Opportunities for RegTech are starting to take hold in Africa

Jacques Claude, the CEO of Global Voice Group (GVC). GVC helps governments increase efficiency, revenue, transparency, and compliance, with intelligent big data solutions applied to vital sectors of the economy, including telecommunications, fintech and the wider world. mobile and digital ecosystem.

You are a global provider of ICT and RegTech solutions for governments and regulators. Tell us about it.

RegTech, as the buzzword suggests, is the use of technology for regulatory purposes. From the perspective of our clients in governments and regulatory bodies, it is about using information technology to better frame and regulate sectors of the economy. At GVG, we started developing RegTechs over 20 years ago, long before this buzzword was even created. At the time, most African countries had not even liberalized their telecommunications sector yet. The typical telecommunications regulator was still forced to rely on paper-based methods, and the old computers they used were not even connected to the Internet. Eventually, some would use them to store reports and Excel files sent by telecom operators.

With us, they made a giant leap by connecting their computers directly to the source of information, that is to say by being directly connected in real time to the industry they were responsible for regulating.

RegTech solutions help businesses meet compliance and regulatory requirements on an ongoing basis. How would you describe this space in the region?

Obviously, as an increasingly important and rapidly changing space. As the regulatory environment becomes more complex and difficult for businesses, especially for telecommunications and payment service providers that operate in different countries with different frameworks, there is a growing need to take a more comprehensive approach. proactive and systematic regulatory compliance.

Several African governments have also adopted regtech solutions in recent years, the most recent being Guinea. Why is this so important?

What I said for downstream regulated firms is also true for upstream policymakers and enforcers. By allowing governments and regulators to monitor compliance, RegTechs also allow them to be proactive about it and reduce the cost and burden of such compliance across the regulated industry. African governments have realized that putting in place the best regulatory framework in no way guarantees the sustainable development of an inclusive and healthy telecom and financial ecosystem. It must also be supported by appropriate information technologies.

RegTech, a relatively young category. These are essentially technologies that allow effective and efficient management of regulatory compliance primarily for regulated sectors. What is the biggest challenge facing this sector in Africa?

I have underlined the common interest that governments and companies can have for RegTechs. However, despite increased awareness on this subject, there is still a large technological gap in this regard between regulators and regulated. Although most African governments have adopted digital policies and strategies over the past decade, which include the digitization of government entities and state agencies, their ability to implement it is hampered by budget constraints and a lack of of expertise. So, with a lack of knowledge, the biggest challenge could be financial for governments. At GVG, we meet this challenge by combining our RegTech approach with financial models that fully take their reality into account, such as build-operate-transfer agreements and innovative financing solutions.

Opportunities for RegTech are starting to take hold in Africa as governments accelerate their digitization strategies. Has the pandemic accelerated its adoption?

The pandemic has certainly led many governments to reconsider their priorities. But in the short term, the accompanying global economic shock has not created a favorable situation for increased spending on IT projects in Africa at the government level, including RegTechs, although it has been proven that ICT greatly enhances resilience in many ways during a pandemic.

However, the urgent need to adopt information technologies is arguably one of the biggest lessons learned during these difficult times and, in the medium to long term, African governments are more likely to prioritize ICT projects. , including RegTechs.

In addition, the pandemic has spurred the use of digital payment methods, such as mobile money, and as we move towards a more cashless economy in Africa, this revolution naturally calls for digital control methods as well.

With the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) now in place, how will this affect the implementation of some of these RegTech solutions?

The AfCFTA is another great initiative that demonstrates the growing interdependence of African countries as well as the heightened awareness of their common challenges. It represents an important step in a long and difficult journey towards greater pan-African economic integration. But economic integration also requires regulatory harmonization at regional and continental levels, which paves the way for increased adoption of RegTech as a sure means of controlling this harmonization. Countries that have already adopted these technologies should serve as convincing examples for others.

How can African governments or organizations benefit from RegTech solutions?

RegTechs have the potential to bridge the gap between regulation and compliance, a difficult challenge that all regulators and governments continue to face since the liberalization of telecommunications in African countries. They also allow regulation to adapt and change, as part of an ongoing data-driven process, to reflect new realities and business models. Ultimately, all stakeholders, including consumers and industry players, benefit greatly from their implementation.

Closing remarks?

Digitization, the adoption of technology and the liberalization of key sectors of the economy are essential for Africa’s growth, both at the national and continental levels. As we continue to see more governments and regulators embrace the use of regulatory technologies, we will also see improved service efficiency and greater collaboration. This approach can strengthen our capacities in the future.

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