The link between money, tech and AI
If you want people to think you’re a tech guru, just throw around words like ‘AI’, ‘Machine learning’ and ‘block chain’. Anyone who does this must have a PhD in data science and futurism right? The truth is, the potency behind tech isn’t in its complexity; it’s the opposite. Tech is powerful because it makes hard things easy. The most crazy-successful tech products thrive because even my nephew is a master at using them - he’s just turned four.
My passion is finance – so naturally fin-tech companies intrigue me. I enjoy seeing how new innovations are quickly changing the way we use money. Snap Scan, Paga and Yoco are all great examples of this. As a result, many upcoming start-ups are laser focused on solving how we spend (or save) money. But no one’s tackled what’s arguably more important - how we think about money.
I call this concept the Culture of Money.
The culture of money – an African perspective
My grandparents were born and raised in an age where saving for retirement was unheard of. Well, maybe not unheard of, but definitely not provided for using the methods that we use today (Pension funds and the like).
For them, wealth generation meant having more land and life stock. Economically speaking, children were what we would now call retirement plans; since once you grew old, they would take care of you. Having more kids had the same effect of what increasing your retirement contribution does these days: it might hurt now, but will pay off later! Also, the general community shared in basic amenities, so that no one was left bereft.
This system had its flaws, but it worked for the main part because there was a natural generational transfer of wealth built into it. They grew up honing a family skill, or tending to their parents’ field and life stock. When the time came, they inherited these assets along with the years of experience needed to grow what they had. The true strength behind this – and any - thriving society is that its financial system was understood by, and related to everyone.
Time passed and a lot happened...
They then suddenly got tossed into the world of Pension funds and Retirement Annuities; one where you took care of yourself, through insurance policies and asset managers.
They had children - our generation.
These days we are taught that formal education is the silver bullet to sustain a living, but the wealth creation/transfer question isn’t as clear anymore. Before, you could pass your cattle on to your kids, but you can’t do that with your diploma. The dynamic hasn’t just changed, it’s flipped backwards!
What was good to do then, might not be advisable now. For example, having many children was a sign of wealth. These days you have to put them all through school, to get a degree, for a job that’s not guaranteed.
Money is different now. We have things like mortgages, credit cards, and forex trading. It’s not even physical anymore. In fact, money is this enigmatic thing that only comes to you when you wear a suit and a tie. It’s not something you chat casually about. You can’t really talk about what you don’t understand, and it’s not fun to bring up stressful things over dinner.
Meanwhile, the financial machine steamrolls on; becoming ever more complex, and leaving many of us behind. So, yes we need solutions that help with using money but -more fundamentally- we need solutions that make money relatable again.
This is why as a young African with a passion for finance; I started a company with one of my closest friends. We wanted our parents and children to live in a world where they wouldn’t get left behind because they don’t hold an economics degree.
Let’s face it, as important as school is, it doesn’t teach you about how to budget, to invest cleverly or manage your money. So we thought, why can’t we build a global community where it’s both fun and beneficial to talk about money? If Steve can place an iPad into a 4 year old’s hand, why can’t we do the same with financial knowledge?
I co-founded Zonotho not just with the aim passing on vital financial information; our goal is to be a driving force behind the cultural shift of money. My hope is that more investors, VCs and entrepreneurs will take up the challenge of making finance simple.
*Benjamin Semugga is the co-founder of Zonotho.
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