Mauritius responds to the need for dedicated skills and capacity building in the FinTech space
The FinTech space has recorded impressive growth over the past few years, and the development of the sector in Mauritius is attracting interest all over the world. Some of the major drivers of growth in the FinTech ecosystem are demographics, mobile phone access and financial inclusion, however, finding the right skills and talents, a lack of market data and limited funding options can also act as constraints on growth for many FinTech companies. Nevertheless, the market is slowly responding.
Last year, the Mauritius FinTech Ecosystem Map 2019 and Start-up infographics for 2019 were prepared by the MAFH in collaboration with Pricewaterhousecoopers, which provided dynamic perspectives and insights into this emerging sector. To help us understand how we can play a huge role in the untapped African market and boost the skills and capacity building development required, MAFH’s Head of Skills and Capacity Building, Lisa Dosooye, shares her insights on the challenges and opportunities ahead.
A skills programme to support FinTech growth
It’s early days for the MAFH skills programme, but despite the disruptions that Covid-19 has inflicted, MAFH had already begun its mission to support the growth of the FinTech sector in Mauritius.
MAFH aims to deliver learning opportunities that support all participants in the ecosystem and promote growth and development across the sector by removing blockers. Lisa explains, “So far, we have hosted various talks, workshops and training opportunities in support of this mission. We have held public talks aimed at introducing FinTech and its underlying technologies, held workshops for startups and students to support the development of entrepreneurial skills, and worked with students to develop their essential soft skills and introduce FinTech as a career prospect.”
It has also worked with small grassroots entrepreneurs to help empower their adoption of FinTech solutions such as online payments. In May 2020, MAFH hosted the first webinar on the impact on the e-commerce sector post-COVID in Mauritius, a first in a series of virtual panels discussing opportunities and challenges for the sector moving forward.
Challenges and Opportunities to develop skills
The response has been very positive from the events that have been held. “We continuously evaluate our courses and talks in order to refine and improve our offerings. Understanding the needs of our stakeholders is of paramount importance if we are to help support the growth of the ecosystem,” says Lisa. MAFH will soon be launching the next phase of the ecosystem mapping project and from that they hope to grow the understanding of skills gaps and training needs in the sector. Like many ecosystems in other parts of the world, MAFH members report concerns about their ability to find the right talent. As technology constantly changes and competition for talent grows, the challenge is to be responsive to that increasing need. That challenge is also an opportunity for educational partners to work with MAFH to help equip the workforce with skill sets they will need for the future.
The skills agenda at MAFH for upcoming months
The skills program is working towards removing the knowledge blockers that are inhibiting growth in the ecosystem. To do this in a sustainable way what is needed is a multi-layered approach that grows knowledge and skills across all levels of the ecosystem. There are four core priority areas for the skills program:
- Demystification and leadership development: Most business leaders, managers, policymakers, etc, have a degree of familiarity with the term FinTech and some of the underlying disruptive technologies associated with it. In fact, terms like blockchain and AI, have attained almost buzzword status in Mauritius, however, for many, the terms remain fuzzy or misunderstood and their practical application remains somewhat unclear. Demystifying these core concepts is a priority for the skills program as it represents a blocker for digital transformation and technological adoption.
- Expanding the pipeline of new talent entering the FinTech sector is essential to its sustained growth and development long term. Competition for talent is intense and attracting graduates to FinTech companies is predicated on an awareness of FinTech as a sector and the opportunities it offers long term as new technologies impact traditional industries. Laying the groundwork for long-term growth involves partnering not only with tertiary education but reaching down the pipeline to promote FinTech and technical skills development in secondary schools. Many higher education establishments are starting to incorporate courses and modules on FinTech and its related technologies on their programs and this trend can be expanded to all programs that intersect with financial technology.
- Offering opportunities for upskilling existing talent is also core to the skills program, whether that’s working with partners to offer more in-depth exploration of core technologies like blockchain or AI, or helping to support startups through the development of entrepreneurial skill sets that help them grow and scale.
- The final priority area that MAFH will be focusing on for the coming months is empowering the consumer base through digital financial literacy. The Covid-19 crisis has highlighted the important role that education has to play in helping Mauritian consumers negotiate the transition towards a more digitally based economy. Lisa highlights, “For FinTechs to flourish locally, we need digital financial literacy education programs to help Mauritians recognise how Fintech solutions may positively impact their lives and help them feel empowered to adopt the new technologies and services.”
Working with training providers and partners
Working collaboratively with educational partners is key to building the skills programme. Whether that’s working with higher education institutions to strengthen FinTech content in core curriculums or partnering with training providers to develop new learning opportunities. “We are already developing collaborative relationships with a number of local partners including the FSI and are continuously reviewing the ecosystem for new providers we can partner with to develop the programs that the sector will need to flourish,” states Lisa.
Emerging trends from Covid-19
The Covid-19 crisis has had a potentially transformative effect on education and skills development in Mauritius. The most obvious trend is of course the adoption of online learning methodologies for the delivery of education, which before the crisis, was fairly underdeveloped in Mauritius. Whilst traditional in-person learning at universities or at other training institutions will pick up again as confinement and social distancing restrictions ease, the online delivery methods are here to stay. Increasing numbers of Mauritians have been introduced to online educational opportunities, not only in Mauritius, but from across the world. Several international institutions have online degree programs in FinTech, and platforms like Coursera and edX offer online FinTech courses developed by universities that can be audited for free.
Whilst forced adoption came with a set of challenges both for those locally engaged in delivering educational content, and those consuming it, the experience has shown that the methods can be very successful. Around the world the convenience of being able to learn from home, often at your own pace, and fit it around work and family commitments more easily, is attractive from the learner’s perspective, and from the provider’s perspective, developing virtual content offers opportunities to scale and develop content more cost-effectively.
Lisa adds, “The success of MAFH’s first virtual panel of e-commerce industry experts offers a model for potential future engagements. For attendees it is much easier to fit an hour-long webinar learning experience into their day than have to take a half day out of the office to attend an in-person event. The beauty of an online event is that it can be recorded and added to a repository of learning resources that participants can access again and again as needed. We think that increasing numbers of Mauritians recognise these advantages and the popularity of these kinds of engagements will continue to grow despite the end of lockdown.”
Boosting digital innovation and supporting the Government
In the Budget 2020-21, the Finance Minister Dr. the Hon. Renganaden Padayachy mentioned a recovery plan which is focused on innovation and technology. In uncertain times like these, MAFH is playing an important role to help boost the economy in terms of reinventing digital skills, in the light of the Government’s new emphasis on making Mauritius a hub for digital transformation. From a skills perspective, MAFH can help boost the government’s agenda by promoting digital innovation through the demystification of the transformative technologies that underpin the Fintech sector. “If we can assist Mauritian companies in reducing the fears and misconceptions which often accompany disruption and change, then we can help them navigate the process of digital transformation more smoothly,” said Lisa.
The MAFH skills programme can also boost innovation by supporting the development of entrepreneurial skills that assist Mauritian startups with scaling their business and accessing new international markets through our pan-African networks.
Opportunities or youth in FinTech
The FinTech sector offers enormous opportunities for youth. Despite fears of new disruptive technologies and automation threatening certain roles, the need for skilled employees to use advanced technologies will become more apparent than ever. It should also be emphasised that these disruptive technologies will create a significant number of new jobs and roles in the coming years. Advances in these technologies will mean that skills unique to humans such as creativity, teamwork, empathy and innovative thinking will also become increasingly more valued by employers. Lisa concludes, “The MAFH skills programme, in collaboration with learning partners and higher education institutions, can be instrumental in preparing young people to take advantage of the opportunities that FinTech offers.”
The Mauritius Africa FinTech Hub is a fast-growing ecosystem where entrepreneurs, corporations, governments, tech experts, investors, financial service providers, universities and research institutions can collaborate to build cutting-edge solutions for the emerging African market.