Just last week I had a great session at Seamless Africa, (@Seamless_Africa) with my great friend Kosta Peric (@copernicc) and we ended up interviewing each other. Seamless is a dynamic summit and large scale exhibition bringing together the converging worlds of ecommerce, retail, fintech and payments, so it was a great platform for us. The last time Kosta and I were alone on a stage was back at the Innotribe days, and it really seems like 3 lives ago.
The theme of the chat was interoperability, as you already figured if you read my last post. However, a part of that conversation that I must mention is that of the view we both shared on the innovation buckets needed to foster financial inclusion and the type of investors and players needed in each bucket. The three primary innovation tools or buckets include: The Infrastructure, The Accounts and The Apps. They say a picture is better than a thousand words, so here you go… (This is also so I can also brag about my handwriting skills)
The first bucket is Infrastructure, and it typically covers the basic physical and organizational structures and facilities that are required for efficient operation. Here, we need to have in place the infrastructure that builds the rails for financial transactions and they are to be open source, nearly free, and eco-system driven. Like Mojaloop, for example, as Kosta rightly pointed out.
What we call accounts are those facilities that enable effective transactions. The Accounts bucket is where interoperability kicks in specifically. Technology has provided platforms like mobile wallets, digital bank accounts (mobile only) and data driven platforms that are valuable towards ensuring convenient transactions. A great example of this is the pan-African joint venture between Orange and MTN, called Mowali, supported through Mojaloop. Their goal is to enable interoperable payments across the African continent. Here’s a link to their official announcement.
The third bucket consists of the Apps. Built on the top of the rails and enabled by the accounts, this goes beyond financial services. For example, it could be Solar Energy on demand, but can also be credit scoring, micro-lending, micro-insurance, etc. Although the apps are enabled by the infrastructure and the accounts, they should ideally inspire the happening of both the first two. A great way to understand this is to think of the airplanes and the airports. Airplanes were invented first (the app) then the airports, and then the routes and controls were put in place.
Here is a fascinating article talking about this “apps” theory as it is applicable in every aspect of technology.
I suppose the only question now is: what is going to be the app able to “call” the infrastructure enabling the 400M unbanked adults in Africa?