‘It is critical to provide startups in Africa with a platform to innovate,’ says Fred Pelser of ARISE

Fred Pelser, Senior Investment Director at ARISE, talks to Edem Gadegbeku about the aims of the leading African boutique investment company and its involvement with the Ecobank FinTech Challenge.


Image : ARISE

How did ARISE get involved with the Ecobank FinTech Challenge, and why is it important to support such an initiative?

First of all, ARISE is a leading investor in financial services across options in Africa with more than $1bn of assets under management. One of our key investments is in Ecobank. We have 14% of the shares there. We are always looking at collaborating and expanding our partnership. The Ecobank Fintech Challenge is an interesting proposition for us because it is an instrumental and fostering ecosystem in terms of startups.

It contributes by providing resources, expertise, innovation, discussions and market trends that foster the ecosystem. One of our mandates is to provide capital to financial institutions across the continent; we are also mandated to contribute to economic growth and local prosperity.

So, we are looking at improving financial inclusion. Actually, we believe in collaborative partnership between banks and fintechs. It is a unique opportunity to create value, and that is why we at ARISE are sponsor of this year’s Challenge, similar to last year.

How do you assess the potential and impact of the fintech solutions showcased at the Challenge this year?

All the fintech finalists are providing a unique solution to local challenges. It is very exciting for us, it provides a platform to look at the trends, and especially potential investments opportunities. All the finalists are going to be evaluated on the standard basis. Naturally, ARISE is very rigorous in investments screening and approval policies; so subject to that, we are looking to expand our investments bonds.

Apart from Ecobank, how do you collaborate and engage with the fintech ecosystem in Africa, including regulators, investors, industry experts and other stakeholders?

In terms of regulators, because we are investing predominantly in banks, we engage on the standard basis with regulators, when we do country visits. I would really urge fintechs to engage in local associations, and especially in the Africa Finance Network which is trying to collaborate with online fintechs and then combine with banks to engage regulators to streamline the regulatory environment and harmonise while promoting financial innovations. It is critical to provide startups with a platform to innovate, keeping of protecting customers in mind. There is a balance to be had in terms of promoting an ecosystem. 

How do you plan to continue and expand your involvement and contribution to the African fintech sector?

We are a leading investing into financial institutions across options in Africa. So, naturally, our input is currently dominantly in banks. We are basing increasing investments activities in non-bank financial institutions, fintechs, and agri-finance.

We believe that in agri-finance, there are a lot of opportunities to increase, especially if you look at what is the contribution to the GDP (gross domestic product). There is a very strong proposition to promote it. Naturally, every bank also has a smaller success in terms of agri-finance. With our partners Rabobank we are trying to promote this broadened strategy.

In terms of fintechs, we believe there is a significant value to be unlocked between partnerships between banks and fintechs. First of all, fintech is much more agile in terms of innovations, so it can create better financial products and promote financial inclusion. One of our core missions is to improve financial inclusion. So, with these partnerships, we really believe that with our investments in banks, non-banks and financial institutions, fintechs and agri-finance, we can make a difference across the continent.

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Edem Gadegbeku

Edem Gadegbeku is a freelance journalist based in West Africa.