On the 24th of October 2019, I moderated a panel on “Brexit & Continued Financing of Disruptive Technology in Africa” inside The House of Commons as part of The British Award for African Development Conference.  There was a strong focus on unraveling the regulatory and trade environments in and around the region as well as, looking at how investors and political leaders can encourage decision making at the highest level for long term  growth in order to deliver sustainable solutions for Africa. I had some of the leading thinkers in the space seated beside me from across the diplomatic, governmental, legal, and technology space such as Nirmala Rewa the Counselor for Economic Matters (Mauritius High Commission), Modupe Odele a leading technology-impact lawyer operating across across various jurisdictions, The Ambassador to the Democratic Republic of Congo, The Right Honourable Lord St John of Bletso (House of Lords), Jeremy Lefroy MP, Member of Parliament & The Prime Minister’s Trade Envoy to Ethiopia, Greg Reeve the CEO Transsnet Payments & Previous Global Head of M-PESA.

Some of the leading thinkers in the African diaspora also attended such as Justina Mutale who has been acclaimed as one of the most influential and inspirational women of African origin. In 2012, she was awarded the prestigious title of ‘African Woman of the Year’ and is featured among the 365 of Africa’s  most respected names, well-known faces, and influential voices who inspire the future, motivate the young generation, and raise the profile to positively alter the perceptions of Africa and Africans around the world. Justina is the Founder & CEO of Positive Runway: Global Catwalk to Stop the Spread, a worldwide HIV/AIDS response campaign which spans 6 continents spread across the globe. A recipient of numerous international awards, Justina is featured in the BLACK 100+ Hall of Fame, an Exhibition and Legacy of the top 100 Black Achievers in modern Britain and listed on the Black Women in Europe Power List. Justina sits on the Advisory Board of the World Leaders Forum and is the President, Patron, Ambassador, Trustee, Board Member, Advisor and Mentor to various humanitarian, community and charitable organisations in the UK and globally. She is the Diaspora Ambassador and Spokesperson for the Enough Food for Everyone Campaign which is supported and endorsed by world personalities and celebrities including Bill Gates, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, David Beckham and many others.  She also serves alongside the Deputy Prime Minister of Zimbabwe on the Advisory Board of African Achievers.

Her Excellency Marie Njeka, Ambassador of the Democratic Republic of Congo

Her Excellency Marie Njeka had insightful comments on technology and Africa. She has a long-standing diplomatic career under her belt and held many posts across the globe, the latest of which was First Counselor at the Embassy in the UK (2009-14). Given that the post of Ambassador in London had been vacant for almost three years, Ms Ndjeka is aware that she has her work cut out for her. She explains her key priorities as improving bilateral relations between the UK and DRC and focusing on innovative technologies.

The Right Honourable Lord St John of Bletso| House of Lords

Anthony Tudor St John, 22nd Baron St John of Bletso (born 16 May 1957) is a British peer, politician, businessman and solicitor. He is one of the ninety hereditary peers elected to remain in the House of Lords after the House of Lords Act 1999. He speaks on African affairs (and is a notable expert on South Africa and Sierra Leone), deregulation, financial services and information technology. Rather than aligning with a particular political party, he remains a crossbencher. Between 1985 and 2002, he worked as an oil analyst at County NatWest Securities and then Smith New Court Plc and thereafter served as a consultant to Merrill Lynch until 2008. He built up the Internet Datacentre business of Globix Corporation in the UK and then became President of Global Sales and Marketing for the International Group. Between 2004 and 2012, he was Non-Executive Chairman of Spiritel Plc, a telecommunications service provider and served as a Non-Executive Director at Regal Petroleum, Sharp Interpak, WMRC and Pecaso. He has also been on the Advisory Board of Infinity SDC, Chayton Capital and Ariya Capital with the focus on agriculture and business opportunities in Africa. He is a Non-Executive Director of Albion Ventures LLP and Chairman of the Governing Board of Certification International. His company, African Business Solutions, assists International companies seeking to invest in Africa specifically in infrastructure, broadband, financial services and renewable energy. Lord St John is also an extra Lord-in-Waiting to HM The Queen. He is currently a Member of the House of Lords Select Committee on Communications as well as the Lords Information Committee. He is Vice Chairman of the All Party Parliamentary South Africa Group, an Executive Committee Member of the All Party Africa Group and a Council Member of the Parliamentary Information Technology Committee. He served as Chairman of the charity, Citizens Online from 2001 to 2008.

Jeremy Lefroy MP, Member of Parliament & The Prime Minister’s Trade Envoy to Ethiopia

Jeremy’s involvement in politics stems from a desire to see people have the opportunity to make the most of their lives. He has served as a councillor and as cabinet member for resources in Newcastle-under-Lyme, before fighting the 2005 General Election in the seat. In 2007, he was selected for Stafford constituency and has been the Member of Parliament since May 6th 2010. Jeremy currently serves on the cross-party ‘Exiting the European Union Committee’ chaired by Hilary Benn MP. The committee examines the expenditure, administration and policy of the new Department for Exiting the European Union and provides cross-party oversight of the negotiation process. He also serves on the Joint Committee on Human Rights which examines matters relating to human rights within the United Kingdom. Jeremy is also a member of the Environmental Audit Committee. Jeremy has previously served on the International Development Select Committee, where he sat as one of 11 members. Jeremy chairs a number of All Party Parliamentary Groups (APPG) including on Malaria and Neglected Tropical Diseases and Tanzania. He has been a trustee of the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine since November 2015. Internationally, Jeremy has previously been Chair of the Parliamentary Network on the World Bank and International Monetary Fund. In September 2017, Jeremy was appointed the Prime Minister’s Trade Envoy to Ethiopia. Trade envoys engage with emerging markets where substantial trade and investment opportunities have been identified by UK government.

Greg Reeve | CEO Transsnet Payments & Previous Global Head of M-PESA

Greg is the CEO of a new payments company aiming to redefine the future of finance in Africa. With support from the world’s 4th largest smartphone manufacturer, Transsnet Payments is working to provide 200m Africans with world class financial services by 2021. The company recently launched under the brand name PalmPay in Ghana and Nigeria with 3 further markets coming this year. In his career, Greg has been responsible for large at-scale public and private sector systems covering Financial Services, Machine to Machine, Telecommunications, Travel and Criminal Justice. He holds a number of published patents in the fields of Smartphone App Security, Machine to Machine and Mobile Money. He has worked globally for most of his career with specific experience in Africa, Latin America, North America and Europe.  He was the previous Global Head of M-Pesa and brought the platform into thirty different countries. M-Pesa (M for mobile, pesa is Swahili for money) is a mobile phone-based money transfer, financing and microfinancing service, launched in 2007 by Vodafone for Safaricom and Vodacom, the largest mobile network operators in Kenya and TanzaniaIt has since expanded to AfghanistanSouth AfricaIndia and in 2014 to Romania and in 2015 to Albania.  M-Pesa allows users to deposit, withdraw, transfer money and pay for goods and services (Lipa na M-Pesa) easily with a mobile device. The service allows users to deposit money into an account stored on their cell phones, to send balances using PIN-secured SMS text messages to other users, including sellers of goods and services, and to redeem deposits for regular money. Users are charged a small fee for sending and withdrawing money using the service. M-Pesa is a branchless banking service; M-Pesa customers can deposit and withdraw money from a network of agents that includes airtime resellers and retail outlets acting as banking agents. M-Pesa has spread quickly, and by 2010 had become the most successful mobile-phone-based financial service in the developing world. By 2012, a stock of about 17 million M-Pesa accounts had been registered in Kenya. By June 2016, a total of 7 million M-Pesa accounts have been opened in Tanzania by Vodacom. The service has been lauded for giving millions of people access to the formal financial system and for reducing crime in otherwise largely cash-based societies.