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FinTech programme launched to build UK-Africa trade

14 August 2020: The Tech for Growth programme, launched by the Department for International Trade this week, aims to build trading opportunities between the UK and emerging economies.

The UK Department for International Trade (DIT)’s new Tech for Growth programme will build future trading opportunities between the UK and emerging economies through the use of technology to expand access to financial services, the government announced this week.

The programme will initially be piloted across Africa for a year. Access to financial services remains low across the continent; aound 60% of adults in sub-Saharan African still do not have access to traditional means of financial services, including banking and insurance. Mobile phone use has risen to over 40%, and the DIT believes that technology can play an increasing role in expanding access to financial services and other sectors.

In that first year, the programme aims to establish a UK-Africa ‘Tech for Growth’ community, providing more access to financial services in underserved regions. It will include events across the UK and Africa to promote partnerships between British and African technology and financial services companies.

It also looks to establish UK-Africa FinTech trade by highlighting commercial opportunities and addressing any hurdles that are holding back growth in that area. The DIT wants to establish close, collaborative relationships with African governments and regulators to help stimulate the growth of the tech sector across the continent.

“Diversifying and increasing trade and investment in sectors such as tech will be crucial for economic recovery from Coronavirus, and Britain has a vital role to play globally,” Gerry Grimstone, UK Minister for Investment said. “The UK is home to some of the most innovative tech companies in the world while also being one of the deepest and most globally connected financial centres. It is why we are the top choice for tech firms seeking a base to launch internationally into new markets.”

Tech for Growth’s’ first research output, Inclusive Tech: Overcoming barriers to scale in emerging markets has been released alongside the programme. Produced in partnership with The Catalyst Fund, a FinTech accelerator supported by UK aid, the report outlines seven barriers currently inhibiting growth in the technology sector across emerging markets.

“Technology has the potential to improve the access, quality and relevance of financial services for underserved populations around the world and dynamic tech startups are at the forefront of this innovation across emerging markets” said The Catalyst Fund’s director, Maelis Carraro. “However, tech startups in emerging markets face several challenges to scale their solutions, from lack of capital and talent to poor infrastructure and regulatory barriers. Governments and market enablers have an important role to play in helping startups overcome these barriers and enable inclusive growth. This report identifies the key barriers innovators face and offers potential solutions.”

After the first year, the programme will expand globally across South East Asia and Latin America.

“It’s good to see the UK playing to its strengths,” said Richard Anning, head of ICAEW’s Tech Faculty. “It is a vibrant centre for tech start-ups combined with deep expertise in financial services and FinTech. It will be great to see the best of the UK FinTech scene making contact with and working alongside other leading tech clusters, initially in Africa and then further afield, to improve financial inclusion for some of the world’s financially underserved populations. There are some leading hubs in Africa, including Nigeria, Kenya, South Africa and Egypt that could provide initial targets for collaboration.”

ICAEW worked with ISCA (Singapore Institute for Chartered Accountants) on a report comparing perspectives on FinTech between London and Singapore. The report highlighted issues around talent, scaling up and approaches to regulation. These issues will need to be considered when working with other countries and tech hubs.