53 % of Tunisian fintechs consider the national regulatory framework as “discouraging,” according to the 1st edition of the Tunisian fintech barometer published on Thursday by TunisianStartups.
The two regulations that pose the most obstacles for these financial technology startups are the foreign exchange code and the law on payment institutions, according to the barometer, which was conducted in partnership with Matine Consulting with the support of the German Agency for International Cooperation (GIZ), to assess the state of the fintech ecosystem in Tunisia.
According to the study, the administration and regulators seem to be “insufficiently” informed about the specific challenges and needs of fintechs. In addition, “the absence of the Sandbox for the past two years” has widened “the gap between the regulator and startups.”
The BCT describes the Sandbox as a “test environment for monitoring the experimentation of innovative solutions proposed by fintechs on a small scale and with willing customers.”
Its absence deprives fintechs of a regulated environment in which to test their products and services, and simplifies authorisation and compliance procedures, explains the barometer.
As far as access to finance is concerned, fintechs affirmed that they are more receptive to investment funds and Business Angels (individuals investing in high-potential innovative companies) who have a better understanding of their risk profiles.
However, the internal rates of return required by funds are too high for fintechs.
In terms of access to markets, 74% of start-ups claim that the end-consumer appeal of their solutions is improving, reveals the barometer.
And 42% think that financial institutions are becoming more cooperative, while 53% see no change.
// The contribution of incubators is not very effective //
When asked about support structures, fintechs considered that the contribution of incubators and accelerators is “not very effective” in terms of their specific needs.
In terms of human capital, 63% of startups considered that they are able to attract the talent they need, but 37% said that this talent is not widely available in Tunisia.
The jobs most in demand are in cyber security, artificial intelligence and Big Data.
To develop the sector, fintechs called for the need to adapt the regulatory framework, which would encourage more collaboration between startups, financial institutions and the regulator, and to set up standardised and secure “interoperability and Open Banking standards” (APIs).
“The development of this regulatory framework could make a major contribution to facilitating these collaborations and fostering a more dynamic and inclusive financial ecosystem.”
Faced with the difficulties of accessing public contracts, they stressed the importance of changing the paradigm of procedures, notably by simplifying them and activating concrete “innovative public purchasing” mechanisms.
Since the Startup Act came into force in 2018, the pace of fintech start-ups has been slow to change. At the end of 2022, the barometer shows that there were fewer than 100 fintechs in France.
These fintechs operate mainly on a B2B model, mostly in cutting-edge sectors such as payments, financing/investment and business services.
This trend has continued in other sectors, notably insurance (Insurtech), Regtech and AI and Data Science.