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South Africa: UCT launches "first in Africa" FinTech degree

By , ITWeb
South Africa , 18 Aug 2017

South Africa: UCT launches "first in Africa" FinTech degree

The University of Cape Town (UCT) in South Africa has launched a FinTech degree, combining finance, technology and entrepreneurship with the aim to disrupt the financial services industry.

The academic institution says it is the first university on the continent to offer a degree "specifically designed to equip students with the necessary skills and knowledge to embrace the technological revolution in the financial services sector."

According to UCT, South Africa's financial services industry faces a significant challenge: "The rise of modern technology, commonly labelled as financial technology, or 'FinTech', combined with a lack of skilled graduates who are able to navigate this complex new terrain."

The new degree is a 'Master of Data Science' with a specialisation in financial technology and will be offered for the first time in January 2018.

Course convener, Dr Co-Pierre Georg, Senior Lecturer at the African Institute of Financial Markets and Risk Management (AIFMRM) at UCT explains: "We are in constant and close contact with the financial services industry and know that it is facing a shifting demand for skills."

"In the past, companies were mainly looking for advanced mathematical- and modelling skills. There still is demand for these skills, but by far the largest demand now is for students who have a thorough understanding of finance combined with a mastery of modern data analytics and software development skills. Our students will be able to develop these skills in the two most exciting areas of FinTech: machine learning and Blockchain technologies," he says.

Associate Professor and Head of the Department, Francesca Little outlines the idea behind the degree, "We started the MSc in Data Science to give students a thorough understanding of the latest methods in statistical learning. This includes the extremely exciting field of machine learning and artificial intelligence. The idea then was to bring together UCT's 'best and brightest' from other departments to design a degree that is truly special. We are delighted to partner with AIFMRM so that we are able to offer a specialisation in the exciting new field of financial technology."

The institution will also be focusing on Blockchain technology, behind cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin. It says, "Blockchain is a broad technology that allows companies to store information in a distributed and cryptographically secured database. This makes it possible to store information in a way that is easily accessible and fully transparent, but completely secure at the same time."

Georg adds "FinTech offers a unique opportunity to radically transform the industry. Young start-ups are already challenging the incumbents and our students will be on the forefront of this technological revolution in South Africa. Our focus on entrepreneurship means that we will change the students' mindset so that they not only want to go out and 'get' a job but also to go out and create a job or a hundred."

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