The next great tech frontier?
That would be Africa, according to recent comments from Alibaba Group Holding’s founder and chairman Jack Ma. “The opportunity in eCommerce in Africa lies in the fact that Africa is lacking logistics, infrastructure and payment systems,” Ma said at a conference in Johannesburg, according to Bloomberg.
Digital payments, FinTech and eCommerce are expanding slowly but surely in Africa. In Kenya, banks are pursuing regulatory approval to use distributed ledger technologies to help facilitate payments and create credit scoring models. In Nigeria, Microsoft and First Bank are linking up to bring financial services to consumers there.
And just this week, Stripe, Visa and other firms invested $8 million in Paystack, a Nigerian firm that enables developers to create payment tools via its APIs and connects multiple payment processors by handling transactions for merchants and consumers. In a new PYMNTS interview, CEO Shola Akinlade talks about the challenges of improving payments in his home country, including those related to infrastructure and connectivity.
That doesn’t mean the path to a larger digital ecosystem will be a smooth one. Despite being home to Africa’s biggest mobile phone market, Nigeria is seeing a decline in banked adults in the country. Financial inclusion in the African country reportedly has declined close to 4 percentage points from 2014 to 2017, now standing at 39 percent at the same time that the Sub-Saharan African average of banked people increased more than 8 percentage points to 43 percent.
In Kenya 73 percent of people use mobile money — compared to under 6 percent in Nigeria, noted Bloomberg, citing data from the World Bank. “We’re taking baby steps when we should be running,” Yomi Ibosiola, an associate director at Deloitte Nigeria’s data analytics practice, said in an interview with Bloomberg.
Despite the speed bumps, Africa holds great promise for some of the world’s biggest investors. Find out more here.