By Duncan Mlanjira
Digital financial transactions service is offering cheaper and more secure way to do financial and research has shown that this blockchain service can help financial institutions generate savings of up to $27 billion by year 2030.
This was said by Wisely Phiri, group managing director and founder of Malawi’s information and communications and technology (ICT) company, SPARC Systems Limited, in his public lecture delivered at Carnegie Mellon University Africa (CMU-Africa) in Kigali, Rwanda on Thursday, October 28.
Under the theme, ‘Digital Disruption: Opportunities for Africa, Innovating Beyond Borders’, Phiri said digital innovations are disrupting people’s normal way of doing business.
“As SPARC, our main verticals has been the financial, telecommunication and the public sectors which have been disrupted with technology,” he said.
“Due to various regulations, the banking sector were normally slow to innovate but of late various innovations have forced the banks to rethink their strategies.
“Firstly, the finance and technology (Fintech), has allowed the banking sector to offer 24/7 real-time transactions without the need of the customers to visit the banks.
“We have seen banks embracing Fintech. Mobile banking, wallets and payment apps have now been embraced by the banks.”
Phiri observed that with the distributed ledger system that blockchain is offering various possibilities such as fraud detection, interbank transfer, prevention of money laundering, among other advantages.
Phiri said the telecommunication companies are no longer voice companies like they used to be following the convergence of telecommunications and data/ICT.
“Companies like WhatsApp disrupted how we communicate changing the communication paradigm. Skype, Viber, WeChat have entered the market to pressure the prices down for text and voice thereby eating into the revenue of telecommunication companies.
“This in turn made telecom companies rethink how they do their billing. Now you are having social bundles and WhatsApp bundles for example.”
He observed that the huge volume of data being generated from the mobile money transactions are presenting another opportunity in big data analysis.
He said, going forward, companies are going into service oriented architecture as they are moving away from innovating around technologies but into innovating around services.
“If I am a bank tomorrow, I would want all the customers to bank with me by engaging with all the innovators to come up with various online selling portals to link with my bank and the settlements be done by my bank.
“As such, I would want innovations that can streamline and allow me to issue APIs and give to these innovators. These are the technologic things we are having.”
“From the discussions in the previous topics, companies are looking to add new services to capture consumer’s attention; accelerate time to market these new services with technology advancements; map end-to-end customer journeys from acquisition, engagement, retention and use Big Data Analytics to focused market segmentation and product hyper-personalization.”
He told the students who would want to venture into the technology career that if they want to innovate beyond borders, they have to think of the country classification and how they fit into the future of technology.
“The future is now and at Sparc, like our friends at CMU-Africa, we are envisioning an Africa where we lead change. Let’s be the change we need.”
He appraised his listeners that he founded Sparc, after a successful career with an international IT company in 2013, and it has grown very fast into a formidable force with a leading market share in the IT trade and five offices in Malawi, Zambia and Rwanda.
“Africa is an economy of 1.3 billion people by UN estimates. This is a continent with some of the poorest people of whom many live in remote areas
“Africa is also classified as fastest growing in terms of mobile and mobile money penetration and one of the richest continent in natural resources
“As Sparc, we have been asked how do we choose countries to operate in. For example, having originally come from Malawi most people would think the logical thing to do if we want to go beyond borders would be to open in South Africa since this country is in southern Africa and it’s more developed than Malawi.
“But no, as Sparc we went and opened our office in Rwanda then Zambia and have implemented and supported solutions in 10 countries and of these countries South Africa is still not one of them, Kenya is not one of them and Mauritius is not one of them.
“So the big question is; how do we choose countries when thinking beyond borders? My advice is this, yes Africa is one, but when you want to innovate beyond borders there are rules to follow.
“Firstly, know your industry and have a solid foundation. You can’t fail to be a lizard in your backyard and expect to be a crocodile in someone else backyard.
“So understand your market well and be specific on what problems you are solving. After that understand the classification of the countries in your industry.”
He observed that countries are classified based on specific industries, saying in IT countries are classified as developed, developing and emerging markets and that countries in a specific group will have very similar problems that require similar approach to solutions.
He said Malawi, Zambia, Rwanda are in the same group (emerging markets) although now Rwanda is moving out of this group into developing.
“You would find, for example, the revenue authority in Malawi asking for a solution where citizens can verify the issued tax documents that they are not fake.
“Then few months down a similar request will come from Zambia Revenue Authority. This is because they are in the same classification in technology.
“It gives you an advantage if you manage to implement a solution in one country in this group, you will easily sell your product in the other country in the same classification group.
“If you jump to a different group the problems are very different. Innovating beyond borders requires you to think beyond political borders.”
As a leader, Wisely’s impact goes beyond SPARC as he has served the ICT Association of Malawi (ICTAM) as its president (2016-2018) and during his term, the number of paying members went from just 20 to 1,051.
He also supports numerous charitable causes including paying fees for students in various universities in Malawi.
To date he has raised funds for 105 financially challenged students at risk of being withdrawn from the University of Malawi. Furthermore, he mentors institutions, IT experts and up-and-coming entrepreneurs.
Academically, Wisely graduated from the University of Malawi in 2007 with a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering with Distinction.
Recently, he was an Adjunct Lecturer at the Malawi University of Science and Technology (MUST).
From 2017 until 2018, he lectured in Business Innovations and Operating Systems which are some of his core expertise areas including database and storage systems, cloud services and data centers.