Fintech Summit Sheds Light on Ethiopia Market Opportunity

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On November 21, 2019 over 400 fintechs, regulators, investors, and financial service executives from across 30 countries and 4 continents convened at the Sheraton Addis in Ethiopia for the 4th Africa Fintech Summit (AFTS). This is a significant milestone in Ethiopia as the country seeks to liberalize its telecommunications sector, improve the ease of making financial transactions, and transition to a digital economy. AFTS featured a wide range of fintech stakeholders, including Ethiopia’s Minister of Innovation of Technology, Getahun Mekuria, who laid out his plan for “coming out of the woods of protectionism” and how Africa as a whole is committing “a trillion dollar mistake by not harnessing technology”. The Vice Governor for the National Bank of Ethiopia, Eyob Gebre Eyesus, further emphasized the relevance of AFTS by indicating that “the role of fintechs is now to awaken the sleeping giant, that is, Ethiopia.”
The diversity of companies and countries represented at AFTS Addis reflects the rising interest of global fintechs, banks, and investors in Ethiopia, Africa’s second most populous nation and fastest growing economy. Ethiopian organizations led the pack, followed by the USA, Kenya, Nigeria, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. In addition to Africa-focused fintechs like Apposit, Flutterwave, WorldRemit, and Zeepay, there was representation from numerous multinational organizations, including Microsoft, IBM, Citibank, Ecobank, KCB Group, and TDB. Although foreign participation in the Ethiopian economy has been highly limited to date, many of the international players represented at AFTS are establishing or growing their market presence in light of the current administration’s historic reform agenda, which includes liberalization of the financial services and telecommunications sectors.