The future of money - are we there yet?

Kudzai M Mubaiwa

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Money and the internet are converging, and who better to lead us to the future than Africa? In my talk I share experiences from living and working in 3 African cities - Harare, Capetown, Nairobi and relate how ordinary people use mobile money apps/crypto to make life easier already, and what others could learn from them and the coming disruption.

So I was in a Finance cluster discussion during Global Entrepreneurship Community 5 years ago in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. We sat in a nice circle, introduced ourselves and our respective super powers (mine is making anyone laugh, insert lol here). Mentioning that I came from Zimbabwe attracted the usual attention (“How is Mugabe?”) — and I gave my usual response (“Fine I guess, haven’t seen him in a long while”). This paled though, in comparison to what I shared next: “ We don’t have a national currency.” Shocked looks, gasping. “But we do use multiple currencies, and we have recently had a new note, the bond note — not to be confused with 007 — introduced. (Chuckling) Plus, mobile money is a huge deal in my country.”

Then it was my turn to be awed, as the concepts of the New Bank and The Exchange were shared. First, because the concepts alluded to ‘cash rapidly becoming an outdated and clunky form of currency’ — very relevant given where I was coming from, albeit circumstantial not from deliberate actions. Next, because several alternatives were thrown in the ring — from Fintech to waste as a currency. Who would have thunk?

My countrymen have often disrupted normal cycles — telephone landlines were once in high demand, but are only easily accessible now when mobile penetration rates are incredibly high. Debit or credit cards had hardly taken off before one’s phone became one’s wallet, such that the majority do not have them. Could that be the case then, with alternatives like Bitcoin in the future? Or are we already living in the future? These were the considerations that crossed my mind after three days of discussion and networking with fellow entrepreneurs and entrepreneur support workers. Without a doubt, the future of money will be nothing like we know it today.

Kudzai M Mubaiwa's participation at re:publica 23 is kindly made possible by the Robert Bosch Foundation.