses to test innovative propositions in the market, with real consumers and then scale them up once a concept has been proven and has now been replicated in Rwanda.

The government of Uganda should do the same thing in a controlled environment to give Fintech an opportunity to experiment new services.

There is evidence of a need for the domestic market to absorb new services. Finding a gap is a big challenge. The trends are really positive but a country like Uganda is not quite there yet.

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