Background

The Ethiopian Commercial Bank in Addis Abeba, one of a number of key institutions in the burgeoning African banking sector.

There are many exciting developments across the African continent in the field of digital finance.  African and Africa-based innovators are at the cutting edge in this field, opening up a range of financial services intended to assist the continent’s inhabitants to overcome the infrastructural backlogs inherited from the past.

African innovators

The conference on ‘Digital Finance in Africa’s future’ had two complementary aims. The first was to bring together some of the foremost African and Africa-based innovators in this field, in order to highlight the obstacles they have overcome, the successes they have achieved to date, and their plans for the future. This aim, in short, was to showcase the extent and sophistication of innovation in Africa in the broad field of digital finance.

Social implications

The second aim was to bring these innovators into conversation with academics with a special interest in the social, political and economic implications of the innovations in question. Most innovators are aware that the fact that innovations are technologically feasible does not guarantee that they will be socially beneficial. But they may not have the expertise to consider the wider implications of their technological prowess. Providing them with an opportunity to interact with academics who have undertaken research on these implications in various parts of the world would be a useful exercise for all concerned – the academics, who needed to understand the technological complexity involved, as well as the innovators.

An ideal environment

The Colloquium was held at the Johannesburg Institute for Advanced Study in Westdene, Johannesburg. The JIAS complex provided an ideal environment for a stimulating and intimate conversation on these issues. The conversation was extended over five days, allowing innovators and academics to participate in the whole or to dip into it for whatever shorter period their busy diaries might allow.

Media coverage and live streaming

The opening and all the working sessions were live streamed, and links to the videos are available elsewhere on this website. A comprehensive Colloquium Report will be published. Topics will include mobile money and digital payment, remittances, the blockchain, G2P transfers, insurance, start-up capital and regulation.

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