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Leveraging Web 3.0 technology to grow businesses

Unathi Mtya, the chief Information and Digital Executive at African Bank, speaking at the IT Hackathon and Summit 2023. Photo: Supplied

Unathi Mtya, the chief Information and Digital Executive at African Bank, speaking at the IT Hackathon and Summit 2023. Photo: Supplied

Published Oct 12, 2023


Over the past four years, I have kept a sharp eye on technological activities in the financial sector, with startup opportunities to enhance finance inclusion being key.

The banking sector has now seen a significant shift towards digital platforms, due largely to the Covid-19 pandemic, its lockdowns and restrictions. Customers increasingly demanded (and still demand) more personalised, efficient and secure financial services.

Over the past two years, African Bank started asking the critical question of how it can leverage web 3.0 to enable a seamless and secure experience for its clients. Last year, the bank hosted its inaugural IT summit and this year, on a much larger scale, it hosted an IT summit that started with a hackathon and huddles with various technology startups and university students.

The hackathon participants were required to develop solutions based on web 3.0 technology to address certain problem statements which takes into account African Bank’s brand, customers and its regulatory requirements (pertaining to compliance). The hackathon challenges were framed under the following categories: Digital Identity and Authentication; Asset Tokenization and Trading; Decentralized Finance (DeFi) and Web 3.0-Enabled Customer Experiences.

Web 3.0, also known as the Semantic Web or the Intelligent Web, refers to the next generation of the World Wide Web that aims to make information more meaningful and understandable to machines and humans alike. It seeks to enhance the way information is organised, shared and utilised on the internet. Web 3.0 also aims to provide more decentralised and distributed services. It promotes the use of blockchain technology, which allows for secure and transparent transactions without the need for intermediaries. This decentralised approach ensures greater control over personal data and reduces the reliance on centralised authorities.

Hosted by the chief information and digital executive of African Bank, Unathi Mtya, the hackathon was a platform to test the technical competencies of young developers by offering them opportunities to solve critical challenges, boost a culture of innovation, idea sharing, effective collaboration and creativeness driven by enthusiasm towards a shared vision, and to foster innovation and creativity by providing a platform for participants to explore the potential of web 3.0 technology.

Also speaking during the summit was the CEO of the bank, Kennedy Bhungane, who shared his passion to support young developers and to build a bank that will support more black businesses to thrive, while ensuring that they build the right culture, which will support its Excelerate 25 strategy. With African Bank’s acquisition of Grindrod and Ubank, it seems the sky is the limit, as they continue to build on their audacious goal of building a bank for the people, by the people and serving the people.

The executive of Business Banking, Zweli Manyathi, summed up the day by sharing the bank’s ambitions, which include building its online lending platform and ensuring that they attract more small businesses into its fold. He also stressed that the support they give to small businesses will continue unabated and will grow immensely in the coming months and years. This commitment is reflected in their platform they are currently working on which will provide various forms of non-financial assistance to small businesses to enable growth and value creation.

The startups, the African Bank IT team and the various university students presented their solutions for the various challenges, and I was amazed by what the various teams were able to build in just 72 hours. This shows the dedication, talent, passion and innovative thinking of the various young participants. After the summit, I was left proud to witness and absorb their brilliance.

In conclusion, web 3.0 is at the forefront of creating a more decentralised, inclusive and user-centric internet. The possibilities are vast, and the innovations have the potential to reshape various industries by promoting transparency, reducing reliance on intermediaries and empowering individuals.

Kizito Okechukwu is the Executive Head of 22 On Sloane, Africa’s largest startup campus and co-Chair of the Global Entrepreneurship Network (GEN) Africa.