Over the past decade, the pace of technological progress has accelerated, resulting in the introduction of new business models that aim to make processes more efficient and address the needs of customers better. These technologies have stimulated the development of technology enabled financial services, or “FinTech” as it is known.
Just like the rest of the world, Uganda is experiencing a surge in technology innovations in financial services. These innovations are creating new models and products of financial services and have greatly created new models of how payments and remittances are delivered; and are disrupting the banking intermediation space. Over the past decade, the pace of technological progress has accelerated, resulting in the introduction of new business models that aim to make processes more efficient and address the needs of customers better. These technologies have stimulated the development of technology enabled financial services, or “FinTech” as it is known. FinTechs are companies that utilise technology to provide financial services. Globally, there are now over 4,000 FinTechs operating across all areas of the financial services sector.
Fintech refers to IT solutions dedicated to the Financial Services Industry, it is the integration of technology into offerings by financial service companies in order to improve their use and delivery to consumers. This is a new technology that seeks to improve and automate the delivery and use of financial services. Technological progress has played an integral role in the formation and transformation of the financial sector globally . Over the past 50 years, a variety of technological innovations have helped introduce new business models and products, as well as ways to conduct financial transactions. For instance, the proliferation of computer terminals and personal computers in the 1980s led to automated bank branches and facilitated remote banking with the introduction of the Automated Teller Machine (ATM).
Fintech In Uganda Across The Years
- In 1997, the first Automated Teller Machine (Bankom) was introduced
- In 2009, Bank of Uganda issued a “No-objection” letter to Uganda’s first mobile money provider, MTN-Uganda Ltd, which launched its operations, thereby registering 11,016 accounts in the first month, then the establishment of the NITA-U Act, 2009 and introduction of the second mobile money provider in Uganda (Zain-Airtel).
- In 2011, Bank of Uganda issued more No-Objection letters to Mobile Money Service Providers, the first Bill payments (API) with National Water and Sewerage Corporation (NWSC) was launched, then the Uganda’s first aggregator entered the market with a multi-purpose mobile payment aggregation service (Yo-Uganda).
- In 2012, Warid Telcom Ltd and “M cash” joined the Mobile Money market, in 2013, Bank of Uganda issued the Mobile Money guidelines, the Mobile money cash out service (MTN Interswitch) was launched and Ezee money also joined the market.
- In 2014, the Online E-commerce retailing (Jumia) and Community based mobile transportation (Safeboda) launched in Uganda.
- In 2015, the mobile wallet service was launched in Uganda by Airtel Uganda and Centenary Bank.
- In 2016, the Financial Institutions Act was amended to permit Agent Banking, Bancassurance and Islamic Banking, the Micropay joins the Market, MTN entered into a partnership with Commercial Bank of Africa which introduced the Savings and Loan Product (Mokash), then MTN-Uganda and Airtel-Uganda launched Mobile Money interoperability.
- In 2017, the Financial Institutions Act, 2004 was amended to incorporate Agent Banking Regulations and the Financial Technology Service Providers Association (FITSPA) was incorporated.
- In 2018, Agency Banking and digital banking was launched in Uganda. In 2019, the National Information Technology Authority-Uganda issued the Data Protection and Privacy Act, Uganda’s home grown Xente was launched in Nigeria, Jumia became the first African e-commerce start up to be listed on the New-york Stock Exchange (NYSE).
- In 2020, the National Payment Systems Act, 2020 was issued by Bank of Uganda OU and the first local acquisition MFS Africa bought Beyonic to bring Cross-border payments to African SMEs.
- In 2021, Bank of Uganda issued the first Fin tech Licenses to Pegasus Technologies, Airtel Uganda Limited and MTN Uganda, and the Global stocks investing product (Chipper) was launched.
Banks are now utilizing distributed network of computer terminals and internet connectivity to extend services beyond brick-and-mortar branches, with internet banking over personal computers and using Automated Teller Machines. On 20th April, 2018, an Automated Clearing House was put in place through which cheques and high-volume Electronic Funds Transfers (EFTs) are cleared.
The Evolution of Fintech
The technology revolution has transformed service delivery and customer expectations so radically that Traditional Financial Service Providers have embraced FinTech for their evolution, with most seeking to leverage electronic platforms and scale down their brick-and-mortar branch. The old ways of delivering finance may not be sustained because consumers find that the processes of traditional players e.g., banks, are too cumbersome to navigate. Seeing that friction, technology firms have stepped in to meet people’s financing needs conveniently and at scale thereby jolting traditional banks to wake up and join the bandwagon for fear of losing clients’ trust in their ability to act in the public’s interest.
Of the 550 currently and previously listed start-ups in Uganda on Venture Capital for Africa, we may consider 71 as Fintechs. The total market volume of the Fintech companies in the defined segments amounted to approximately USD 16 million in 2017. Over the past two years, the average annual growth rate of the Fintechs in Uganda has been approximately 35%, globally, there are over 4,0005.
The evolution of Fin techs in Uganda can be greatly associated with the emergence of mobile money which saw the Bank of Uganda issue the Bank of Uganda Mobile Money Guidelines, 2013 to regulate the mobile money industry since there was a regulatory gap on how the mobile money ecosystem could operate. Fintechs operating across the payments, lending, banking infrastructure, markets, investments and savings, and insurance sectors. Payments is the largest area of Fintech, followed by banking infrastructure, investment and savings, and markets.
Over the last 10 years, the BOU has undertaken several initiatives to develop payment systems in Uganda. First, the National Cheque Standard was developed and adopted in 1999 to minimize the risk of fraud and forgery associated with checks as a payment instrument. In 2002, the Electronic Clearing System (ECS) was implemented to automate the process of clearing checks, and in 2003 the payment instruments in the clearinghouse were expanded to include Electronic Fund Transfers (EFTs), such as credit transfers and direct debits. In 2005, the Real Time Gross Settlement System (RTGS), an Interbank Funds Transfer System also known as the Uganda National Interbank Settlement System (UNISS), was implemented to create efficiencies and manage risks in payment processing.
Mobile money payments infrastructure that is largely dominated and primarily operated by Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) which are m not conventional financial services providers has redefined the payments and remittances domain. This has been enabled by the proliferation and access to mobile telephones. Mobile money technology continues to accelerate innovation in conventional financial institutions.
Fintech holds great potential for both financial inclusion and economic development in a wider sense. Digital financial solutions have been expanding access and reach to consumers, especially the unbanked and under-banked. They have been significantly lowering the costs of providing financial services, making it possible to serve the base of the pyramid in a more profitable way. Fintechs have also enabled new business models that offer expanded services to customers and continue to generate new revenue streams for financial service providers.
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