Bukola Saraki’s New Love for the Nigerian Fintech Sector: Bold Move or Just Another Political Ruse?

Ejike Kanife
Former senate president Bukola Saraki held meetings with venture capital firms in New York looking to invest in Nigeria’s fintech sector. Is it a political ruse?
Bukola Saraki New Love for the Nigerian Fintech Sector- Bold Move or Just Another Political Ruse?

Immediate past president of the Nigerian Senate, Abubakar Bukola Saraki has thrown his weight behind the Nigerian Fintech sector with a recent drive to secure venture capital investments for the sub-sector.

The former senator announced this in a tweet where he alluded to have engaged in a series of meetings in New York with venture capitalists.

“In NYC for a series of meetings with Venture Capitalists who have shown great interest in the Fintech space in Nigeria. I’m hoping we could exchange ideas on how to move the needle further,” he said in a Twitter post.

The identities of the venture capitalists, however, are yet unknown. The pictures shared alongside the tweet showing one man conversing with Mr Saraki, but, otherwise, no names or further identification were provided.

It is also unclear the nature and outcome of those meetings and whether Mr Saraki attended any with a Nigerian Fintech specialist.

The former senate leader has been a very busy man, both at home and abroad, since leaving the office earlier this year.

Saraki Drums Support for Nigerian Fintech Sector; Bold Move or Political Ruse?
Saraki attended an NBA game in November

From overseas visits with former legislative counterparts especially in the US to business meetings and on one occasion, watching an NBA game featuring the Los Angeles Lakers.

Back home, there are the local visits to the courtrooms where he’s currently embroiled in a skirmish with the EFCC over alleged financial crimes committed during his stewardship as governor of Kwara state.

Saraki’s Tech Love Antecedent?

As president of the Senate though, Bukola Saraki has always expressed the legislature’s willingness to enact legislation that would benefit the Fintech sector.

“I would welcome proposals for legislation that would encourage the growth of Fintech and improve access to financial services for the majority of Nigerians,”

Saraki once said while receiving members of the Chartered Institute of Bankers in Nigeria (CIBN) at the House of Assembly.

Beyond lip service, however, Saraki’s upper chambers did manage to look into such legislation as proposed so as to ensure their speedy passage into law.

For example, both the Financial Consumer Protection Bill and the Electronic Transactions Bill were okayed by the Senate under him even though President Buhari resolutely refused to assent to the latter.

Saraki Drums Support for Nigerian Fintech Sector; Bold Move or Political Ruse?
Saraki poses with one of the venture capitalists

The Nigerian Fintech sector grew in spite of a harsh local environment

The Nigerian Fintech sector has witnessed rapid developments and taken huge strides in recent times. In November, Nigerian Fintech, Interswitch became the first African Fintech to attain Unicorn status after selling 20% of its shares to global finance giants, Visa, for a whopping $200m.

Much of these developments in Nigerian Fintech, however, is because of the huge market arising from the sheer massive number of unbanked, under-banked and generally under-served Nigerians (37% of the population).

Thus, investors have continued to throng in with new Fintech companies springing up almost every other day and as Saraki himself puts it, the Nigerian Fintech sector of the Nigerian tech industry has captured the attention of global audiences.

Interswitch Acquires E’clat to Improve Healthcare Delivery in Nigeria
Nigeria’s Interswitch is Africa’s first Fintech Unicorn

Being a serial politician, however, it cannot be overlooked that returning to the corridors of power is somewhere at the top of Bukola Saraki’s to-do list. Thus, the highly tactical politician- one of the most strategic of his generation, might be gathering election campaign material.

With this move, he seems to be killing two birds with one stone; a claim to attracting foreign investment even out of office, and a claim to be a lover of tech which everyone agrees is the future.

We can only hope that, if he finds his way back to the heights of political power as politicians are wont to, his zeal and fervour for the Fintech space in Nigeria won’t peter down.

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