FinTech startups are making waves across the world. They are disrupting traditional businesses and disrupting finance itself. This is especially true in Africa, where FinTechs have been growing at a blitz scale.
Building a FinTech in Africa is an exciting and daunting process. There are many factors to consider when building your business from scratch, but getting it right from the start is pivotal to the business’s success.
In this article, we explore five crucial things FinTech founders in Africa should consider when building their startups.
What are FinTechs?
As the name implies, FinTechs are financial services built on/with technology. They provide digital financial services like bank accounts, loans, payment gateways, insurance, card issuance, etc., to individuals and businesses.
Customers rely on FinTech to process cross-border payments, invest and save money, and pay bills online.
Things to Consider when Building a FinTech in Africa
The benefits of building a FinTech on the continent are plentiful: McKinsey estimates that 10% of Africa’s GDP will be generated through financial services by 2025. Despite this vast potential, only 30% of Africans have access to financial services, and a mere 5% have access to formal banking accounts.
This translates into an enormous opportunity for African businesses to create jobs and generate wealth for their communities. There are several things to consider when building a FinTech in Africa, however, here are 5 essential things to remember:
- Product Growth
- Talent Attraction and Retention
- User Experience
It would be foolish to claim that money is not essential for startups. A startup’s ability to survive depends on money just as much as food is vital for the survival of a human. However, money is important to different degrees depending on the stage a startup is at.
For instance, it is generally assumed that money is most important at the early stages of a startup. However, according to the Startup Genome project, premature scaling is the main reason for startup failure. Throwing a lot of cash around before your offering is validated, investing a lot of money for hiring before you need the workforce, or even raising too much capital before your venture is ready is all premature scaling.
In the validation stage, prototyping, developing and market testing a startup product could be done for a reasonable amount of money thanks to modern technology (no-code solutions, API infrastructure, etc.
For growth-stage startups, being ambitious in fundraising and marketing aggressively is usually the right strategy for innovative startups. Money is a means to an end — finding product-market fit and a sustainable business model. However, the money that matters the most is the money that your clients are willing to pay you.
Regulations are one of the most critical factors that determine whether your business will succeed or not. For example, suppose you are planning on launching a financial product like virtual accounts, or you want to issue cards for your product, it is essential to know what kind of regulations exist in your country or region before you begin your business.
In Nigeria, for instance, the financial industry is regulated by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN). Those who want to enter the market need a thorough understanding of the regulations that apply to them under the CBN. Most African countries also have their own regulations governing financial activities in their respective countries, so it’s crucial for any player in this sector to know these regulations before they start operating in the market.
By refusing to abide by the financial regulations of the country you’re operating in, you run the risk of expensive problems like court action, company fines running into several millions of money, being banned from performing those services in the respective country and in the worst-case scenario, winding up / liquidation.
3. Product Growth
Most startups fail because they don’t know how to grow their product or service offerings effectively. Growth at any stage of the funnel takes time, costs money and requires commitment from all stakeholders — from founders and managers to employees. It is good to have a product capable of scale, however, acquiring new customers costs money, so it is vital to spend wisely at the beginning before you need to scale.
It’s also essential to ensure that your startup keeps pace with technological advancement so that you can meet changing consumer demands and expectations.
4. Talent Attraction and Retention
Don’t just listen to your customers, listen to your employees. The critical ingredient for any company is its employees; nobody has an insignificant role. Without the team, there is no product.
Your team should include employees who understand the business’s vision and mission. If employees continue to leave your company at a fast rate, something may be wrong with your culture, employees don’t feel fulfilled working with you, or a plethora of other reasons. In that case, you need to find out exactly what the problem is and try to become a more conducive environment for your employees.
Satisfaction surveys, a dedicated HR team, improved employment benefits, rewards, team events, etc., are some ideas for achieving sync and gaining the trust of your employees.
In a market where finding good talent is so hard, it is beneficial to prioritise this from day one and build a company with a great culture where people would love to work.
5. User Experience
Creating a great customer experience involves a lot of touchpoints, often between marketing, customer support, and product/engineering.
When you listen to customers by constantly collecting feedback from them and iterating the performance of your platform, you signal to your customers that you care about what you are building and who you are building it for (them). From Customer Service to Marketing to Product to Engineering, every facet of your startup should constantly prioritise customer satisfaction above all else.
In FinTech, you can achieve this with stellar customer support, providing multichannel support, using automation to improve workflow, ensuring data security, and quickly addressing customer dissatisfaction, product education, content marketing, etc.
This study by McKinsey estimates that we have over 5000 FinTechs in Africa — a growing industry with the potential to create jobs, opportunities, and wealth across the continent.
However, building FinTech in Africa is much more complicated than in the foreign market. Technology is still far ahead of regulation, and there are many things that founders must consider, like talent acquisition and retention, funding, locality, etc.
To build out the ecosystems necessary to support FinTech creation and growth, founders must understand what they need to prioritize and work with stakeholders — governments, investors, and the traditional financial services sector — to create an environment for sustainable growth and support innovation.
At Bloc, via our suite of products, we help any company (FinTechs, SMEs and large organizations) embed digital financial services into their products so they can focus on what matters — launching.
If you’re looking to build your own African FinTech, Bloc is the best place to start.