Viola Llewellyn Headshot

Founder of Ovamba Solutions and female business speaker, Viola Llewellyn, sat down with Women in Tech to reflect on her career. She is a champion of diversity and inclusion in finance and uses her voice to promote the importance of culturally attuned technologies. Find out more in this insightful interview.

As the creator of an award-winning African trade tech company, how would you describe culturally attuned technologies?

“It’s a great question, and I like the way you asked it, because people will start out by saying, ‘why is it necessary?’ It’s important because if you’re in Europe, for example, you would not use a German risk model or credit model to go and measure somebody’s creditworthiness in Cyprus.

“For the African market, which is one of the hugest growing fronts in emerging markets, there isn’t that much of a delineation or specificity around how data is used from one group to the next. The question came about and the need to be culturally attuned, when we realised partnering with microfinance, for example, they didn’t have any risk models other than two percent per month, but based on what criteria?

“So, there was a huge opportunity to begin to look at the business profile of Africans from a genomic standpoint. why is one group more successful than another? Why is it that when Igbos in Nigeria travel anywhere on the continent, they set up these very good businesses? What can we draw from them in the fourth industrial revolution to say, ‘these digital footprints, of this digital characteristic can be replicated or embedded into a financial inclusion model to get similar results?’

“The same with Bamileke’s in Cameroon, and some of your listeners may not even know these groups. They look at Africans as one large group; no, we’re talking about a continent with more than 2,000 languages. Which is one of the reasons why being culturally attuned meant creating chat bots in those languages, so that people in their authentic selves can qualify better for financial support and we can understand the continent better.”

How has the digital revolution improved the financial industries’ understanding of diverse cultures?

“It just keeps on passing it down into finer and finer elements to the point that I think we will move away from having conversations about market segment and have [artificial intelligence] that can specifically pick the human being and what they need and want, both in the present and in the future, or match them up to services on the self-serve basis that is truly intuitive.

“I don’t think that we will notice the difference between a digital engagement and an analogue, human-to-human engagement. It will all be a case of… the more you get involved in these systems and the more educated as a consumer you are, the more savvy you become.

“When you have an educated consumer, you’ve got better growth even during these pits and troughs, as we’ve seen in recent years. Ultimately, I think that it’s difficult to divide the two, they belong in the same place, definitely.”

What advice would you give your younger self?

“Keep going. There were so many times I stopped, afraid or concerned. And thought, ‘well, maybe I shouldn’t do this’. It’s like climbing too high, you’re closer to the top than you are to the bottom, but you don’t want to fall.

“I would tell myself to ‘keep going.’ There were too many times I stopped from fear, a lack of confidence or because people said, ‘oh, you’re going to fail’. No, just keep going.”