The world is changing and Intellectual Property (IP) is one of the tools facilitating this rapid change. Governments of developed countries appreciate the benefit and importance of IP and have put measures in place to support its development and effective use.
Indeed, most technology-driven innovation today comes from America, Europe and Asia. It is on this point that I have wondered about the place of Africa and particularly, Nigeria, in all of this.
Financial Technology or FinTech is revolutionizing how companies manage the financial aspects of their business. For example these include data analytics, Internet-Of-Things (IOT), mobile platforms, cloud computing, artificial intelligence/machine learning and cryptocurrency.
We also know that many countries are taking steps towards creating enabling environments for FinTech development.
One interesting case study is the recently launched “FinTech Fast Track Initiative” (FTFT) in Singapore.
On December 6 last year - the Intellectual Property Office of Singapore (IPOS) granted the first accelerated patent under its FTFT to Voyager Innovations, a technology company in South East Asia.
Now, while patent grants usually take at least two to four years (sometimes longer), the fast track patent granted to Voyager took only seven months from application to grant.
As developments in the FinTech field can be quite rapid, rendering older technology obsolete on the go, the FTFT provides a huge advantage by allowing faster grants.
What is interesting to see is how Asian governments are supporting this initiative.
In 2016, investment in the South East Asian nations’ FinTech sector increased by 33 per cent to US$252 million – reinforcing the region’s position as one of the world’s fastest growing economic zones.
Daren Tang, Chief Executive of the Registries of the IP Office of Singapore, was reported by the publication FinTech Singapore saying: “Singapore already has all the ingredients for a vibrant innovation ecosystem. Our broad IP network reaches out to over 70 countries which account for more than 90% of global GDP.
“Complemented with a world-class financial services infrastructure and business-friendly regulatory policies, Singapore is well placed for FinTech enterprises to commercialise their IP into the fast-growing ASEAN region.”
Lessons for Nigeria
In the last few years there has been great focus on FinTech in Nigeria. Various technology-based starts up and major organisations have invented products boosting the FinTech space. Many conversations are underway, driven by financial services experts and representatives of major institutions, who are constantly debating the possibilities and how they should be managed.
Inventions hubs have been established by private bodies so as to create platforms for steering the inventions and attracting investors.
But, the government is lagging in this conversation and needs to increase its support for IP, particularly within the FinTech space.
Singapore’s initiatives can be mirrored in Nigeria.
If our IP is facilitated and supported by the government, it would ensure all patents and inventions are quickly protected.
IP and FinTech are tools for economic advancement. Nigeria needs initiatives and fast moving regulatory responses that support innovation-driven enterprises to get their ideas into a workable form and onto the market. Most of all it needs support to ensure they are protected and then used to build our economy.
Routes to Follow
The government can support this development by taking any of the following routes:
Providing FinTech Regulation: Currently, there is no law in Nigeria pertaining directly to FinTech. Having tailored regulations applicable to FinTech will support and encourage FinTech related innovation. The presence of better FinTech regulation will create a better legal environment for business transactions. Implementing these regulations might be expensive, but they offer more protection to people investing in financial services, which can increase investor confidence and improve overall corporate investment and are essential, especially in a market as volatile as Nigeria’s.
Providing Proper Policy: Government can take the initiative and adopt policies that encourage FinTech related innovation and FinTech usage and adoption.
University research: Government can support FinTech by providing support for university research. The world over, university research has proven to be a major contributor to development and innovation, especially in the tech sector. Nigeria can tap into its vast university research potential for FinTech innovation.
Besides government, stakeholders in Nigeria’s FinTech industry have a part to play in facilitating its growth and use.
Much effort has been made to drive the conversation – as can be seen by the number of FinTech meetings, conferences and events. But, if we are to make headway, stakeholders must concentrate their efforts and work together to support and ensure government efforts bear fruit.
FinTech is one of the major threads with which the future will be woven. It would do Nigeria a lot of good to master the loom now, while the time is right.
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