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Fintech in Africa conference takes a fresh angle on regulation

17 May 2017 | Finance, Fintech, Banking and Financial Services Regulatory

Swift, agile and versatile, financial technology – or Fintech – is sweeping Africa and the rest of the world. Lagging far behind it in many countries and regions is the law and regulation around Fintech operations. While too much regulation could stifle innovation in this dynamic sector, too little – and too late – could be equally damaging to consumers and financial institutions.

Striking the right regulatory balance is one of various compelling themes in the spotlight at the Fintech in Africa conference taking place in Sandton, Johannesburg on Thursday, 25 May 2017. Pan-African law firm Bowmans is hosting the day-long conference and has assembled a line-up of top African and international speakers for the event.

“Our speakers span the Fintech spectrum, from blockchain service providers and university research centres to African regulators, non-profit think tanks and legal experts in cryptocurrency and cybercrime,” says Francisco Khoza, head of the Banking and Finance department at Bowmans.

“Although there have been other conferences on Fintech, this one stands out for its focus on moving the conversation on Fintech regulation forward,” says Kirsten Kern, partner at Bowmans. “Fintech is incredibly fast-developing and agile, but the law is not, creating all kinds of potential challenges for data protection and cyber security, and even fuelling harmful lending practices in some cases.”

From crowdfunding to blockchain and more

The Fintech in Africa conference will cover a wide spectrum of Fintech applications, including payment systems, crowdfunding and blockchain developments – both in key African jurisdictions such as Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa and Uganda, and in international jurisdictions such as the United Kingdom, United States and Australia.

“We have a session comparing important Fintech trends and regulatory developments in Africa and internationally, as the issues at stake are not necessarily the same,” says David Geral, head of the Banking and Financial Services Regulatory practice at Bowmans. Crowdfunding, for example, appears to be a major focus in many developed countries, while payment systems have grown like wildfire in some African countries.

Crowdfunding is gathering momentum on the African continent, though, and so a session at the conference is dedicated to crowdfunding developments in different regions of Africa. This will also cover the practicalities of navigating regulation as a cross-border start-up.

Risk and the management of fallout is the subject of a third session, exploring risks facing the Fintech industry, especially data and information risk, cybercrime and harmful lending practices,

In a session on payment systems, speakers will explore why these systems are more successful in some jurisdictions than in others. “The impact of blockchain on the roll-out of payment systems is part of this discussion,” says Khoza.

The blockchain session will explore the “new frontiers” for blockchain as well as the use of smart contracts in a digital economy, he says.

“Many of our speakers are at the forefront of Fintech industry and regulatory developments, and we are confident that this conference will help take debate on regulating Fintech in Africa forward.”

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