Earlier this month I was in Durban for the World Economic Forum. This year the focus was on Achieving Inclusive Growth and opportunities for connecting markets, revitalising manufacturing and integrating innovation. It was a wonderful experience and here are my three key learnings from the event:
1) Financial Inclusion is the need of the hour: Among the many topics of discussion at the Forum the topic that I was a panel member on was about banking and financial inclusion in Africa and how banks are creating products and services to ensure how to make more of this happen. Being a part of the banking sector, financial inclusion is a key priority at Diamond Bank and this aligns strongly with my passion to bring together banking and technology to make a positive impact. We discussed various strategies about how to introduce people into the formal banking sector, what methodologies to employ, how to define and differentiate products based on various needs etc. Bouncing off these strategies and ideas opened up new perspectives on the matter and made me realise (once again) that we need to do more in this area.
2) Nigeria is in the spotlight: The highlight of the discussion was Africa. It was about home and all that is possible here. Nigeria is one of the fastest growing economies in the continent, besides South Africa. As a country, it has one of the highest rates of mobile phone penetration thus enabling technology to make solutions easier to deploy. The past few years have seen tremendous growth in the services sector simply due to technology. Africa, and particularly Nigeria has tremendous potential to showcase to the world. Bringing together industries and working in unison with the government is the key to unlocking this potential. Therefore, we also discussed, how best to utilise technology and mobile phone penetration in order to reach the customers and optimize their banking experience. Diamond Bank is known to be one of Nigeria’s leading bank which has employed technology across various platforms. Using these examples I was able to back theoretical discussions with practical, real world African scenarios. I strongly believe, that if one makes an impact in Nigeria, it will be felt across all of Africa.
3) Private sector needs an enabling environment: Private Sector Development seems to be a buzzword these days. I am aware that the private sector can help create jobs and move people out of poverty in the developing world. Private sector however, can’t do it alone. It needs an enabling business environment that fosters growth and builds public-private partnerships. Policy makers and economists emphasised that African countries need to trade more amongst themselves to grow. This would require the governments to remove the bottlenecks preventing inter-Africa trade and travel. It was wonderful to meet government officials and heads of state at the WEF, and listen to their insights and plans for the Africa of tomorrow.