Money grows on trees. Forty miles south of Lyon in France, Valrhona specializes in luxury chocolates made from cocoa grown on trees in Montserrat, Trinidad. A Valrhona bar of twelve pieces that weighs 2.6 oz. each is sold for $152.53. Oxbury is a new specialist bank for farming and food – and the UK’s latest SME-focussed FinTech. Oxbury recognizes that digitalization is an opportunity to completely transform the fabric and foundations of Farm Finance. Oxbury Farm Credit is an innovative new banking product that offers farmers a revolving credit account that empowers farmers to spread the cost of raw material purchases to suit their cash flow cycles. Farming is a sector with lumpy cashflows which can’t be catered for with overdrafts. Lloyds is the largest lender, but farm lending is about 1.5 per cent of their balance sheet. Oxbury unravels the problem of farmers having to finance agriculture inputs months ahead of receiving payments from the sale of goods.
The “OxP” banking platform offers a unique digital account that deploys an intuitive visual dashboard. Farmers can now view all their distributor invoices and manage payments, deposits and repayments from one place. The account automates and digitizes significant parts of operations associated with farm cashflow. Oxbury Farm Credit also integrates with accountancy software and other vital services allowing seamless downloading of invoices to customers’ ledgers. Many banks are already embracing distributed ledger technology (DLT), or blockchain and reinventing the back office with AI and machine-learning. New thinking about money has surfaced from fringe activity in the cryptocurrency world.
Of prominent interest is how Africa is driving change using mobile phones and DLT to move massive volumes of small transactions without applying onerous charges. With an assortment of different countries, ethnographies and economies – all at various stages of economic development, Africa presently stands as one of the most diverse continents on the planet. Almost 57% of the population of Africa, around 95 million people, do not have a conventional bank account. This unfreedom limits their economic options. As with many FinTech scenarios, mobile phone penetration is part of the problem frame.
Smartphone sales in Africa represents 6.6% of the global market. According to the most recent report from GSMA, there are 747 million SIM connections in sub-Saharan Africa. This represents 75% of the population. TymeBank is a completely branchless banking platform hosted in the cloud. Its hybrid model of digital banking and physical service-points has re-imagined digital banking to make smart banking accessible to everyone across the economic spectrum in Johannesburg. Its digital strategy to on-board 100,000 to 120,000 customers per month recently allowed TymeBank to reach its three million customers milestone.
TymeBank offers an “EveryDay Account” with a visa debit card and no monthly fees. To bring an AI-powered experience to underserved population segments and small and micro businesses, TymeBank partnered with Finn AI to build Max. Max is an AI-powered assistant that nurtures and fosters the development of digital and financial literacy. Neobanks and Challenger Banks are flourishing across Africa as the SARS-CoV-2 portal propels the continent towards digitalized and contactless onboarding and payment solutions. The diversity in African banking is now surpassed only by the intertextualities and abundance of African cultures. And this diversity sets a peerless backcloth for Africa’s emerging FinTech ecosystem.
Banks traditionally segment and price clients on their socio-economic status. But the nature of risk in banking is as much behavioural as it is socio-economic. Africa’s Discovery is the world’s first behavioural bank. Discovery places purpose and partnership in the lives of its clients, as its overarching concern. This practice gives priority to a “hermeneutic circle” that describes a virtuous rather than vicious circular pattern of learning in relation to lifestyle choices. Discovery builds its portfolio of products around national human development priorities and global imperatives for 2030, including the UN’s call to action to ensure well-being and healthy lives through the third Sustainable Development Goal.
This behavioural economics model rewards lifestyle choice. Changed choices allow the bank to treat risk as dynamic using its AI-powered automation tool. The outcomes are greater financial wellbeing, the risk of defaults decline, and the bank is of benefit to society. Bank Zero is a mobile-driven 20% women-owned digital bank. The “Zero” signifies a policy of zero charges for basic banking functions. Bettr Finance offers an App powered by a debit card. Nigeria’s Kuda is a mobile-first challenger bank that has over one million downloads on Play Store. Their flagship product is a digital-only savings account. ATM withdrawals are free and the bank has a Microfinance Banking License.
The recent FinTech and Digital Banking 2025 report by Backbase and IDC found that incumbent banks are disinclined to take advantage of potential ecosystem partners. 80% of the top 250 banks in Asia-Pacific Countries (APAC) still prefer to own the entire value chain, with third party contributed business remaining at a mere 2%. Consequently, Neobanks and Challenger Banks like “Marcus by Goldman Sachs”, “N26” and smart financial technology companies like Africa’s “Chime,” which is not a bank, will deepen and widen the digital disruption of banking. And this will put about 38% of traditional banks’ revenues at risk by 2025.