Durban is one of the leading cities of South Africa and was a host of the Soccer World Cup in 2010. The Ethekwini Municipality has recognised the importance of bringing together business, government and the community to help drive the city’s aspirations forward. One of these goals is that Durban becomes South Africa’s next Silicon Valley and a recent Innovation Festival showcased latest developments in urban renewal, citizen mobility and smart city technology. Modern cities around the world have harnessed innovation to change the way they operate, how their citizens move around and how the create a sustainable future for the next generation. Technology has played an important role in this through the so-called Internet of Things which has democratised the collection and distribution of information; more and more smart city use cases for IoT are helping with safety, efficiencies and mobility in densely populated, urban areas.
Omega Shange from Durban Global Shapers highlighted the role of connectivity in smart cities such as Durban; big players and regulators are continually innovating through partnerships such as #Internet4All to address burning questions such as data costs. Low cost, high speed data is essential for economic growth – techpreneurs often birth their startups in the cloud and frictionless access to services for their customers is essential. General manager for Uber, Jonathan Ayache spoke about the growth of the ride hailing app as well as a range of new offerings such as Eats and Car Pooling that are helping to drive his company’s growth on the sub-continent. When asked about Uber’s plans for Durban, he indicated that take-up and future growth possibilities would determine investment decisions for Uber in specific regions.
The festival also featured a vibrant expo including 3D printing, MakerSpace demos and software programming offerings for children. Keynote speaker Dr Craig McLeod was a highlight on the first day and spoke about the important role of venture capital in unlocking funding opportunities for early stage entrepreneurs. Breakaway sessions covered innovations in areas such as fashion, the arts, transport and town planning; these brought key stakeholders together in important and engaging debates about the future of Durban. FNB is a proud supporter of Durban’s innovative aspirations and as a sponsor of the event we were on hand to provide a banking perspective. In an age of disruptive technology, attendees were keen to understand how FNB’s long standing innovative culture continues to drive its growth and digital banking strategy.
Banking customers, especially ‘digital natives’ and tech savvy businesses expect a frictionless, ‘omni-channel’ experience of our services. In June 2017 there were 1.8 million users of the data-free FNB banking app and financial transactions on the platform had increased 68%. As South Africa’s Best Business Bank 5 years running we are passionate about helping entrepreneurs at all stages of their business lifecycle and provide free value-added services such as accounting software and automated CIPC name registration. FNB also offers cellphone contracts, low cost smartphones and in 2016 launched a life insurance business which now has 3.2m active policies. These customer-centric, market disrupting innovations provided insight for delegates who are keen to understand and apply similar principles, especially to benefit Durban as a globally aspiring smart city.
The challenge now is to translate the thought leadership and networking from the festival into tangible action plans that take the city forward. The weekend following the innovation festival, FNB Business launched its inaugural 10km City Surf Run, starting at Moses Mabhida Stadium and showcasing the very best of this proudly South African destination. Durban is a thriving metropolitan city with many successful achievements and FNB looks forward to an ongoing partnership to achieve even further benefits from the city’s innovation programme.