Viola Llewellyn, Co-Founder and President of Ovamba Solutions was a speaker at the “Africa” session which took place on the 3rd day of The Singapore FinTech Festival Conference. The session consisted of entrepreneurs and co-founders of disruptors from funding, to payment service provider, to insurance. During the session, Viola stated that she believes Africa is at the start of the leapfrog effect – it is seen to be gradually accelerating to become an emerging market.
Viola has taken the time to share her thoughts on the Singapore FinTech Festival in a Q&A. Please view below:
CH: What made you interested in attending the festival?
VL: The opportunity to show and explain Africa, and change the narrative.
CH: What were some of your expectations for the festival?And were they met?
VL: The festival was managed to the highest levels of professionalism The agenda was varied but the lack of understanding around the African FinTech market meant that it could have been done better to show the variety and impact. I expected to meet more investors, but they were not prepared to meet us/Ovamba. There was a high number of no shows and cancellations.
CH: What was it like being an African Fintech founder there?
VL: It was a GREAT honour but not surprising. I was the only black female who presented. I took it as a big responsibility. 3 other African platforms were present: Kudzai Kutukwa, Founder and CEO, Mobbisurance, Sean Emery, Co-founder and CEO, Rainfin, South Africa and Sameer Hirji, Co-founder, Selcom. It was good to see a variety across a number of solutions to showcase. More than anything, there was a strong sense of responsibility. Ground work needs to be laid to continue the narrative and build bridges of opportunity, clarity and understanding.
CH: What were some of perceptions and/or misconception of the African market from others at the festival?
VL: That Africa is “One single generalized place”, that only solutions like charity will work. It was clear that not as much attention to detail is afforded to Africa and we are an afterthought. The panel was named, “Africa”. Just Africa. And it was the last panel of the entire conference. We had an audience of about 150 in an auditorium that could hold about 800 – 1000. The premise of our panel was to discuss “…. the significant progress made in Africa to reshape and adapt financial services” . This is a misnomer as the very opportunity of FinTech has arisen by the lethargy in the delivery of financial services and the negative impact this situation has had on both consumers and business owners.
CH: Did you feel there was alot of interest in the African market?
VL: Yes – but it is just the beginning When I toured the exhibition hall many solution providers claimed to be global but had no African presence or plans for one. One solution provider had a presence in Kenya. The Asian market is comfortable with English speaking Africa, NOT francophone Africa. This is an opportunity for technology to bridge the gap to collaboration.
CH: What were some of your key takeaways from the festival?
VL: Ovamba was able to strike the right chord because of existing successful traction with Japanese investors. I am not sure how easily we would have been able to start conversations. It was clear that in the same way that we urge investors and collaborators to not look at Africa as one amorphous mass, we must learn and understand the different regions of Asia. Singapore is a highly sophisticated financial hub – it is not comparable to Myanmar, Vietnam or China. Success will come from understanding the different regions, cultures and opportunities.
CH: What are some of your thoughts on future relationships between the Singaporean and African market?
VL: Many more visits, relationship and business development are required. I am also very sensitive to the fact that each business interaction should yield a positive engagement to build a layer of trust and rewarded expectation.