In the Spotlight: João Gaspar | Étudiante du mois : João Gaspar

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Author: Nwabisa Mazana

In the spotlight, this month is João Gaspar who is a Digital Finance Services Driver, Fintech Promoter and Entrepreneur. He is also an Executive Board Member at the Alliance of Digital Finance Associations, and a Community of Practice co-facilitator in Mozambique.

João is a highly skilled and focused engineer with more than 35 years of experience in the IT and Telecommunications Industry, Digital Financial Service Consultancy, Business Definition, Development, Implementation and Support.

 

Tell us about yourself and your career to date

I started my career responsible for the network of ATM, POS terminals and interbank service processor banks in Portugal for 16 years and created a private telecommunications operator for the financial sector that later became part of Portugal Telecom. With the move to Portugal Telecom, I developed a new business unit for the Outsourcing of telecommunications services for bank customers of the national operator Portugal Telecom. Later, I was responsible for the design and implementation of a network of digital financial services supported by proximity retail stores, reaching more than 2000 merchants/agents in the country.

In the last 6 years I have carried out several consulting projects for FSDmoç, Boston Consulting Group, WorldBank, and Finance for Impact, in the areas of interoperability, DFS regulations, business models and tariffs, mobile money payment platforms, and others. 4 years ago I’ve started a FinTech company that became now the first licensed Aggregator and Payment Service Provider in the country and just launched a Mobile Digital Account ecosystem, available to both merchants and consumers, that allows bundling all digital services in one app and make payments with QRcode.

In parallel with this business activity, I was the founder of the association of Fintechs of Mozambique of which I am the chairman and recently also a member of the board of the Alliance of Digital Financial Associations.

 

How did you come to work in digital financial services?

I can perhaps say that in this aspect I was privileged, since my second job, 35 years ago, was immediately in a financial company being recognized worldwide as one of the most innovative interbank switch companies. At SIBS I contributed to its development for over 16 years and I have followed technological advances in digital financial services from the beginning of bank card payments to mobile systems and distributed finance of the present. And it is with great commitment and enthusiasm that I continue to follow and learn about the evolution of technology and business models of the digital economy that constitutes the 4th industrial revolution.

 

Tell us more about your role as a Community of Practice facilitator

As a COP facilitator, I have supported the development of topics for discussion at meetings and launched group challenges to debate the subjects studied and their applicability in the reality of Mozambique. The receptivity of both COP students and the Alumni community has been very positive, and participation is also very interesting, namely in the webinars held between 2020 and 2021 during the Covid-19 pandemic. The webinars and conferences held by the association of FinTech’s also have a strong presence of DFI students, highlighting the last 4 webinars held in April-June of this year where 20% to 30% of the participants are from the Alumni community.

After 4 years of activity as a COP facilitator, I have felt a noticeable growth in the know-how about DFS and the application of this knowledge in their professional activities. This happens both in companies in the financial sector such as banks and FinTech’s, as well as in state bodies linked to the development of rural services for example.

On a personal level, the most rewarding has been the sharing of experiences with the Alumni DFI community and also the interaction with colleagues from digital finance associations and COP facilitators from other countries. This exchange of experience contributes to the strengthening of ideas and proposals for solutions that are presented at meetings, conferences, and webinars to influence changes in laws and policies in favour of the development of digital financial services and financial inclusion.

 

Tell us more about your association, the Mozambique Fintech Association 

Mozambique Fintech Association, or just Fintech.MZ, was an initiative of 12 Fintech entrepreneurs that decided to create such an organization during a startup show at the ITU conference held in Durban in 2018. That year, the first financial technology startups were starting to appear in Mozambique, and some were already developing and testing solutions in the Bank of Mozambique regulatory sandbox. The main motivation was the feeling that it was necessary to create a common voice for the sector so that we could have more impact in the dialogue with regulators, government bodies, and with international associations and funders.

FINTECH.MZ aims to contribute to the Increase of financial inclusion by developing the digital financial ecosystem between FinTech’s and InsureTech’s companies and their interaction with regulators, banks, insurance companies, and government entities, as well as promoting technological and investment relations with international partners.

Although Fintech.MZ was only launched in February 2020, just before the start of the pandemic, we already have some achievements that we consider important, such as: Participation in the launch of the second and third Editions of the BoM regulatory SandBox; Comments and suggestions on draft laws for the financial sector: Tiered KYC, New PSP types and Supervisory Framework, SIM Card Regulation, Position article on electronic payment taxes. In July 2021 we were invited by the bank of Mozambique to join the sub-working groups of the National Financial Inclusion Committee in the areas of Expansion of Financial Access Points; Digital Financial Services; and Payment Interoperability. We also have cooperation agreements with other similar associations and commercial organizations that translate into benefits for our members, such as discounts on access to DFI courses.

 

Are there specific challenges you are tackling today that you would like to highlight to our community?

The great current challenge in the geographical space where I find myself is the economic and social growth of populations based on their financial inclusion through digital technology. Changing habits from using physical money to financial transactions on digital platforms is, for me, the great battle we have to win to build the basis of this digital financial inclusion.

 

How did you come to know DFI, and what have you enjoyed most about your interactions with us?

I made my first contact with DFI through my friend and colleague Profa Esselina Macome who challenged me in 2018 to participate in the first’s cohorts COP sessions as a speaker and then as a co-facilitator. That was also the time when I started my journey through the DFI courses and the CDFP programme. From the first moment, I realized that training in these digital finance matters was essential to raise knowledge within the staff of the various stakeholders in the national financial inclusion process. The gap between what is learned in academia and the skills needed to implement the digital transformation we aim to achieve is huge. Undoubtedly, the courses available in e-learning format and all the involvement generated around them through the activities of the COPs, Alumni Meetings, workshops, and webinars, have contributed to increasing this much-needed and urgent knowledge in DFS.

 

How has your journey with DFI impacted your career

CDFP training, in particular the LDMM, Mobile Money Operations, Cybersecurity, and Marketing in Emergent markets courses, had an important impact on my activity as a consultant and entrepreneur in the Fintech area. Although I already had many years of experience and observation in these matters, the courses undoubtedly helped to consolidate basic concepts, to structure ideas, and to prepare for the launch of the first Fintech licensed in Mozambique that recently started operations in the market. The CDFP training course and the exchange of experience with colleagues from the DFI community have also contributed to the development of some influence actions with regulators and policymakers, such as the position papers on Cloud systems, Open banking, telecommunication costs for financial services, and also the manual of procedures and business models for Bank-to-wallet interoperability and tariff analysis for DFS.

 

What is it that motivates you to continue with the work you are doing?

Undoubtedly, the feeling that there is still much to be done in this space of digital finance and its use to increase the quality of life of populations in these developing economies. It is gratifying and at the same time challenging to realize that we are in a process of growth in the adoption of digital tools and their use to conduct financial transactions. It is necessary to create new services, and models for providing them, as well as innovative business models to reduce the usage costs that lead to greater adoption by users. It is these constant challenges that motivate me at a business level and as an associative person in a sector that has an impact on the digital economy such as FinTech’s.

 

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