Thomson Reuters Looks to Nairobi, Lagos for Tech hotsports

In Startup, Tech
Saidah Nash Carter

News giant Thomson Reuters is considering partnerships and support for tech startups in Nairobi and Lagos through the labs initiative.

Having launched its innovation lab in Cape Town late 2016 and even running an African startup challenge last year – hopes to co-create new technologies and business models together with startups, customers, and local universities.

Senior vice president for innovation in Africa at Thomson Reuters Saidah Nash Carter, said the goal was to jumpstart as many new products and services that meet the unique needs of the company’s African customer base as possible.

“We use all of the proven methodologies like Lean Startup and Design Thinking to put the customer at the centre of our approach and to quickly iterate on ideas,” Carter told Disrupt Africa.

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Thomson Reuters Labs focuses on programmes in transformational technology, specifically innovation clusters within the fintech, regtech and legaltech markets. The company is actively seeking partnership opportunities with startups in areas such as artificial intelligence and machine learning, cognitive computing, cryptocurrency, distributed ledgers, big data, social sentiment, advanced analytics, machine readable news, and automated data collection and analysis.

Smallholder farmers

One key example Carter gave is a project called Bankable Farmer, which creates credit risk profiles for smallholder farmers through partnerships with farming cooperatives, banks, non-governmental organisations and mobile startups.

“Our goal is to try and inject more information into the lending process – giving banks the information they need through non-traditional means to be able to have confidence to make loans to farmers that are creditworthy but don’t have a traditional credit profile,” she said.

The overall goal is to innovate at the intersection of where Thomson Reuters has domain expertise, and where Africa has a need, in areas such as land administration, risk mitigation, agribusiness and supply chain, and financial inclusion.

Cape Town may be the base, but Carter is clear Thomson Reuters is looking beyond just one city.

“Cape Town has an extremely vibrant startup and VC ecosystem. In addition, a number of our largest and most strategic customers have decided to open innovation labs and incubators in Cape Town. In part, we followed our customers. Also, our headquarters for our Africa business is in Johannesburg, a short two hour flight away,” she said.

“We have a pan-African, Sub-Saharan Africa focus, with a distinct focus on the primary markets of Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya, Rwanda and South Africa.”

Carter sees both massive opportunities and significant challenges on the continent, with the main opportunities lying in mobile tech and the ability to build business and government infrastructure from the ground up using new technologies like blockchain and AI.

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