With the rapid growth of innovation and technology recorded over the years globally, there are even more exciting new frontiers to be explored and harnessed by Nigeria’s talented and enterprising young entrepreneurs.
This was the view of Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, SAN, in a pre-recorded speech at a weekend ceremony in Lagos to mark the 20th anniversary of Interswitch, a leading fintech company in Nigeria and Africa.
Speaking at the ceremony Saturday evening, Prof. Osinbajo noted that, “as innovation and technology open exciting new frontiers in medicine and healthcare, we can be rest assured that Nigeria will not lag behind.”
Noting that “innovative disruptions thrive on natural and human occasioned-gaps within the system,” the VP added that many of such are in Africa.
According to the Vice President, “this is why our continent is undoubtedly the next and possibly the last frontier.”
“All across the continent, there are yawning gaps waiting to be plugged by innovative ideas and entrepreneurial efforts. It is exciting to see how sprightly young people, particularly, are rising to the challenge and the accelerated pace of creative disruptions in their wake,” he added.
Speaking further on the incredible talents and potential of Nigeria and Africa’s young people to drive socioeconomic growth, the VP stated that, “in 2021 alone, African tech startups raised over $4billion in funding, with over 564 startups across the continent solving critical problems in almost every sector.
“Within the next two decades Africa’s workforce will be the largest in the world. They are skilled and they are coming. As a result, more innovative disruptors will yet emerge to plug more of these gaps.”
Prof. Osinbajo further said the Buhari Administration will continue to provide the enabling environment for young entrepreneurs and businesses to thrive.
“Our responsibility as a government has been to meet them halfway, and perhaps outpace them with corresponding creativity in the provision of forward-thinking regulatory frameworks and adequate infrastructure. I can assure you that no effort is being spared in this regard.
“Nevertheless, there is still so much to be done; and a lot of ground to cover. I have no doubt though that we are up to the task,” he emphasised.
The VP observed that “it is through innovative disruptions that humans have managed resolve their most complex challenges and stay ahead of the survival curve.
“Oftentimes, these ideas are championed by mavericks who find better, safer and more cost-effective ways for us to live, do business, and govern; slight tweaks that improve our overall experience, and complete overhauls that lead us into new paths altogether.”
On what he described as ‘two rigorous decades of accelerated change,’ since Interswitch was founded 20 years ago, Prof. Osinbajo noted that it was “incredible that what began as a novel idea to facilitate seamless payments across Africa, has in barely two decades become something of an icon of technology and innovation literally pioneering Africa’s ongoing Fintech revolution.”
The Vice President described Interswitch “as a leading company at the forefront of agency banking and financial inclusion in Nigeria,” which “also operates the largest and fastest growing private sector-led domestic card scheme in the world.”
He further noted, “It is therefore a testament to the quality of the talent and courage of the founders of Interswitch that they saw the future clearly and predicted the potential of a nascent technology for scale and application.”
Situating Interswitch further in the innovative disruption that has since transformed Nigeria’s fintech space, Prof. Osinbajo recalled that “in 2002, only 569 million people were connected to the Internet worldwide. Nigeria as a whole had less than 200,000 people with Internet access. In fact, PayPal, one of the pioneering electronic payment companies in the internet age, was barely four years old at the time.”
Since then, Africa’s domestic e-payments market has grown by 20% annually in the last two years and is projected to hit around $40 billion in 2025, the Vice President said.
“It is estimated that around half of all future digital payments will come from Nigeria, Egypt, South Africa, Ghana, and Kenya; with Nigeria experiencing the fastest growth at 35% per year. A lot of this is, of course, owed to the trailblazing efforts of Interswitch. Your rapid expansion, already serving customers in over 23 African Markets, is an ample demonstration of growing vitality.”
Aside from its remarkable feats in the fintech industry, the Vice President also commended the Interswitch group team, including the Chair of its board of directors, Sir Kenneth Olisa; founder and group managing director, Mr. Mitchelle Elegbe, for its leadership and dynamism, as well as its contributions to some social initiatives in the country.
Prof. Osinbajo also hoped that the firm’s 20th anniversary celebration of its corporate existence “will serve as an inspiration to the millions of young entrepreneurs across the continent who are throwing their hats in the ring to build better nations and a stronger continent.”
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