A woman of substance with a patriotic vision

Mrs Aituaz Kola-Oladejo, Executive Director, Financial Services Innovators, FSI

She is a woman of substance who has continued to distinguish herself through her participation in diverse assignments across a broad spectrum of finance, business strategy, and management. Aituaz Kola-Oladejo, Executive Director, FSI is not just living her life with purpose, her achievements have inspired many women to pursue their dreams. In a testament to her competence, FSI has continued to create value beyond expectations since 2019.
In this special focus, the dynamic graduate of Oxford Brookes University, among other issues, took us through FSI’s journey and assessed women’s participation in fintech.

Success Recorded Over the Years
We started from scratch. However, the framework was to work with the Nigerian Inter-Bank Settlement Systems Plc, the Central Bank of Nigeria, and key stakeholders from the financial services ecosystem to chart a course for financial innovation in Nigeria and empower the Fintech startups in the ecosystem. One of the prayers from the startup ecosystem was to put together an industry innovations sandbox, a testing ground for people to ideate, create and test their products. Today, we have over 16 partners and 320 application programming interfaces (APIs) in the sandbox. We have built a community around the sandbox to democratise innovation. Our community today is over 7,200 members and is growing steadily with members from other parts of the globe. Social impact is at our core, and this has been demonstrated in organizing free capacity-building programmes. To date, over 2,000 innovators have participated in these programmes from the 6 geopolitical zones in Nigeria. We are currently supported by international donors. We learned in the last 3 years that one cannot set up a successful business if not mentored by the right set of people.

Accordingly, we created a pool of mentors from the financial services industry and most of them are successful entrepreneurs. We put together a 3-month business incubation programme for startups. Our role is service to humanity and national development as we strive to drive economic and social inclusion which will ultimately culminate in digital and financial inclusion. That’s why we need to empower young people so they can change the narrative in our country. One way to empower people is not by giving them handouts but by helping them to develop relevant skills for the present and future. Our student community is over 2,900 in 120 public and private tertiary institutions in Nigeria. What I have discovered since we launched our talent hunt programme in 2021 is that Nigeria has great innovative minds in its tertiary institutions. Nigeria has a great pool of talents that can impact the world positively if properly harnessed by creating an enabling environment, providing adequate tools and resources, and offering tailored training programmes. We have partnered with some international organisations to offer a free 6-months software development programme and a 6-week free software testing programme. We run weekly startup clinics to provide advisory services to startups on their challenging journeys and also introduce them to people within our ecosystem that they can collaborate with.

Women In the Fintech Industry And Marginalization
Things are changing gradually and intentionally to bridge the gender gap and challenge male dominance within the tech space in Nigeria. Presently, several corporate institutions across several sectors, including banking, oil and gas, manufacturing, etc. have started appointing women as executives and in top leadership positions. I also think that women still have some challenges to contend with as we strive to break gender bias. From studies that we have seen, one of the reasons why we don’t have a lot of women in technology is that there is a limited number of female mentors. Hence, we must intentionally create a pool of female mentors. There are lots of women in Nigeria today who have done a lot in technology and will deliberately hand over the baton to the next generation.

Impact of social media On The Girl Child
If it affects the girl child negatively, it will surely affect the boy child negatively. There is a lot of junk on social media and whatever affects the girl child will also affect the boy child. Some children are drawn to pornography and other vices early due to what they are exposed to on social media. The energy and curiosity of the girl child need to be channelled into the right things. I think that proper guidance is required at the early stage in the lives of minors exposed to social media at home and school. The parent and guardians need to create a safe space for the girl child to express herself. The orientation and mindset of these children need to be managed properly as they grow up.

Message For Nigerian Women
They should be strong. Keep blazing the trail. Believe in yourself. Don’t be subjected to the challenges you see around you. But be purpose-driven and with time, you will surmount the challenges.

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