Fintech bolsters financial inclusion in Africa, Ecobank

  • Written by  Bob Koigi

Fintech is boosting financial inclusion across Africa, according to Ecobank, independent pan-African banking group, a pioneer in Africa’s digital transformation.

Although over 80% of Africans have mobile phones, only around one quarter (28%) of them have bank account. But mobile banking and e-wallets are helping to break the banking logjam, offering a range of alternative payment methods as well as lending and savings services. This has boosted the overall financial inclusion rate to 34%, and it is growing each day.

However, there are many barriers to wider use of new technology where a step change is needed in attitudes and approaches towards innovation. Ecobank’s work with e-commerce, small business, and consumers - through their mobile banking app and other e-products - is helping organisations and individuals to overcome these barriers and stimulate wider usage.

Head of the UK representative office of Ecobank and Group Research, Dr. Edward George, will give a keynote address at the opening of the 2018 Africa Tech Summit where he will look at the acceleration of disruptive technology in Africa – technological innovations that are causing a step change in the way we do business and transact – and describe some of the latest banking & tech innovations that are helping individuals and businesses to meet the challenges.

Using mobile and customer data to create individualised credit scores, unlocking the potential for mobile lending and micro-insurance.

A key obstacle for access to new services is poor Internet access, and the high cost of downloading data: BluPoint & BRCK (Moja) are two companies looking to provide free (or near free) access to the Internet for ordinary Africans;

Some innovators have focused on clearing a single blockage in the system, such as TagPay, using encrypted sound to make mobile payments over any mobile phone and ZirooPay, using encrypted SSDN to make credit card payments over the mobile network when the Internet is down.

Distributed power companies like M-KOPA Solar using solar units to provide not just off-grid access but also to build consumer credit profiles through asset-backed lending;

Digital identities and verifications, such as Ghana’s Inclusive ID system, a single verification tool allowing those without bank accounts to access to the global economy;

Remote consultation offers huge potential for improving health services across Africa, especially in remote areas.

“Nearly all the growth in financial inclusion since 2011 has been due to mobile banking services,” said Dr George. “With around 100 million users of e-wallets, Africans account for around half, 57.6 per cent, of all mobile wallets in the world.”

“However, people are often stuck in their ways – whether a market trader or top executive – and the challenge is to change the mindset and open them up to the opportunities of digital.

“Disruptive technology is about recognising these challenges and seeing technology as an enabler, not a panacea, and by adapting innovations to the reality on the ground. That is what we are doing at Ecobank to help businesses and individuals take the digital leapfrog.”

The Africa Tech summit takes place on 14 and 15 February in Kigali, Rwanda. It will explore the latest trends in digital technology with some 250 key African and international tech leaders from across the continent.

Other speakers will include Alice Kilonzo Zulu, Managing Director of Ecobank Rwanda, who will talk about Ecobank e-commerce and how cashless innovations are spurring SME growth, and Nshuti Mbabazi, Vice President, Push Payments at Ecobank, who will look at how Ecobank’s digital strategy is helping deliver the cashless society in Africa.

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