The Iraq Britain Business Council (IBBC) held a well attended video conference on the subject of 'The Adoption of Fintech and Online Safety and its impact on the Iraqi Economy', for members and a wider audience of Tech specialists in UK and Iraq.
The key speakers included:
- Hugo Rousseau - Program manager for Fintech at Tech UK- who spoke on emergent trends in Tech and with companies emerging from UK.
- Yazen Altimimi- Ceo Zain Cash, Iraq's largest on line transactor and Telecom, who shared his view of the Iraqi Fintech market and the opportunities and challenges within it.
- Ian Taylor- VP Government relations in EU for Mastercard- who provided an overview of the importance and relevance of Government if bringing forward changes to the Tech ecosystem, the regulatory framework and as a key drive for, change.
- Botan Osman: CEO Restrata -The importance of safety and security software and crisis management expertise.
The panel provided insights into aspects and impact of Fintech for Iraq, including the benefits of an online and cashless economy, that development of Fintech in London has benefitted from being a financial centre and now has over $5bn FDI alone on Fintech.
Overall benefits of Fintech encompass transparency, efficiency and cost reduction, prevention of fraud and Financial inclusion for the 32million Iraqis who do not have a bank account ( 2 billion world wide). But also the point that a cash economy is expensive and possibly more so than costs of implementing an online economy. The panel discussed the need for Government to lead and adopt technological changes that facilitate public uptake,including the mandating of online transactions in various service areas and including E Govt for licenses and driving changes with the Central Bank as well as a clear and positive regulatory framework that is not too restrictive in the first instance, but fosters trust .
It was agreed that the public and consumer has a low trust in banking and online banking, for historical reasons- and that marketing and online wins need to be communicated to them to encourage adoption - something Zain Cash is doing, to realise its ambition to become Iraq's first digital bank. To this point. Mastercard also added that the cost of online security has to be factored into costs for transactions, but that once its operating at scale the costs come down.
Tech UK also note that new non traditional players are entering the financial services market- such as Telecoms, and the giants like Apple, Google, and in Africa- E-PESA has been hugely effective in supporting development of the economy and overall efficiency - something that Iraq could rapidly adopt as it has a high penetration of smart phones already.Data sharing, AI and Open Banking are impacting on the kind of services and shaping the agendas in EU in a positive way for both consumers and businesses.
Botan Osman made the relevant points that online tech and safety during Covid crisis has come to the fore as people are working remotely from home, but still need to remain vigilant on production platforms and safe from hackers- so Restrata have a platform that enable monitoring of assets and people and their online safety - Given the financial efficiency pressures on oil and gas production, online monitoring and reduction in personnel go hand in hand with their system capabilities, and this is likely replicated across many sectors in Iraq and Internationally.
He said that ' now is the time' to make radical changes in Government and business, to adapt to COVID and low oil prices, and to embrace the opportunity and benefits Tech brings . Overall it was agreed that a mindset shift is required among Government and populations to embrace the opportunities now.
For more information on the panel, please view the video here.