Fintech urbanism in the startup capital of Africa

Journal article

From innovations in mobile money to bookkeeping devices, the burgeoning of financial-technologies (fintech) in the Global South has been critiqued by scholars concerned with financialization, datafication, and recently, neo-coloniality. While sympathetic to these concerns, this paper argues for a more descriptive, ambivalent, and urban reading of the implications and stakes of this fintech boom.

Using Cape Town as a case study, we explore how the city has become and positioned itself as a/the capital of fintech innovation in Africa. With two detailed vignettes that look respectively at the recent histories of business process offshoring in the city and at the cycles of experimentation that via Cape Town bring fintech to the rest of the continent, we make three arguments.

First, that the urban state has been instrumental in shaping how fintech lands in cities and how the infrastructures which support it develop. Second, that diverse cultural economies of experimentation engender the worlding practices through which local fintech ecosystems operate.

Overall, we suggest that paying attention to these different ways in which fintech is enabled and mobilized by the urban state opens a necessary research agenda into the ambivalence of financial innovation in Africa.


Andrea Pollio & Liza Rose Cirolia (2022) Fintech urbanism in the startup capital of Africa, Journal of Cultural Economy, DOI: 10.1080/17530350.2022.2058058

Liza Rose Cirolia
Andrea Pollio
Published online: 30 Apr 2022
Sustainable Growth
City Governance