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We close information gap with our projects: Thomson Reuters

Saidah Nash Carter, SVP, Head of Innovation, Thomson Reuters – Africa, reveals how a partner-driven approach is the way forward

What new solutions are being offered by
Thomson Reuters in the African continent?
Quite a number of things, actually. At the core what we are doing is co-creation and co-innovation. We are partnering very closely with our customers, that include start-ups, universities, etc., to think about the future of our business and the future of our customers’ businesses in new ways, and leveraging these assets to build solutions that do exactly that. Our initiative called Bankable Farmer connects our traditional banking customers to small holder farmers, leveraging data and risk assessment tools in order to enable lending between those two parties. Our customers are quite interested in offering loans to these farmers, but they don’t have any access or ability to do that because they don’t understand the credit profile of these individuals.

How did the concept of Bankable Farmer gestate?
One of the things that we do is we get into a room with our key customers and have what we call an ‘innovation workshop’. It is in that workshop where we uncover opportunity themes. This idea took birth there. These themes span around 3-5 years time horizon, focusing on opportunities or challenges that our customers see. The Bankable Farmer initiative came out of conversations we had with four banks over four days of workshops. They all affirmed that this was a massive opportunity for them, and that they were unable to tap into it. So, we walked away from those meetings thinking maybe we should try to figure out if there is a solution that Thomson Reuters can deliver.

How are you closing the information gap in sub-Saharan Africa?
There are lots of information gaps when you think about sub-Saharan Africa, along with challenges around transparency and information. So, our approach is partner-driven. We are trying to figure out how we can bring the right people to the table to identify and close those gaps, starting with a very pilot-focussed implementation. We have started small, using some of the lean methodologies we hear in corporate innovation talks these days. But, it is all about identifying the right partners, bringing those right partners to the table, clarifying what it is that we are trying to do together, so we are all on the same page. After that, we build a small pilot and pull in whatever pieces of information, expertise and technology are needed to make the pilot successful.

How is Thomson Reuters selling its solutions in sub-Saharan Africa?
We already have strong relationship with the banks that rely on our information, whether they are powering investment decisions or trading rooms. This has enabled us to have very trusted relationships on the commercial banking and financial services side. We already power a number of governments with our land administration suite of services. So, we have got that piece as well. But, there are other pieces of the puzzle that we need to pull together. So, we are always on a lookout for partners, for people who believe in what we are trying to do and who believe that there is role for us and them to play. Hopefully, we can build something together.

What kind of partnerships is Thomson Reuters eyeing?
On the top of our list are government partnerships, as well as collaborations with non-governmental organization. We are also quite interested in the support of donor organizations, development and finance institutions, land and agricultural ministries, and anyone who is sort of interested in figuring out or bringing their expertise to this space because there’s a lot of work which can be done. There are some technology innovators and data providers as well who we would like to partner with. We want to look at both the inputs and the customer. All these parties need to be at the table for sure.