Business Hilights
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Fintech boosting financial inclusion across Africa—Ecobank

Leading independent pan-African banking group and main sponsor of the 2018 Africa Tech summit in Kigali, Rwanda, Ecobank has revealed that although over 80% of Africans have mobile phones, only around one quarter (28%) of them have bank account.

However, 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.

The bank during the summit averred that there are still 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.

According to the Head of the UK representative office of Ecobank and Group Research, Dr. Edward George, in his keynote address, “technological innovations that are causing a step change in the way we do business and transactions”.

He said some of the latest banking & tech innovations that are helping individuals and businesses to meet the challenges include using mobile and customer data to create individualised credit scores, unlocking the potential for mobile lending and micro-insurance.

He noted further that “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).

“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%) 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.”

Business Hilights gathered that the Africa Tech summit which ended yesterday, explored the latest trends in digital technology with some 250 key African and international tech leaders from across the continent.

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