The British High Commission in Mauritius organised Wednesday 25 January 2017, jointly with the Financial Services Promotion Agency (FSPA) and the Board of Investment (BOI), the first ever UK-Mauritius fintech conference. The half-day event saw the participation of many industry leaders and Nicole Anderson, a London-based fintech entrepreneur and one of the experts in the field, delivered the keynote speech

In her opening speech, Dr Ameenah Gurib-Fakim, the President of the Republic of Mauritius, stressed the fact that Africa needs to innovate in all sectors, and especially in financial services due to its context, where almost 80% of the continent does not have access to banking facilities.

She also thinks that Mauritius, thanks to its rapid development and rapid adoption of technology, can really position itself as a regional fintech hub for Africa, a feeling that was also expressed by Jonathan Drew, the British High Commissioner to Mauritius.

In her keynote speech, Nicole Anderson, CEO of FinTech Circle Innovate, a London-based company that works to establish financial services companies with support through innovation and investment, talked about the opportunities in the fintech industry and explained to the attendees why key players like the UK were able to reach the top position in the field.

She also, like other speakers at the conference, talked about the potential for Mauritius to act as a fintech hub for Africa. She believes Mauritius has the proper expertise and reputation in the traditional financial services sector and also the capacity to innovate. Replying to a question from the audience, she added that not only can Mauritius serve as a gateway to Africa, but can also tap into the potential that the continent offers.

Many industry leaders participated at the conference, during which different issues pertaining to fintech were raised and discussed by panelists. On regulation and compliance, Mark O'Sullivan, CEO of InterPayTech, highlighted that his company was importing the best technology from the City of London, and explained that clients were 'onboarded' by the regulator, the FCA, through electronic checks. "I think there is some way to go in Mauritius, if we position ourselves as a hub between Asia and Europe. I don't think regulation is to be feared, far from it. The danger is that if we do stand still there could be 'choke point' and that we might not be able to 'onboard' and attract clients", he commented. He added that, while a lot of people see compliance as a burden, it should be the opposite and "the future is very bright".

The CEO and Co-Founder of NOW Money, Ian Dillon, offered his experiences in the Middle East and London as interesting examples of how Mauritius could learn from these regulators and improve, and saw that "a fintech company without regulation is worth nothing. For fintech companies, he added that "if Mauritius wants to be a fintech hub, you have got to have a regulator that will let them have a licence and Mauritius will be the central hub".

Looking at how Mauritius could be promoted as a fintech hub, Harvesh Seegolam, Chief Executive of the FSPA, explained that they wished to build on the expertise, strong experience and know how of Mauritius as a leading regional financial centre and that, while there was a lot to do, Mauritius already had the ingredients in place together with a conducive business environment, which makes Mauritius an ideal place for fintech companies. For the Board of Investment, Managing Director Ken Poonoosamy said that in view of the synergy between the financial services and ICT sectors it was "logical" that Mauritius should position itself in this space, and commented that around 30 companies in Mauritius were already involved in fintech. He said that there is "potential for us to move forward" but that greater understanding was needed of where the international market was moving. He added that the BOI was making a recommendation for a real drive for capacity building and that "we need to get the talents and make sure people on the market understand this".

From an operator's perspective, Hirander Misra, Chairman and CEO of GMEX Group, saw that technical skills were important and that it was important to work with training institutes and others, and that educational institutions need to keep pace, with a public-private partnership approach needed. He said that "there is no point in establishing a hub if you don't have the right level of capital investment and time horizons have to be varied. Government policies are key and we are very bullish on Mauritius. Government policy has to set the standard." He said that he was pleased to see "pragmatic regulation, as overbearing regulation kills it from the start. Some of it is also trial and error. It is all about being agile and adapting to change whether at the regulatory or government level", he concluded.

Kabir Ruhee, Managing Partner of Technology at Rogers Capital, noted that fintech would be a focus after a re-structuring exercise, and that they were already tied up with a number of senior professionals from Google and Apple amongst others, and they hoped they would be able to unveil some products soon.

In his concluding remarks, Harvesh Seegolam announced that the FSPA will set up a Working Group on fintech in the coming weeks which will come up with a ten-point plan.

Source: The Platform Africa

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