Ireland has compelling and innovative fintech solutions to offer Africa, says a delegation of South African financial industry professionals who recently visited Dublin.

The South Africans, who travelled to Ireland as part of an Enterprise Ireland inward buyers’ delegation for the MoneyConf conference, report that Ireland’s fintech sector is bringing a range of cost-effective next-generation solutions to market that would be highly relevant in the South African and pan-African context.

Rory Moore, innovation lead at Accenture sub-Saharan Africa, says while he has attended similar conferences around the world, Ireland’s MoneyConf and his engagement with Irish fintech businesses delivered some surprises.

“I was amazed at the calibre of businesses presenting; the high level of interest in Irish innovation from leading global companies, and the clear support Ireland’s innovators are receiving from the Irish government,” he says.

Moore notes that while Ireland’s innovation start-up ecosystem is fairly young in comparison with an environment such as Silicon Valley, innovators in Ireland are rapidly playing catch-up.

“I saw huge potential for many of the startups we engaged with to work with businesses in South Africa, particularly in terms of solutions for financial inclusion, and cross-border trade and remittances. A number of the solutions are building on blockchain, to underpin cheaper, more effective transaction systems.”

Itumeleng Malebye, head of stakeholder relations at Alexander Forbes, also travelled to Dublin as part of the delegation. He echoes Moore’s view that Irish innovators have a great deal to offer South Africa and pan-Africa as a whole.

“Ireland’s fintech innovators appear to have a lot to offer the continent, particularly in terms of new payment solutions and systems relevant for the unbanked. And because Ireland’s fintech innovation environment is still relatively young, the solutions emerging are still highly cost effective. Africa needs to be engaging more closely with Ireland on innovations in the financial sector,” he says.

Aisling Quirke, head: global development organisations for corporate and investment banking at Barclays Africa, says the trip made it clear that when it comes to fintech innovation, Ireland has the advantage.

“The Irish government rolls out a red carpet for this sector, so supporting ongoing innovation. Because Ireland is a small country with a highly skilled workforce, we see a high level of networking and collaboration between innovators in the fintech sector, which also drives further innovation. This proximity supports networking and funding, and there is a strong concentration of technology companies in Dublin.”

Quirke says Irish fintech companies offer many solutions that are highly relevant to Africa, but believes Irish-African business partnerships have significant potential for growth. “Many Irish fintech innovators are small companies and startups who do not have the resources to explore the opportunities to expand into Africa, while many African businesses are unaware of the potential presented by Irish fintech solutions.”

Ireland, now an innovation leader and key English-speaking springboard into Europe, is actively seeking new business partnerships with African businesses across sectors such as fintech, agritech, education, medical devices and oil and gas technologies.

The South African delegates to MoneyConf agree that Enterprise Ireland’s stepped up efforts to bring Irish innovators and African organisations closer together could help pave the way to mutually beneficial inter-continental trade and business collaboration.