Africa’s Big Banks Are Betting on Fintech Startups and Bitcoin to Beat Disruption
African banks have been late to the fintech party, but after leaving huge swaths of the population to get their financial services from telcos(most famously Safaricom’s M-Pesa in Kenya), banks here are increasingly seeing the continent as a testing ground for new financial technologies like bitcoin and the blockchain.
“You have a headwind from Silicon Valley and Europe blowing into Africa now around the disruption in fintech. The banks are really nervous and they want to get ahead of this,” says Mbwana Alliy, managing partner at African technology venture firm, the Savannah Fund.
Blockchain is the hot topic at shiny new fintech innovation hubs like Rand Merchant’s AlphaCode in Johannesburg, which hosted theAfrikoin conference last December and is running a fintech acceleratorthis year, and Barclays Rise in Cape Town, which is hosting Fintech Africa’s blockchain conference on Feb. 25.
Blockchain is the “distributed ledger” that keeps track of bitcoin trades around the world. In the simplest of terms, the promise of blockchain is the tracking and transparency of all transactions, tamper-proof because no one transaction is kept in any one place, but stored on computers all around the world.