NAIROBI (HAN) September 10.2016. Public Diplomacy & Regional Security News.By JEAN-PIERRE AFADHALI. There are many untapped opportunities in the financial technologies used to reach unbanked people, ease financial transitions and drive cashless economies in Africa.
At the recent Global Africa Investment Summit held in Kigali, the mobile money platform M-Pesa was mentioned as a success story, but experts observed that there exist new technologies that can be used to boost digital finance and e-commerce on the continent.
“Mobile money created mobile wallets, but they haven’t been able to drive a truly cashless society,” said Rwanda’s Minister of Youth and ICT Jean Philibert Nsengiyumva. “I think a truly cashless society is the next big thing.” He envisages all-digital banks in the near future.
According to World Bank statistics on financial inclusion, the number of unbanked adults globally fell from 2.5 billion in 2011 to 2 billion in 2014.
A recent report on the mobile economy by GSMA, a telecom research company, says the impact of mobile money in sub-Saharan Africa is reflected in the 10 percentage point increase in the number of adults with mobile money accounts, from 24 per cent in 2011 to 34 per cent in 2014.
Mobile technology has played a significant role in the growth of financial inclusion, particularly in micro-lending. Harry Hare, an ICT consultant from Kenya, said technology allows people with low incomes to access micro-loans easier than the traditional banking systems.
“Banks look at so many things before giving you a loan, even when you are not looking for a lot of money. In micro-lending, they look at your data — how you are using your phone — and they are able to know you are a good person to lend to,” he said.
In Kenya, Safaricom’s M-Shwari is a popular micro-lending service, and a similar service was recently launched by MTN in Uganda.
But trust issues for financial technologies and digital literacy remain challenges. Michael Tsan, a partner at ICT firm Dalberg, said to surmount the trust barrier, entrepreneurs will have to offer guarantees to customers.