Mark O’Sullivan: “Mauritius has Strong Potential as a Fintech Hub for Africa”
Founder and CEO of IPT (International Payments Tech), Mark O’Sullivan is one of the proponents of Africa as a land for innovation. Which explains why the fintech industry is soaring on the continent, especially since it is not, according to him, in competition with, but a complement to the banking industry. He also shares his views on the potential for Mauritius to be a fintech hub for Africa.
How would you weigh the potential of Africa as far as the fintech industry is concerned?
Africa reminds me very much of the energy that the London fintech scene had back in 2008, with a vibrant and focused movement looking to disrupt and improve the current financial offerings in their respective countries. Of course, not all are going to be successful but many are already making a huge difference in only a short space of time. Africa as we know is never going to grow in a straight line but as more countries embrace fintech, then I truly believe the future is very bright for African fintech.
In the long run, as banking facilities are rendered more accessible on the continent, do you think mobile payment systems could become obsolete?
In fact, it is going to be just the opposite. The fintech industry is filling the gap for which the banks cannot currently provide solutions. The vast majority of Africans remain unbanked and the huge movement of physical labour across Africa means this trend will continue and localised fintech solutions are already filling this gap. If you follow the trend that is currently happening in Europe, then you could find major African banks partnering with local fintech companies to access their technology and service this client base but as of today, from a cost and compliance, view this is not happening.
What areas in fintech other than mobile payment could businesses develop in Africa?
Africa has grown up on mobile payments but areas like micro-lending are now huge areas of growth. If you take 4G Capital in Kenya, they offer unsecured micro-capital to individuals and small business owners to allow them to grow and even start their own business. Loans are no more than USD 100 with a 30 day payback and 98 % of clients are growing their business on the back of this with a 80 % repeat loan given. These clients would have been overlooked by traditional lenders as not financially viable to service, but fintech now provides a solution.
What are the countries that are currently using IPT solutions?
IPT is different in that we provide corporate clients, funds and NGOs with an alternative to traditional banking channels when it comes to making international payments. We have taken the best Europe has to offer in payment technology and pricing and also, very soon, we will have a major African bank offering payment and pricing, and incorporate it into one single payment platform. It means clients investing into or making payments globally from Africa now have an alternative to traditional banking channels for making these payments. By headquartering ourselves in Mauritius, it means we can attract a global client base which is comfortable with the security and regulation that an international financial centre offers. Although in its infancy, we are a strong believer in Mauritius as a fintech hub for Africa.
Do you have any expansion plan to other countries?
We are already seeing strong interest from South Africa, but we are also keen to explore Kenya, Rwanda and Botswana in the near future. International Payments Tech has just been included in the African Fintech 100 as one of the top 100 fintech companies to watch in Africa over the next 5 years and I might add the only company from Mauritius in this index. And we intend to fully to become a key African fintech company for many years to come.