Telecommunication will drive digital financial solutions in Africa

Posted on February 6, 2015 02:00 am

Development in information and communications technology in line with the supporting infrastructure has changed African’s way of life and activities in many aspects, such as dealing with financial affairs. A young man was on a motorbike desperately racing through congested traffic to reach an ATM in the Ugandan capital Kampala. He then called his friend asking for help to purchase a pair of jeans. With just a few clicks on his phone, his friend who was working on a remote district of Karamoja area made the payment. The problem was solved. “Just use mobile banking,” he advised his friend. That was one of the most inspiring stories I heard last year on how mobile banking has become a more important thing in the modern daily life of Ugandans and the greater East African region. With mobile banking, or M-Pesa,as its popularly known people can access their financial records anytime, anywhere.Even if they are away from any branch, people can easily check the balance account, make fund transfers and view their transaction history, with safety and security guaranteed by the related banks.

Beyond a communications device, a mobile phone now functions as a camera, clock and calendar, calculator, alarm, games, diary, music and video player. For sure, users can also now utilize the same gadget for their banking needs as well.Mobile banking is apparently another form of Internet banking, also known as online banking or e-banking. The latter is a way for customers of a bank to conduct financial transactions on a secure website operated by the related financial institution. Online banking and Mobile-banking are blooming in many countries, also in Uganda, a nation with some 35.5 million people as at the end of 2013. Though only 15 percent of Uganda’s total adult population has an account at a formal financial institution, as indicated by a recent Global Financial Inclusion Index, both digital facilities are on the rise to serve existing and prospective users in big cities, thanks to better cooperation between banks and telecommunications carriers in the country.More banks are expecting to roll out e-banking and m-banking solutions, paralleling the measures set by telecommunications providers to upgrade their networks to deliver faster data speeds. In some cases, several banking institutions in Kenya and Tanzania now provide telecommunications services, while several cellular operators offer their own financial-service applications.

It’s expected that banks and telecommunications providers can bolster their collaboration or converge their services in offering electronic financial solutions. The two industries began cooperating long ago, as banks traditionally lease some kind of networks from telecommunications carriers to provide facilities such as ATMs and Electronic data Capture.The growing number of Internet and mobile phone users in Africa has been a key driver for cellular network operators in improving their digital financial solutions.Data from an American research company indicates the number of Africa Internet users reached 240.19 million in June 2014, and this year, the figure is expected to reach 250 million.On the other hand, the fact that many Africans are still non-bankable has not deterred telecommunications providers and banks from extending new innovative features in online and digital financial solutions.CRDB Bank in Tanzania, for instance, aims to make people more familiar with Internet banking. Total e-banking transactions at the bank has increased by an average of 15 percent every year for the last few years. Additionally, mobile-banking transactions now account for 60 percent of all transactions in Kenya’s five largest banks.

The banking association in that country predicts that Mobile-banking transactions will grow by more than 40 percent this year, given the fact that mobile-banking is showing positive growth in Africa’s ninth largest economy and will continue to do so in the future.In Uganda, banks have also been seeing rising electronic transactions. The banks have reported that mobile-banking transactions will more than triple in transactions made at the tellers. It’s also reported that Internet banking users in Uganda have rose significantly in the third quarter 2014 compared to corresponding period in 2013. As consumers tend to go more on mobile devices, telecommunications carriers, particularly cellular providers, have also introduced latest electronic financial solutions to pamper their customers. Major cellular players like MTN and Airtel in Uganda, Vodacom and Tigo in Tanzania, Safaricom and Airtel in Kenya have introduced the so-called mobile payment services.In the future, more African will be able to access to their bank accounts through the computers and mobile phones.Commercial Banks, application developers and telecommunications companies are expected to prepare better infrastructure, systems and security as well as protection software, so Africa will somehow be more invulnerable from to cyber crime attacks.

Contador Harrison