Most African banks have been late the party when it comes to FinTech, recent entries like M-Pesa saw thousands of un-banked using their services — Big banks here are increasingly seeing the Africa as a testing ground for new Fintech like bitcoin and blockchain.
2015 was the biggest year yet in capital investing in the Bitcoin and Blockchain spaces.
Blockchain is a much discussed topic at new innovation hubs like Rand Merchant’s AlphaCode in Johannesburg. They hosted the Afrikoin conference last year and are running a blockchain accelerator this year.
Also, Barclays Rise another innovation hub which is based in Cape Town, which hosted Fintech Africa’s blockchain conference yesterday, Feb. 25 2016.
Barclays Africa, is more than 60%t owned by the global U.K.-based Barclays, which also currently operates in 13 African countries. Their accelerator will be run by TechStars in the US this access will bring in new ways of thinking that the 300-year-old bank can’t come up with on its own.
“Startups can build quicker, they can find ways around problems which banks can’t, they don’t have all the red tape, and they have a wider vision of the world,” Warren Squires, Seeker Fund, Barclays Africa’s venture capital arm.
Barclays is in essence trying to foresee where they need to be in the future to compete. They are like a slow moving 300 year old man but with the capital to look into innovations and potentially bring it to the masses in an easy to access manner.
Barclays Consent blockchain experiment originally for improving how we store and keep medical records has seen the opportunity to help with KYC (Know your customer) regulations. It would also help safeguard customers info and identity in securer environment in the long term than legacy systems.
“Blockchain could be the most significant social and political innovation to impact Africa in 100 years,” says Arian Lewis, head of Barclays’ Open Innovation.
Barclays also sees a huge potential political impact that blockchain could provide to the people of Africa. More transparency in government funding and accountability could be given to the citizens.
Although most of these start-ups are focused on non-bitcoin Blockchain start-up and Bitcoin start-ups alike. I see a massive value for Bitcoin in Africa, it solves many problems in the current financial system and is available to use immediately.