The youth will drive Africa’s digital economy; hence the need to invest in their skills development to accelerate innovations and growth on the continent, African Development Bank Director General for East Africa Nnenna Nwabufo said.
Speaking at the 9th World Financial Innovation Series in Nairobi, Kenya, on 19 July, she noted that the youth are ambitious, enterprising, and eager for change. “Africa’s young people are the most avid adopters of ICTs and digital solutions.”
Recent statistics show that 60% of Africa’s population is below 25 years old. “We anticipate a future that will be very different from today in terms of innovation, enterprise, and job and wealth creation,” Nwabufo added.
The two-day event brought together around 1,500 technology and business heads from banks, insurance, and micro-finance institutions to discuss ways of accelerating financial innovation for a digital and futuristic Africa.
Nwabufo called for the scaling up of startup investments across the continent to grow tech entrepreneurs and enhance financial inclusion. She noted that the number of tech hubs had increased dramatically, with the largest concentration in South Africa, Nigeria, Egypt, Kenya, Morocco, and Ghana.
“These centers provide space for entrepreneurs from all sectors to innovate and integrate digital solutions into traditional sectors,” she said.
She cited Kenya’s M-Pesa, a mobile phone-based money transfer and financial service provider serving nearly 30 million vulnerable people across 10 countries, saying its services foster financial inclusion in Africa. Others are Airtel money in East Africa; Orange money in West Africa, AgroCenta in Ghana, which is helping smallholder farmers to access markets and finance through mobile apps, and Hello Tractor in Nigeria, which enables farmers to hire tractor services at affordable rates.
Moses Okundi, Chief Information Officer of ABSA Bank in Kenya, noted that technology adoption had accelerated rapidly, particularly in the first two years of the Covid-19 pandemic. However, there is a need to shape tech strategies to adopt “the new wave” in anticipation of future pandemics, Okundi said.
Attendees underscored the relevance of forging partnerships in driving inclusion.
“Partnerships result in smart solutions that can solve many of the continent’s challenges; creating technologies that can change the life of the masses,” said Kiiru Muhoya, Chief Executive Officer of Fingo Africa, a Kenyan fintech that provides digital banking services for the youth. He added that strategic partnerships make way for numerous digital opportunities, connecting the underserved to essential services.
The African Development Bank supports its member countries in developing national strategies to scale up digital financial service markets. The Bank is also engaging policymakers to spearhead data collection on market opportunities in digital financial services and investing funds, which focus on mobile solutions.