In his introduction remarks at the leading Fintech session” FINTECH – WHY IS IT A ‘UGANDAN’ OPPORTUNITY? “Martin Best, Managing Director, Full Reach (London Fintech Expert – www.FullReachGlobal.com) said that “we couldn’t have chosen a better country to discuss Fintech – for London generates more investment in financial technology companies than the rest of Europe combined. And we couldn’t have chosen a better country to talk Fintech about than Uganda.”
Mr Best suggested that some guests might wonder how he came to be standing on the Convention stage – as he might not look nor sound particularly Ugandan. Mr Best explained that he spent 20 years in various Marketing leadership roles, and for 8 years was Marketing Director for the beer company Carlsberg. He said if someone had told him 5 years ago that he would be Non-Executive Director for Fintech at the Uganda Convention, he would have wondered what on earth they were taking about! In 2016, Mr Best joined a small digital money transfer company called WorldRemit. At the time it had revenue of a few millions of pounds, with just over 200 employees. Suddenly, he said, his life changed from selling beers to talking international remittances, mobile money, airtime and bank transfers in what was one of the world’s fastest growing Fintech business. Uganda became one of WorldRemit’s most important countries, and in 2017, Mr Best was honoured to meet the Vice President His Excellency Edward Ssekandi at the WorldRemit HQ in London.
WorldRemit is now worth over $1bn – making it a ‘Tech Unicorn’ and part of that growth came from Uganda – its diaspora sending money home. During those years, Mr Best spent a great deal of time with the Ugandan community in the UK, but also invested millions in activities to promote the Ugandan remittance markets globally. He saw first-hand the positive effect of Fintech – enabling people to send more money home, with lower commission, to support loved ones, family members, entrepreneurial projects and community initiatives. Fintech might sound like a rational cold term, but he saw with his own eyes how it changed lives. These experiences are what led Mr Best to set up his own Marketing & Strategy agency in 2018, with many projects also covering Africa such as launching mobile wallets and widening inclusion to different groups who can benefit from Financial Technology. That’s why Mr Best said that he was honoured to have been asked to support the Uganda Convention – to awake the sleeping giant that is Ugandan Fintech.
So, why Uganda, and why now? Mr Best said that his first answer to that would be, ‘why not’?
- An economy growing at 6% percent from 2009 until 2018.
- One of the IMF top 10 fastest growing economies for 2019.
- 38 million people, access to many hundreds of millions more in the region
- An explosion of access to mobile internet which offers public, private and individuals to skip a generation and actually overtake the best
- … and this year, Uganda will host the Africa Fintech Network’s flagship event – bringing the whole Fintech world to Kampala in November 2019. So now, now is the time, said Mr Best.
Mr Best also said that Uganda was lagging behind its regional friends. Kenya and Rwanda in particular have moved faster, and have made a better narrative. But the 4 ingredients for changing that, Mr Best said, fundamentally, were to be found at the Convention, right away. So what was needed?
- A government is needed that understands the sector and works with it to establish a regulatory platform. Well, today, said Mr Best, guests at the Convention had H Irene Muloni, Minister of Energy, Hon Betty Kamya, Minister for KCCA, Benon Mugisha Mutambi permanent secretary, Uganda Ministry of Internal Affairs and Elly Twineyo Kamugisha Executive Director/CEO Uganda export promotion board
- Investment is needed, and those that can facilitate it from NGOs to Private and Commercial equity. Today, Mr Best said, they had Lord Dolar Popat, Prime Minister’s Trade Envoy to Uganda and Rwanda, Suzan Kereere, Head of Global Merchant Sales & Acquiring, Visa Inc. Private Sector of Uganda (PSFU) and several investors and start-up Fintech incubators from as far afield as Norway, Denmark and the US.
- An ecosystem is needed– and today Mr Best said, they had several people actively living, working and building Ugandan Fintech – these, he said, were the real heroes of today, having flown in to sell their ideas, their vision and their passion for Fintech at the Convention. Mr Best said that guests would be hearing from the local body FITSPA as well as several Founders of exciting businesses.
- Finally, Mr Best said the magic ingredient –‘momentum’ was needed! With the kind of people attending the Convention, there must be 1000 years’ worth of experience in politics, business, investment and entrepreneurship … there was nothing, Mr Best proclaimed, that cannot be achieved.