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HomeTechnologyLook, Peter Obi now knows how Fintech can save us all! |...

Look, Peter Obi now knows how Fintech can save us all! | The Guardian Nigeria News

Last Monday, I was at a meeting with some of the biggest persons in Nigerian fintech. But I hadn’t been specially called to meet with these people per se. I was rather a fly on the wall. A witness to Nigeria’s booming tech enterprise, a representative of the folks outside the tech cognoscenti, and the purpose I gave myself at this conference was to glean as much inside details as possible about the operations of the financial technology industry.

This information, I believed, would be useful towards enriching and edifying my audience. As it would turn out, I was right. But the true guest of honour was Mr Peter Obi, presidential candidate of the Labour Party. It was he who had been invited to come poke into the minds of about 40 of the men and women who may hold the key to Nigeria’s economic future.

This event, I would learn as it progressed, was at the instance of Sir Ademola Aladekomo, chairman of Chams Plc. He is, of course, one of the architects of today’s fintech market.

In fact, Mr Obi alluded to the fact that the concept of a National Identity Number and biometric database was originally mooted publicly by Sir Aladekomo. To paraphrase Obi, this man sweated and suffered for that idea, suggesting that the individuals presently profiting from NIN might be reaping the benefit of the hard work invested over the years by Aladekomo.

As I’ve said in a previous article here, Aladekomo is one of the quiet heroes of Nigeria’s tech fortunes. When he started in Lagos 37 years ago, building a Wide Area Network and Metropolitan Area Network for local and multinational companies, no other local start-up was doing it yet.

At that meeting on Monday, one of the speakers noted how creative Sir Aladekomo is. With his prolificity through the near four decades he’s run his businesses in Nigeria, I’d say he would have done just as well as a creative entrepreneur.

Besides, Sir Aladekomo has been friends with Peter Obi for more than 20 years. The politician confirmed while addressing the other guests that he had done business with Aladekomo, had sat on some of his boards, had been a critic and adviser, and close friends for a long time. So, who else to introduce the tech community to Mr Obi than Sir Aladekomo, a pillar of Nigerian tech business and pal?

Mr Aladekomo noted in the invitations sent out by his office that the meeting was meant to be private but he took it as an opportunity to share with the rest of us.

This decision by Sir Aladekomo makes sense for two reasons. One, Obi has become such a busy man, one whose political campaigns not only runs the circumference of Nigeria but also extends beyond the borders of the country.

Two, if you had special insights into such a nationally important subject as financial technology and you also had a best friend who might become your nation’s president, it behoves you, as a patriot, to intimate that friend with the most crucial issues surrounding that subject.

Now, what are these critical matters in fintech and tech in general? It all comes down to two things. The first one is a lack of genuine, comprehensive, and sustainable government support for technological innovation.

The second one is the general stifling environment that is Nigeria. Sadly, Problem Two is an offspring of Problem One.

The approach of the conference was to “educate” Mr Obi about these issues, from the perspective of the men and women who are in the trenches—the people generating the ideas, testing their products in the market, pitching to local and outside investors, bringing millions of dollars in funding and revenue into the economy. These are the people squeezing milk out of stone.

One of the presenters was Chinenye Mba-Uzoukwu, who represented the Nigerian Economic Summit Group and a private body of fintech players called Fintech 1000+. In his submission, Mr Mba-Uzoukwu advised the incoming administration, whether it’s led by Obi or not, to wake up to the fact that, all considered, Nigeria might be too far behind because it appears all we’re doing now is investing to catch up with the past, not prepare for the future.

The advancements made by the United States and others, which are currently driving the world, he said, were built over many, many years and it appears that all our country is doing is to update archaic science with yesterday’s tech.

If we must play in the premier league of tech countries, nothing will serve us better than to put our money where our mouth is. We must commit to the growth of technology completely.

Adding more depth to the first keynote, was Olamide Brown, founder of Flying Doctors. As the founder of a tech-powered enterprise that disrupted the healthcare market, Ms Brown was armed with first-hand experience. Besides, she also now runs her own venture fund, investing in health-tech and fintech.

Her point came down to this: the world’s biggest economy—aka the United States—which also doubles as the capital of tech innovation, is the biggest investor in tech programmes.

Through subsidies, subventions, grants, endowments, and direct investments, the biggest investor in American tech advancement is the American taxpayer.
Which US juggernaut hasn’t received financial support from the US government? Tesla once took money from the government. Amazon got money, too. Microsoft got some cash. Google got paid, too. Even Meta has taken some millions from Uncle Sam.

Also, a great number of the widely used tech around the world were products of the US government’s investments. One key example: The Internet. Ms Brown then made a point that got the whole room to sit up. Per capita in Singapore, the country has spent $1000 on tech over the last several years. Across the same length of time, Africa has spent… wait for it… six dollars. Yet, while Singapore has three unicorns (that’s a tech company valued at a minimum of $1 billion), Africa has six unicorns, three or four of which are from Nigeria. Now, she said, imagine what Africa — imagine what Nigeria — could do with a per capital investment of $1000 in tech.

Ultimately, if the Nigerian government weans itself off the comforts of the old ways; if it invests confidently in technology; if it removes the hurdles slowing down the entrepreneurs, scientists, academics, and technologists, it would have taken a major leap towards a country where tech saves us all.

How will tech save us all, you ask?
It saves us by yielding more efficient systems for building, trading, and living. Above all, it makes more rich people. From his remarks, this meeting was an eye-opener for Mr Obi. I hope other candidates would request their own sit-down with this group because it’s not even about politics; it’s just priceless market research.

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