Up&Ap: Sammy Ndolo on Kenya’s Fintech industry and opportunities it presents to the Legal fraternity

Nairobi-based boutique corporate law firm, Kieti Advocates LLP, recently established a partnership with Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr (CDH), leading to the creation of the new firm known as Kieti Law LLP with effect from 1 April 2021. Through the tie-up, and under the CDH banner, both firms aim to not only expand their service offerings in the region but also benefit from the alchemy of Kieti’s embedded regional expertise and knowledge with CDH’s range of services and resource capability.

According to the partners, the deal was forged to enable the two firms become more responsive to their clients’ requirements for wider geographic support, with East Africa being a defined strategic area for growth. Basically, the coming together of the two entities is aimed to enable them offer their clients seamless, efficient and quality services.

The partnership also comes at a time when Kenya is recording a rise as a FinTech hotbed with more affordable and accessible tech platforms being developed to revolutionise the financial sector by deepening financial and digital inclusivity in the country. These developments also present huge opportunities and risks that come with blockchain, mobile apps and other important technologies.

To explain and expound on what opportunities Kieti Advocates LLP sees in the country’s FinTech scene, here’s is a Q&A interview with Sammy Ndolo, the Managing Partner, Kieti Law LLP (pictured top). Read on…

QUESTION: You have recently forged a merger that will enhance your service provision in East Africa. Explain to us how your operations and approach to businesses will change?

SAMMY NDOLO: Eastern Africa is a strategic area for growth with Nairobi being a key business hub and this partnership enables both firms to be more responsive to their clients’ requirements for wider geographic support. The coming together will allow us both to offer a seamless, efficient and quality service of the kind that our clients have come to know us for within a larger geographical areas in which our clients’ have established or intend to establish operations. The opportunities that this partnership represents will strengthen the capabilities of both firms to service the market practically and affordably both within Africa and abroad.

Q: Fintech appears to be a key market area that you seek to pursue with the new entity. How is demand for Fintech Regulations growing in Kenya and East Africa Market?

SN: The spike in debt levels and consumer rights violation including harassment in Kenya has been made worse by the economic difficulties that manifest with the COVID-19 pandemic as customers struggle to pay and lenders pressed to collect overdue loans. Kenya has a robust regulatory framework for consumer protection, but there is need for effective implementation and focus on attempts to deal with violation of consumer rights. The recent proposal to license digital lenders is likely to increase bureaucracy with an overworked Central Bank and stifle innovation in that space.

Q: Which regulatory challenges and opportunities will you be seeking to offer legal aid to in the market?

SN: The nexus in a regulatory framework that creates and supports the growth of fintech is one that allows them to be innovative whilst protecting the interests of consumers. The law should be aimed at protecting consumers rather than correcting the consumer’s poor decisions.

Q: In supporting growth of fintech without stifling innovation to ensure Kenya maintains leadership in this area, what should come first, innovation or regulations?

SN: Kenya in dealing with innovative products such as M-PESA has largely taken the step of allowing innovations to advance and mature before developing laws that regulate such products. This approach seems to have worked well in a rapidly evolving technology landscape where the regulation barely keeps up with these developments.

Q: There have been numerous complaints that Digital lending platforms are requesting too much of personal data and are also sharing it with third parties. What’s your opinion?

SN: Claims of intrusion of customer data privacy rights has been concerning. In many instances, a digital lender will have obtained a customer’s consent to use the customer data by the digital lender. However, with the Data Protection Act now being implemented, a digital lender must make sure that the form of the customer’s consent and the reason for collection and proposed processing of that customer’s data complies with the detailed requirements of the Act. This includes, among other things, that the consent must be express, unequivocal, free, specific and informed and the lender must state the specific purposes for collection of the customer’s data, how it will be processed and confirmation that it will not be used for any commercial use other than the stated purposes.

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