Licence hurdles limiting innovation, funding for African fintechs—Roosevelt Elias

The founder/CEO of Payble Technologies, a Nigerian fintech company, Roosevelt Elias, has said the multiplicity of licenses required to operate across African countries is limiting innovation and funding for fintech companies in the continent.

Elias, who stated this in an interview with NewsTimes, said this is also making sending money from one African country to another more difficult than sending money from Africa to other continents. According to him, currently, it is easier to send money from Nigeria to the U.S. than sending money from Nigeria to Ghana and vice versa.

He added that venture capitalists intending to invest in fintechs are now asking the question of license before they can commit their funds. He said that has become the first question from investors because they do not want to invest in a company that would spend all the money on acquiring licenses.

Entering fintech space

While noting that entering the fintech space as a new player is tough as a result of the licensing issue, Elias said:

  • “Fintech is one of the hardest places to get into just simply because of the licenses that you have to get. It is a struggle to start a fintech in let’s say Nigeria and grow across 54 countries in Africa because in every country you need a new licence and they are not connected.
  • “If you are a fintech company, to get funding now the first question they are asking you is, what’s your plan for licenses? Because that’s the biggest headache.
  • “For investors, there is no point in investing in a company that would spend the majority of its capital trying to get licensed.”

Indicating that the situation is different in other continents, Elias added,

  • “For example now, if we started Payble in England, for me to go across all the countries in Europe would have been a plug-and-play situation, not necessarily for me to get a brand new license.
  • “Imagine the market I can access just because I started from one of the European countries. The same thing happens with America. America is a big market on its own. If you launch a company in America, Canada and Mexico, you can go unicorn. But in Nigeria to grow to that point you have to acquire many licences.

More fintech needed to solve problems

Speaking against the backdrop of the number of fintechs in Nigeria, Elias, whose company is helping small businesses to go cashless, said Nigeria needs more fintechs and tech companies to address the myriads of challenges confronting different sectors of the economy.

  • “I don’t think we have enough fintechs yet. It’s not just fintech, I don’t think we have enough technology companies yet. Different sectors require a different approach. The only problem I see with the fintechs we have is that everybody’s in the same bucket.
  • “Meanwhile, there are different ways we can solve different problems. For example, America has 300 or 400 million people, and they have 5000 fintechs and it’s growing every day.
  • “We do not have enough companies to solve the problems we have. But then again, the companies that we have do not even want to do the work to solve the problem that we have,” he said.

Aside from having more fintech solutions, Elias said there is also a need for education and awareness creation for small businesses to go digital. He said Payble is now investing in this area to move many small businesses in Nigeria that are currently analogue to digital and ensure they embrace cashless transactions.

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