Ugandan Fintech? It’s not quite on the mainstream radar is it? Those familiar with Fintech in Africa will likely have Kenya on the radar with brands like Safaricom considered a global leader in digitisation of mobile and banking services. Others may reference Ghana, Zimbabwe and South Africa. But Uganda? In Fintech terms its still very much in a start-up state. But that could now change – there’s a real determination to build a nascent Fintech scene into something more substantial in Uganda. Leading the charge to boost the level of foreign direct investment into the region is Willy Mutenza, organiser of the Uganda – UK Trade and Investment Convention, now in its 9th year of building Anglo-Ugandan enterprise and investment.

The path to Uganda starts in… Somaliland?

Ismail (second from left) with Martin (right) entertaining the CFO and Global VP of BD from Kenya's KCB Bank in London

The plan seems logical – use the deep links that exist between Uganda and the UK as a means to boost investment, but why get involved? For me, the answer lies is Somaliland – a largely unrecognised state (disputed by Somalia with whom it has a fractious relationship). It was from Somaliland that Dr Ismail Ahmed, Founder of WorldRemit emigrated from, deciding on London as his base for a remittance business that is now estimated to be worth more than $650m by many analysts. It was Ismail that recruited me from the beer industry to deliver the first global brand campaigns for WorldRemit ‘Money in Safe Hands (2016) and A better way to send money (2017). I was Marketing Director for Carlsberg in Europe when recruited by WorldRemit (following 11 interviews including a 1 hour dissection by Ismail himself and a presentation to the board before they made the decision).

It was during these 2.5 amazing years working with every possible migrant community that I realised the power of Fintech as a positive enabler to peoples lives. The brutal reality is this – Africa will not build physical infrastructure between their nations fast enough to accelerate the growth the continent needs to retain its most talented youth. But Fintech can, when harnessed correctly, be a driver for rapid development to the benefit of the whole continent. Having been given my big break in Fintech by an African man in London, the idea that I could support driving interest in Fintech to empower entrepreneurs in Uganda seemed like fate coming full circle.

Working with the WorldRemit team at Kenya in the Park, London.

Africa: already light years ahead of the world in many areas of Fintech.

In 2018, WorldRemit was just one of the many companies looking to maintain the momentum in African innovation with the launch of its mobile wallet in SomalilandEcocash, Safaricom mpesa, MTNAirtel and others are working towards levels of financial interoperability that simply are not seen in other African industries which are often constrained by legislation and barriers to entry. It’s not perfect, but these tech giants are driven by the real (and justified) fear that failure to innovate in Africa will lead in the opportunity passing to another player.

But one huge opportunity remains – the ability to extend the benefits of Fintech not only to the end users, but to the entrepreneurs with the ideas to change their society and to positively disrupt their existing markets. Fintech remains for the most part a big company play rather than a start-up to scale-up journey for young Africans with a big idea.

Why Uganda? …Why not?

Working within Fintech and global remittances lead me to meet a wide range of people from across the continent from HE President of Ghana, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, to HE Edward Kiwanuka Ssekandi of Uganda as well as CEO’s of multiple banks and mobile network operators. There’s a greater acceptance that within this space, standardised levels of access and openness is a necessity to allow the industry to flourish. Whereas other sectors have powerful actors preventing openness, Fintech has fewer incumbent players seeking such barriers and as such poses a greater opportunity.

HE Edward Kiwanuka Ssekandi of Uganda

In Uganda, existing stars exist such as Xente and Numida. With the 2019 Africa Fintech Festival being held in Kampala this year, it seems a perfect time to put Uganda on the Fintech map – so lets get the party started!

Are you interested in getting involved in Ugandan Fintech?

Look closely and you'll see Uganda!

If you’re interested in getting involved with Fintech in Uganda, feel free to reach out to the organisers of the Uganda Convention, where there’ll be a mix of investors, entrepreneurs, government ministers and various related cross border investment accelerators. The event will be held with a view to initiating an investment visit shortly afterwards. For any further information please contact: Willy Mutenza, Chairman, | Uganda Convention-UK Whattsup +447950 285 493 | T: (+44) 207 237 7317 | M: (+44) 7790 647089 W: www.ugandanconventionuk.org   E: willy.mutenza@ugandanconventionuk.org

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The author of this article, Martin Best is the Managing Director of the agency Full ReachMartin is a London-based global Fintech expert, and was previously Head of Brand Marketing, EMEA Marketing and Global Marketing Partnerships for Fintech superstar WorldRemit, where he delivered the global campaigns ‘Money in Safe Hands (2016) and A better way to send money (2017). In 2018 Martin supported WorldRemit’s expansion of mobile wallet services in Africa. Martin has a passion for supporting projects that help create entrepreneurial opportunities for Africans in Africa. This has included supporting campaigns and initiatives in African nations including Uganda, Kenya, Zimbabwe, Ghana and Nigeria. Martin has had an international career spanning several countries including Director of Marketing for Carlsberg Group, and several senior Director positions in Russia, Asia and Scandinavia.