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Tech Personality of the Month: Interview with Dickson Nsofor

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Dickson Nsofor is the founder and CEO of Kora, a cross-border financial service platform built for Africa, that enables people to send money to each other irrespective of the distance between them, and at a cheaper rate using  blockchain technology.

AfricaTechReport: Briefly tell us about yourself?

Nsofor: My name is Dickson Nsofor, I was born and bred in Jos City, I spent most of my life solving global challenges. I started out by solving internet, phone accessories and mobile phones challenges; worked a bit in the fashion industry, back in my school days but now I try to solve payment challenges across Africa.

AfricaTechReport: How did you come about Kora Network?

Nsofor: So,while working at the United Nations sometimes back, I got exposed to huge fragmentation across Africa as well as the huge capital inflows from developed country into Africa, and how huge chunk of the transaction is being taken by transaction fee, we founded Kora to reduce transaction fee and time.

AfricaTechReport: Have you been able to achieve success in that line?

Nsofor: I wouldn’t call it success, because I can defined the success of Kora probably in three or four years from now when we are able to accomplish our vision.

AfricaTechReport: Is Kora your first step in the entrepreneurial journey?

Nsofor: No, it is the fourth, all others didn’t work out fine. Like I said, I used to be a fashion designer back then,that failed. Then, we moved over to designing mobile phones, actually Lixon mobile was one of the first mobile phones in Nigeria and cost about 2,000 naira, that was a couple of years back, before tecno came in and took the market share, they suffocated us. So, we moved on to designing mobile tablets, designing educational tablets, like those used by some universities and polytechnics in Nigeria. Then, we went over to biometric consultation which also had its own issues because of the change of government at that time.

AfricaTechReport: Considering the Central Bank of Nigeria’s stand on digital currency, do you see such as a barrier to the adoption of digital currency across Africa?

Nsofor: Yes, it is a challenge, but I’m not sure the Central Bank says do not hold digital currency. I mean, what they said is that that the privileges under the central bank like consumer protection cover might not apply to digital currency. I’m pretty sure the CBN is reviewing its stances on the issue with a framework where it can work properly, but nevertheless there is a huge bit of government regulation across the world now. With time it is going to regulate.

AfricaTechReport: What is your take on the Nigeria fintech space?

Nsofor: Fintech in Nigeria is probably the hottest thing in Nigeria right now, with the likes of flutterwave, paystack and others doing great stuffs in the market. We just hope we would play successfully in the space as well, with the rest of them.

AfricaTechReport: As a graduate of Covenant University, do you think Nigeria has what it takes to have our own silicon valley probably in Yaba or somewhere, serving as the Silicon valley for Africa, if we look inwards?

Nsofor: Yea, I feel with the kind of revolution going on now, there are too many tech companies being founded, and coincidentally all from Yaba, I mean most of them, but I don’t believe Yaba is the Silicon Valley. We are in Lekki and I can count quite a number of tech companies in Lekki. Yes, I believe there is a huge wave and Nigeria is positioned to be the Silicon valley for Africa. That’s what I believe.

AfricaTechReport: So we can get there?

Nsofor: We should get there

AfricaTechReport: With the disruption caused by digital currency, what is the future of the traditional banking system in Nigeria and Africa?

Nsofor: Yes, I know in banking, people think bitcoin will displace the banks, No, its not true. Banks will always remain but functions of the bank will change, like now the bank is that entity that takes care of risk for people, saves your money, give you interest on the money and then people literally interface with the bank directly. In the future the function of the bank will be shifted from what it is now, fintech will be the one facing the client more because fintech has technology to create a better customer experience/customer service and then the banks will shift to the end side, to the settlement side, risk taking side, risk management side and servicing fintech. It is going to be a very mutual relationship in future; won’t be displaced.

AfricaTechReport: Uber took time before entering Africa, do you think we have the right condition for digital currency to thrive?

Nsofor: No, No we don’t, Uber came out and it took a while, because of the infrastructural deficit across the continent. We need internet, we need mobile phones,Wi-Fi, connectivity to make these things work. So Uber still took up fine because its largely mobile, anything that requires high dense internet won’t take off that fast, but for digital currency there needs to be a real time application of it. I should be able to shop on Jumia with bitcoin, buy things on Aliexpress and Alibaba with bitcoin. At that time we can be ready for a digital market but now it is still early innovators’ time. Startups are working on creating services and products, that users need for market adoption.

AfricaTechReport: Where do you see Kora in the next 10 years?

Nsofor: Although I have a 10 years picture but I prefer five years because it looks more realistic. In five years time, we want to be the leading payment company across Africa. When we say payment across Africa, we want people in Nigeria to be able to run businesses conveniently in South Africa without their business being interrupted, and  we want companies from around the world to easily pay people in Africa. Say an NGO wants pay its staffs in Nigeria, Zambia, Kenya, Zimbabwe at once, we should be able to facilitate that seamlessly. Success for us at Kora will be the day we create the United States of Africa, with capability to connect Africa instantly through our system and infrastructure.

AfricaTechReport: Considering the stand of the current administration with regards to ease of business, what role can digital currency play and your network in particular?

Nsofor: It is faster for you to drive car to Ghana than to wire cash; with our system and with what we are developing we will be able to settle payments in real time, it reduces the time, especially cross border settlements/payments. It is a huge bit looking at what the presidency is doing with China in terms of currency swap, for such system there is a huge need for instant payment. Our system will be able to aid cross border settlement at almost instant rate when we go live from next month.

AfricaTechReport: Advice for new tech innovators?

Nsofor: We need a lot of players to solve problem, there is over 60% of people who don’t have bank accounts. Innovators should come in and take up these challenges.

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