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Debbie Goodman-Bhyat, CEO of Jack Hammer, speaks to Classic FM’s Michael Avery on the rise of fintech in Africa.

“We’re seeing a lot of growth in South Africa but, over the past eighteen months, we’ve seen start-ups and established companies in growth phases really taking off in East Africa, particularly in Nairobi, which is really a hub for fintech at the moment. There is some development in West Africa and sporadically around the continent. The impact is that there is a skills shortage and organisations are looking towards South Africa to see what talent they might be able to pick up.

In certain respects, we have lots of technical, entrepreneurial and leadership capability, but the reality is that we can’t compare a developed market, which South Africa is, with the emerging markets of Africa. There’s a great temptation to bring on talent from a developed market, but the context is very different in Africa. There may have been great success with access to credit information, credit scoring capabilities, data…this doesn’t necessarily apply when you’re working in Africa.

The new gold rush is for data. The entire fintech sector and the ability to drive growth is reliant on having reliable data and access to data. Right now, the only businesses that have this are the MNOs, the mobile network operators. they guard their data carefully and they hold the power. They’re sometimes willing to share it, but at a cost. So any organisation that can start building its own data capability will succeed. The skills needed would be data engineering, data analytics and science at various levels of the hierarchy.

Cultural context is also imperative. Some of the global organisations base all their tech capability in San Francisco, but their operations are based in Africa. The important thing is to ensure that the technical people, who were raised and educated in America, don’t make assumptions about the countries they’re working in. Making sure that the divide is well-bridged can avoid some costly mistakes”.

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