Chief Executive Officer Zeepay, Andrew Takyi-Appiah has predicted that the budding locally-owned Fintechs and tech startups of today are the big employers of tomorrow and government needs to focus it digital agenda strategy around that.
According to him, there was a time when Ghana strengthened companies in the insurance, banking manufacturing sectors alongside the multinationals to become the biggest employers for today, but technology has changed all that and now the fintechs and tech startups are poised to take that role sooner than later.
He stated that “30 to 50 years ago we built companies that will recruit in this era – the Vanguard Assurances, GLICOs and others. The companies that will recruit in the next 30 to 50 years are the technology companies. We need to prop up the new layer of employers and I believe Fintechs and tech startups are the future employers.”
Andrew Takyi-Appiah was speaking in an exclusive interview with TechGh24.
The Zeepay CEO emphasized that his proposal is one that should be taken as a “spiritual” and “nationalistic” one, saying that “those who fail to make the decision now will pay for it and their children will pay for it – because we are the big employers for tomorrow so if you stifle us now – your children will not have jobs tomorrow.”
He mentioned the Eastern African model, where the leaders have a different level of commitment to local businesses and they drive growth from the center, while in countries like Ghana, the leaders seem to be very liberal and allow multinationals to muscle out locals.
He argued that until Ghana gets to a point where government sees it as a nationalistic duty to compel state institutions/MMDAs, for instance, to use local fintechs via a policy that says each state institution should use at least 5 to 10 fintechs, then government is only paying lip service to the drive for digital finance growth in the local content sense.
The Zeepay boss thinks government’s digital agenda is good because they are at least “walking the talk from the regulatory standpoint” – but he believes more can be done by moving the policy to the ministerial and municipal level and compelling state institutions to open APIs that allow anybody to plug into it and use.
“So, for instance, fintech institutions can plug in and enable the public to transact business with state institution through the fintech platforms – so that the market will be more open and beneficial to many, rather than having these close-door negotiations that benefits two as opposed to 100.
“I am challenging everybody that if you rely want to digitize, take a realm, World Bank, GIZ, SEGAP and other international bodies will sponsor it – it can start with financial services – tell all banks to have open APIs so every small business can onboard once they qualify the onboarding process – and they have a product that can be sandboxed and used,” he stated.
Andrew Takyi-Appiah also stressed the need to ensure that the local fintech policy should promote merit rather than ‘whom you know’.
He cited an example of a state contract where Zeepay was the only company that met all the KPIs, but they were number five on the list until a nationalistic person said “no this is not right” – so the process started all over again and, in the end, Zeepay won the bid.
“It took a nationalistic person to ensure that – and that is what I am talking about,” he said.
He is also calling for a strong fintech body in Ghana with a proper framework geared towards making fintechs grow and becoming global stars.
“Because Zeepay is part of the fintech community in the UK, we know the value of such a framework, but we don’t have that in Ghana – what we have is a very broad industry body, of which fintech is a small part. That will not work to achieve that global target for fintech,” he said.
Andrew Takyi-Appiah said Ghana has everything it needs to make its digital agenda work – interoperability – national ID – digital address system and more, but what is left is the will – the nationalistic spiritual commitment to say let just let it happen.
He believes one key way to mainstream fintechs and tech startups is for the ministry in charge of business development to, for instance, sponsor startups that create specific platforms targeted at making wider use of the tech infrastructure government has provided as part of the digitization agenda.
“You should be incentivizing such companies with awards schemes and performance-related funds to provide a policy direction for the startup,” he said. “I believe the foundation is laid – we are ready to take off – all we need is that will to give a clear policy direction through incentivized schemes for tech startups.”
According to him, Ghana is at a place where it needs to on its own drive a significant part of the local economy, because that is how it can get people really investing their earnings back into the local economy.
“To achieve this, local companies must be allowed to grow alongside the foreign companies – there must be a deliberate effort by government to grow local companies, particularly the fintechs and tech startups,” he said.
He said the reason government must be committed to local fintechs and tech startups was the same reason that backed the argument that GCB should not be diversified so that government can always call on them to do what the foreign banks won’t do – support the state and local industry in times of distress.
Andrew Takyi-Appiah however described the current local regulatory environment as largely supportive, saying that the current administration has foresight and a drive toward developing the local industry and they work “very well” with industry players.
“But some of us don’t necessarily need a national agenda to dominate the global market – we focus on self-will and that is what is driving us,” he said. Indeed, the Zeepay CEO has said that his focus is global dominance.
He is very confident that this government, over the next four years, will have no choice but to include the young leaders in all sectors more – because “we have proven we can rule ourselves – the time for an 80-year-old to rule us is over.”
“The will, purpose and determination we have showed would only compel them to nurture us into the journey of self-rule going forward – and when the opportunity comes, we will strike gold – and not wait for some government to design systems to make us grow.”