Digital Banker Africa

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GREETINGS!! AUTUMN 2020 Editor: Anthony Bempong Executive Editor: Noel Morrison Deputy Editor: Henry Scott Art Director: Pritesh Patel Chief Sub: Kwabena Mensah Bonsu Head of Online Development: Lee-Anne Doughlin Online Development: Wayne Sykes, Gerald Hutchfull, Paulette Davidson Subscription Manager: Stephen Rock Marketing Manager: Siobhan Copland Marketing Assistant Jason Hall Circulation manager: Nathan Asare Head of Sales: Michael Scott Production Editor: Rebecca Mcglynn Business Development: James Walters, Lloyd Quansah, Paul Da Associate Producer: Dean Kirby Head of Accounts: Elizabeth Gordon Publisher: Percival Marshall Images by All information contained in this publication has been obtained from sources the proprietors believe to be correct, however no legal liability can be accepted for any errors. No part of this publication can be reproduced without prior consent from the publisher.


e are pleased to present to you Digital Banker Af-

rica......Africa’s Digital Financial Footprint. In this edition you will find a plethora of information on what’s new and current within the digital banking sector in Africa Featured on the front cover is Mr Austin Okere, Founder of CWG Plc and the Ausso Leadership Academy. Digital Banker Africa recently had the opportunity to interview Mr Austin Okere about a wide array of subjects including financial inclusion and what is next for the future of Digital Banking in Africa. We enjoy bringing the latest activity from within the African Digital Banking community to our offline and online readership. We strive to capture the breaking news about Africa’s digital economy, digital finance events and digital banking game changers from prominent leaders in the industry and public viewpoints with an intention to serve a holistic outlook. We have gone the extra mile to ensure we give you the best of Digital Banking in Africa. Send us your thoughts on how we can continue to improve and what you’d like to see in the future. Happy reading!

CONTENTS 08 10 12 16 20 24

$6 Billion City: Akon’s Cryptocurrency City Set to commence Construction Africa is Fast Becoming a Hotbed for Fintechs

Banks Consider New Digital Plan to Boost Service Delivery Post Covid - 19

Can Digital Banking Boost Financial Inclusion in Africa ?


Origins and Growth Outlook of Digital Banking in Africa


Sandboxes and Open Banking: Solutions to Financial inclusion in Nigeria?


Blockchain Can Be the Panacea for for High Inflation-Ravaged African Economies Can Africa Be The Leading Market for Cryptocurrency?


How Covid-19 is Digital Finance Accelerating

62 28 36 40 44 48

Digital Banker exclusive interview with Austin Okere: Banking Inclusivity: Fintech opens doors traditional banks could not

Covid-19 Are Rwandan Banks Ready As The Country Moves Swiftly Towards A Cashless Society?

Digital Banking Nigerian Banks Want a Piece of the Action

Evolution of African Finance

Examining the Impact of Digital Banking on Financial Inclusion in Africa

64 66 70 72

Sierra Leone’s Thumbprint Innovation Means Unbanked Can Now Sign Up For Bank Accounts

Sparkle The New Digital Ecosystem Aimed at Redefining the Lives of Nigerians the World Over

Standard Bank Improves Digital Drive with Cloud Collaborations

A Look at the Four African Cities Evolving As Fintech Hubs Thousands of Zambian Farmers Get Access to Digital Banking through AgriPay Why Every Nigerian Should Embrace Digital Financial Literacy in the Post-COVID-19 Era


$6 Billion City:

Akon’s Cryptocurrency City Set to commence Construction The famous singer, Akon, has conceptualized a “Futuristic cryptocurrency themed city” which

Construction Plans for Akon City Revealed The Senegalese-American music star, Akon, has awarded the contract for the erection of his six billion-dollar “Futuristic cryptocurrency themed city” to KE International. The

is set to commence

construction contract awarded

construction in a

to the U.S based engineering

short time. Akon

firm was announced earlier this month, by the singer and

The singer whose full name is

City will incorporate

philanthropist, Akon.

Aliaume Damala Badara Akon

road networks,

The first phase of Akon City is

Thiam has achieved worldwide

hospitals, malls, hotels and a school. The currency to be used in the city will exclusively be the cryptocurrency “akoin.” The city

likely to be completed by the end of 2023 and will include several particulars; like the construction of roads, a Hamptons Mall, a Hamptons Hospital Campus, residences, a police station, hotels, a waste facility, a school, and a solar power plant. According to the project website;

will also incorporate

records worldwide. He has been nominated five times for the Grammy awards for his songs Bartender, The Sweet Escape, Konvicted, Smack That, and I Wanna Love You. Though he is most popular for his sensational vocals, he is also an actor, songwriter and record producer. The announcement stated;

universities, parks,

Akoin is a cryptocurrency powered

a stadium and an

by a marketplace of tools and

industrial complex.

renown having sold over 35million

services fueling the dreams of

“Akon City Phase 2 will run from

entrepreneurs, business owners

2024 to 2029 and will end with

and social activists as they connect

a complete cryptocurrency city

and engage across the rising

running exclusively on akoin

economies of Africa and beyond.



The investors have already handed

ready by December this year. The

only less than an hour’s ride

KE International $4million to

MMTC project recently partnered

south of the new Blaise Diagne

commence the first and second

with the cryptocurrency akoin in

International airport in Dakar.

phases of construction. The

other to utilize its blockchain-

Akon’s proposed tourist city will

architectural plans for Akon City

based digital transactions. The

include universities, parks, a

will be drawn up by the Dubai based

singer has high hopes that his

stadium, schools, hotels, and an

firm, Bakri & Associates under the

cryptocurrency will soon be used

industrial complex all of which

guidance of KE International.

all over Africa. Africa has a lot

he aims to complete by 2030. The

of its citizens unbanked and lots

plan for the construction of Akon

more using smartphones.

City was revealed by the singer

Akoin Akon City aims to utilize the cryptocurrency akoin, built on the stellar network, exclusively. The cryptocurrency is also going to be put to use in Mwale Medical and Technology City (MMTC), a green city being constructed by KE International in western Kenya since 2014. The MMTC project which is 85% close to completion is expected to be

himself in 2018, when he revealed

Information on Akon City iAkon City will be a tourist’s haven with an exclusive cryptocurrency-based economy. It will be located at a small coastal village located in the western axis of Senegal known as Mbodieme. Mbodieme is

at the time that it is being done in conjunction with the Senegalese government.


Africa is

Fast Becoming

a Hotbed for

Fintechs The IMF opines that startups

as a result of the size of Africa’s

“Nairobi is Africa’s second-

informal economy.

largest fintech hub, with an

The major hubs for Financial Technology on the continent

find Africa’s

are currently nestled in Lagos,

low financial

Capetown, Nairobi, and

inclusion penetration to be a sweet spot for business

Johannesburg. In 2018, Africa’s Venture Capital funding was more than a billion US dollars, and start-ups have been able to attract this much funding taking advantage of the potential

is a sweet spot for startups doing

government’s recognition and

business on the continent

development of her fintech

Africa is witnessing a significant

infrastructure. In 2019, the

platforms and tech start-ups. The International Monetary Fund has identified this development to be

complemented by a steady rise of international investors and growing interest from global technology firm,” says a report titled Findexable Global Fintech Rankings 2020. financial technology hubs enjoy

continues to be fuelled by the

in the number of digital banking

and venture capital firms

unbanked citizens’ financial inclusion penetration

There has been a sparked increase

ecosystem of local investors

Elsewhere in Johannesburg,

The growth of Kenya’s hub

financial technology companies.

fintechs and an emerging

of Africa’s large number of The IMF opines that Africa’s low

rise in its status as a hub for

estimated 20 percent of African

Central Bank of Kenya signed a

the presence of many established financial services companies. The likes of Absa Group, Investec, and Standard Bank group continue to play a major role in that budding hub.

memorandum of understanding

Africa’s encouragement of public

to facilitate the cooperation of

and private sector partnerships

financial technology with the

seems to have created an enabling

M.A.S (Monetary Authority of

environment for fintechs to


thrive and the IMF believes that SMEs can also benefit from this.



Banks Consider New Digital Plan

to Boost Service Delivery Post transactions with a bank via multiple channels such as desktop or mobile devices, in NETinfo, an innovative technology company, conducted a survey which revealed that around 93 percent of banking institutions

a brick-and-mortar store, and through telephone banking. For the financial institutions, adopting omnichannel

that financial institutions that do not embrace this motion will be left behind. Digital onboarding is joint second and this technology has shown just how important it is to obtain new customers without having them visit a

capabilities ties-in with their


technologies post Covid-19.

digital strategy drive.

It went on to say; “Open banking

Omnichannel technology

According to the report;

is the other second-place

plan to implement omnichannel

leverages Big Data to enable clients to shop or carry out

“Omnichannel makes sense on so many levels and it is true to say

technology and further proves how forward-thinking African banks are.”


Digital Banking

omnichannel will become a

banking industry and the way

Thomas Yieke, the business

it seems some African banks

customers interact with financial

development manager at

must re-think their current silo

institutions. People have visited

NETinfo, reckons that the


bank branches less frequently,

absence of tier-one banks from

and this has occasioned a shift to

the digital space in the period

apps, and a reduction in footfalls,

since the start of the pandemic

especially in April and May.

has seriously affected them.

mapped out different digital

Globally, Kenya is ranked as the

According to him; “However,

omnichannel strategies following

most tier-one institutions

the recent experiences they’ve

and banks have adopted the

had with the coronavirus

online and open banking and


The coronavirus pandemic has caused a schism in the

country with the largest share of internet usage on mobile phones, when compared to desktops. However, even with Kenya’s 91 percent penetration in the use of mobile technology and the resultant explosion in mobile banking, there is still a big difference between tier-one banking institutions and other financial institutions.

therefore have been advantaged because they were able to offer same banking services to their customers.” The survey, focusing on accepting change and the digital transformation drive of banks, was released in June. It revealed that just 54 percent of Africa’s financial institutions had been able to provide 360 degrees customer visibility by implementing the omnichannel solution previously. While around 46 percent were still dependent on silos, using separate systems for mobile banking and internet banking.

necessity going forward and

The poll has revealed that a majority of the banks have channels to drive their

Mobile banking channel app takes the biggest chunk of the plans at 92 percent, followed by Internet and Open banking (Open APIs) at 77 percent and 69 percent respectively. Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) take 54 percent, agency banking 38 percent, kiosks 23 percent, and wearable technology channels take 15 percent respectively. With the recourse to virtual meeting apps such as Zoom, Google Hangouts, and GoToWebinar for employee training, engagement, and information sharing, resulting from the pandemic, around 54 percent of institutions surveyed are set to include provisions for video conferencing or chat in their plans.

According to the report;

The report stated that “As

“This shows us that from our

expected, financial institutions

participant banks while many

in Africa are planning to embrace

have embraced the omnichannel

the full set of digital channels

motion there are still those

going forward. In a world where

running silos. We believe

the mobile phone is king it is not surprising that most banks

14 plan to have mobile as part of their strategy going forward

Measures to Reduce Cost

with Internet banking a close second.” “Forward-thinking banks in Africa are also trying to replicate the success of open banking in other parts of the world and see the motion as an opportunity to be grasped early, without the need for legislation to impose this,” it continued.

For instance, in its 2019 financial

banking, and agency banking

statement, the KCB group


reported growth in digital transactions from 88 percent to 97 percent, an increase of 9 percent from 2018. KCB Group, which acquired an erstwhile tier-two lender, the National Bank of Kenya, said it is working to restore the subsidiary’s digital banking offerings according to

It is obvious that over the

the lender’s strategic goal of

last couple of years, bank

becoming a leader in the digital

customers have already

banking space.

become used to the changes that have been implemented by the transforming banks.

According to the KCB Group’s financial statement; “This is aimed at delivering competitive financial solutions as well as meeting the changing needs of customers who are increasingly using the digital platform.” It went on; “In this regard, a renewed focus is being laid on mobile banking, Internet

“This is in addition to optimising the branch network bolstered by the opening of four new branches post-acquisition, as guided by an ongoing mapping and audit exercise.” On the other hand, Equity Group, in its investor briefing for the year ended December 2019, revealed that 93 percent of all loan transactions go through the mobile channel while 97 percent of all transactions take place outside the branch. The bank has continued to operate on a business model that leverages on cost-saving measures majorly through the use of agency, Internet, mobile, and merchant banking infrastructure.


Blockchain Can Be

the Panacea for for High

Inflation-Ravaged African Economies A Departure from the Permitted

Economies of countries

rising inflation have

like South Africa,

led to a breed of tech-

Zimbabwe, and Venezuela

savvy non-conformists

have been afflicted

trying to come up with

Kenya, and Nigeria have been

by hyperinflation of

innovative ideas, such

unfortunate bystanders in the

enormous proportions in

as the drive towards

the last couple of years.

a growing demand

With their economies

for unconventional

This is because there is a lot of

in dire straits, it’s been


potential benefit in the adoption

a sorry sight to see

solutions. Indeed,

how citizens of these

advocates of

countries have been

cryptocurrency have been

absolute, and totally unlike

desperately trying to hold

touting blockchain as the

other financial assets – it is the

on to the last vestiges of

silver lining for tackling

value that they can.

inflation across Africa.

Notably, fears of ever-

It is an absurdity that citizens of countries like Zimbabwe,

cryptocurrency boom because their governments have decided to discountenance crypto assets.

of bitcoin for these countries. For instance, with the issue of risk, bitcoin is transparent,

opposite of permitted currencies that dictatorial leaders tend to debase at will through their profligate printing. Besides, its public record information

17 South Africans have been taking

Certainly, in the last couple of

advantage of the local exchanges

years, bitcoin has shown beyond

to trade the permitted currency

a shadow of any doubts that it

for cryptocurrencies like bitcoin

is perfectly capable of outdoing

at the prevailing market rates.

other assets as both a store of

With Africa and other developing markets having been tipped, albeit for the first time, to overtake the mature markets – they have been predicted to be in charge of 50% of all noncash transactions across the world by 2021, this seems to be the best time to give blockchain reasonable latitude to succeed.

It’s been a Decade

store, manage, and access

as well as economies of countries on other continents struggling with high inflation. Blockchain-based monetary systems have shown uncommon ease in their improvement of e-commerce, and this has been proven to be true within and outside the African shores. For instance, South Africa has been one of the foremost African countries to adopt digital currency-based trades, payments, and investments, contributing considerably to a thriving monetary system.

a case in point is the 2015 Greek bank shut down. Cryptocurrency has ridden through a decade-long storm of antagonistic testing while it progressively gained the trust of people who were initially disbelieving. A new study conducted by Digital

and alternative to permitted


especially for African economies,

funds into and out of the country,

Africans should be more it is possible to securely

uptake of cryptocurrencies,

people with an avenue to transfer

Assets Data shows the uptake of

cannot be inaccurate, erased, or

plusses to be gained from the

In addition to providing the

Coming interested in the fact that

Indeed, there are other real

value and an investment channel.

cryptocurrencies from anywhere in the world. Besides, these types of non-cash transactions offer quantifiable advantages to African society, specifically by dealing with the perennial bane of corruption. The inherent benefits in replacing the current setup where central banks have

bitcoin as a repository of value currencies in high-inflation countries. Actually, bitcoin is traded more in countries ravaged by inflation and unstable banking systems even when there is a drop in its price. A case in point is the impulsive price drop of December 2017 – December 2018 which saw trade volumes drop by 70% in low inflation nations while it rose by 60% in high inflation countries.

a self-given right to make and

Blockchain: One

regulate money with a system

invention, multiple

that is more organised and transparent can only be imagined. With Blockchain technology being often referred to as the expected response to years of dishonest and excessive financial mismanagement in Africa, you can hardly think of a better use case.

applications Increased competition resulting from the explosion of digital currencies is another noteworthy benefit of a wider adoption of blockchain in Africa. Apart from stimulating the currency market, and the larger financial

markets, this competition is

African countries ravaged by

influence of the US on the global

poised to make everyday citizens


financial cycle…would help reduce

and consumers more powerful. Therefore, traditional banks that want to remain relevant or stay

Blockchains can be employed to streamline the requirement

the volatility of capital flows to emerging market economies.”

for national fiats but can also

Carney did not foresee the launch

take into consideration, the

of the digital Yuan when he made

complexity of local economies.

that statement. Digital Yuan

This is probably why there have

is expected to protect China’s


been 15 cryptocurrency-related

foreign exchange autonomy.

efforts established in Africa

And when combined with the

Naturally, despite growing

within the last 12 months.

country’s “Belt and Road”

in business, must face the reality that they’d have to better serve their customers by adopting innovative and forward-thinking

interest from the populace, there is pushback from the power brokers in the global financial system, notably governments, regulators, and central banks who are understandably unwilling to dismantle a long-standing currency-issuing monopoly that is favourable to them. However, there is only one truth

In a recent speech, Mark Carney, Governor of the Bank of England, talked about the

technology portends the best and most convincing chance of a more optimistic future for

program, it is expected to sidestep and rule the dollar.

potential of digital currencies to

Currently, a lot of African citizens

upset the applecart of US dollar

have zero confidence in the

domination. He noted that the

conventional banking system

hoarding of dollars has become

and are earnestly waiting for the

a huge barrier to world trade.

day when financial autonomy

The most likely outcome of this

and safety become basic human

is that Africa

rights rather than a luxury

can avoid being

meant for only the elite. Even

Blockchains can be employed


though a lot more needs to be

to streamline the requirement

when it comes

done for blockchain to reach

for national fiats but can

to imports

its full potential on the African

also take into consideration,

and exports

continent, however, as the

the complexity of local

in US dollars.

economic crises deepen across

economies. This is probably


the continent of 1.2 billion people

why there have been 15

to Carney

and currencies become weaker,


“reducing the

the case for cryptocurrencies

in all of this; blockchain

economic growth and investment

efforts established in Africa within the last 12 months.

becomes even more convincing.

Can Africa Be The Leading Market for Cryptocurrency? Globally, the big names in cryptocurrency are Bitcoin, Litecoin, Dash, Monero, Lisk, and XRP. But when it comes to the African market, Bitcoin is the clear leader. Bitcoin was created in 2009 by Satoshi Nakamoto. And since then, it has grown into a strong global brand, more so in Africa where economists think it’s a disruptive innovation that is set to create new markets and value networks on the continent. Indeed, cryptocurrency is not limited by geography as it is internet-based. And for that reason, transactions involving cryptocurrencies can happen in any part of the world. Its transactions are stored in blockchains – a database running on a cluster of connected computers that electronically record transactions onto a ledger. They are not regulated by the government, and they don’t need middlemen. African investors are hoping that Bitcoin will become the new

it may be set to steal a march over other markets,” Mr. Sharma believes that citizens of countries ravaged by high inflation are more likely to adopt cryptocurrency because “with their paradigm of decentralization, cryptocurrencies offer an alternative to disastrous central bank policies.”

method of financial transactions

Stealthily Gaining an

in the digital era. According to


business and technology analyst Rakesh Sharma, “Africa is rarely mentioned among the largest markets for cryptocurrency, but

When Zimbabwe was in the throes of hyperinflation in 2015 and the country’s authorities

were forced to print $100 trillion notes (each one valued at just $40), some Zimbabweans decided to turn to Bitcoin. Doubledigit inflation rates in some other African countries have also led to the huge adoption of Bitcoin in those countries. According to, a website dedicated to reporting Bitcoin news in Africa, countries like Ghana, Botswana, Nigeria, Kenya, Zimbabwe, and South Africa are some of Africa’s main bitcoin economies. Bitcoin is also seeing serious uptake in Uganda, according to the BBC. Tokunbo Darko, marketing vice president for ICOWatchlist.

21 com, a platform that houses cryptocurrency tokens, says that citizens of these African countries deal in Bitcoin “as opposed to their local currencies, which are plagued with hyperinflation.” Africa has been predicted by the GSM Association to have 725 million mobile phone subscribers by 2020. This, according to Mr. Sharma, means that Africans will have the right tools to connect to the cryptocurrency ecosystem. Peace Akware, a millennial from Uganda, in an interview with the BBC said, “I check my Bitcoin every day [on my mobile phone] and any chance I can get. Any minute, any hour, anytime, as often as I can,”

Bitcoin’s Pervasiveness Going by indications from the Nigerian Central Bank, it appears as if governments have no control or regulatory powers over cryptocurrency. Currently battling the country’s high inflation rate, Nigeria’s apex bank announced that it could not regulate or control Bitcoin, “just the same way no one is going to control or regulate the internet. We don’t own it,” the apex bank said. Essentially, it’s not a case of ‘not wanting to’ do it, it’s more of ‘not being able to’ do it. The fact that African governments have no regulatory powers over cryptocurrency may be making it more attractive on the continent. The fear of a disintegration of the banking industry and the arbitrary allocation of

money by the government has fuelled an increased interest in cryptocurrency from unbanked Africans living in politically unstable countries. Mr. Darko explains, “Bitcoin transactions help to eliminate the procedural bottlenecks that plague traditional banking and financial services.” However, some African governments have decided to join the virtual currency movement with the Tunisian government launching eDinar, a governmentissued digital currency. West African country Senegal has also launched eCFA, a digital currency that could eventually be introduced by other African countries. Africa has seen the establishment of 15 cryptocurrency-related operations within a short period, says Mr. Sharma. The first in Africa, South Africa’s Luno Exchange, was founded in 2013 and now has over 1.5 million customers in more than 40

countries globally. Besides, some cryptocurrencybased remittance services providers have also popped up in several African countries, such as, Abra, which has operational bases in Morocco and Malawi,

“I started mining Bitcoin [in Nairobi, Kenya] in September 2017 and, so far, this is the best business I have ever tried,” Gladys Laboi informed Africa Renewal, adding: “Under six months, I earned $800 after investing in $700.”

BitMari in Zimbabwe, GeoPay in South Africa, and London-based Kobocoin. In the agriculture sector, a mobile app known as Plaas helps farmers to supervise their stock on the blockchain.

BitPesa was launched in Kenya in 2013. With BitPesa, individuals can transfer virtual remittances to African and international locations from their mobile wallets which stores the cryptocurrency. Kenya’s announced trading volumes of over $1.8 million in December 2017 proving how lucrative the business can be. “I started mining Bitcoin [in Nairobi, Kenya] in September 2017 and, so far, this is the best business I have ever tried,” Gladys Laboi informed Africa Renewal, adding: “Under six months, I earned $800 after investing in $700.” CEO of Liquid Crypto-Money, Shireen Ramjoo, predicts the emergence of government-issued cryptocurrencies in Africa in the not too distant future. Liquid Crypto-Money is a cryptocurrency consulting firm based in South Africa. The consensus among industry experts is that cryptocurrency will be around for a long time. The fact that Bitcoin users can, with comparatively small fees and no third-party interference, transfer money to just about anywhere in the world as long as there is an internet connection is an advantage that regular government-issued currencies cannot match. According to Mr. Darko, “Every single computer device on the

surface of the planet with an internet connection can access information on the blockchain and make ‘transactional’ inputs onto it. The information cannot be distorted, deleted, modified or destroyed, and [the] computer device has the same information as everybody.” In December 2017, the worldwide demand for cryptocurrencies increased to a point where a Bitcoin was sold for $20,000. It was $1000 just a year before. As a result of the possibility of identity theft, which is common with all digital forms of payment, there have been suggestions that regulations should be put in place to ensure transactions are anonymous and information of users kept private and safe. In the absence of regulations, cryptocurrency is at best a double-edged sword. There will be periodic gains, but it could all be wiped out in one volcanic price crash leaving investors without an escape route. This is akin to what happened when the value of Bitcoin crashed to $8,700 in February 2018, from the highs of $20,000 in December 2017. The reality is that a lot of Africans are still investing in Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies. And according to Mr. Darko, Africa should embrace the innovation with open arms. “Truth be told, Africa needs blockchain technology and its resultant cryptocurrencies more than any part of the world,” he stated.



Can Digital Banking

Boost Financial

Inclusion in Africa Digital banking start-ups are giving the

conventional banking system a run for their money, literally outmuscling them in the race for consumer share in Africa. The term financial inclusion is often used within media circles when the topic of discourse is accessible finance in Africa.

Are we closer to the goal of financial inclusion in Africa? Small and medium enterprises (SMEs) bolster the economies of many African countries. Products and services developed must be easily accessed by SMEs, for these African countries to prosper.

The financial services sector is faced with

Access to credit is vital to the

the challenge of broadening penetration and

prosperity of any economy.

usage of their products and services in Africa. What does financial inclusion mean to the average businessman on the street? This is a puzzle that needs to be solved by investors and developers of solutions for African businesses because it envelopes a lot of crucial hurdles for the continent.

Financial inclusion, therefore, means everyone interested has access to credit regardless of where they live, and the kind of business they run. Businesses depend on access to credit to multiply scale and the prosperity of SMEs tells a story of a vigorous economy. In the UK where SMEs form

25 99.9% of all businesses in the

expected to rise. For the immense

private sector, only 0.1% of

deficit of employment that Africa

Access to credit is a major

companies in the country employ

is faced with, financial inclusion

determinant of success in

more than 250 people, and about

is of paramount importance, if

business. There cannot be

96% do not have as much as 10

she is to record anywhere near

expansion or job creation

members of staff. SMEs generate

the contributions by SMEs in

without it. That only 6% of

close to half of the Government’s

developed countries.

small businesses in Ghana

tax income and account for 51% of the turnover. Developed countries have similar numbers for SMEs, but the numbers are different for

There is a pressing need for financial services to reduce the amount of bureaucracy and

countries in sub-Saharan Africa.

regulations that have held back

Why the challenges in

from getting onboard with

Africa are different Unregistered companies are often included in workforce figures across Africa. In Zambia, for example, 90% of their SMEs

a fraction of Africa’s population current breakthroughs in financial technology. This is why we must cast our sights on investing in African fintech.

Africa’s small

are unregistered. Although 73%

businesses need access

of the workforce is employed

to reliable, affordable

by SMEs, they contribute only 11% to the nation’s GDP. These figures are quite significant when you consider the fact that Zambia’s population has risen from 8million to 18 million in the last 25 years. Generally, Africa has recorded rapid population growth. In 2017, sub-Saharan Africa’s (SSA) total population was recorded as 1.1 billion, with youths under 24 accounting for two-thirds of this figure. Africa is in dire need of infrastructure to cater to her large population. With subSaharan Africa expected to reach 2.3 billion people by the year 2050, this infrastructure needs to be put in place now, to cater to already high levels of poverty and unemployment which can only be

credit Access to credit is a major determinant of success in business. There cannot be expansion or job creation without it. That only 6% of small businesses in Ghana have access to credit, and we have as much as a $330 billion financial gap, is a source of concern. How do African SMEs grow when only 15% of the 95% of them that have accounts qualify for credit facilities? Africa’s many digital products and services are the results of the foresight of fintech companies who are willing to tailor their products and services to the needs of SMEs, however, true financial inclusion is a long way ahead.

have access to credit, and we have as much as a $330 billion financial gap, is a source of concern. How do African SMEs grow when only 15% of the 95% of them that have accounts qualify for credit facilities? These lenders are constantly embattled by cyclic regulations that only create more hurdles for SMEs, not to mention that credit comes with high interest and short tenure.

Traditional banks reluctant to grant SMEs credit The business terrain of small businesses is too erratic for conventional financial institutions, so they are reluctant to provide SMEs with credit. They are more willing to release funds to more stable businesses to minimize their risk. The reluctance of traditional banks to embrace digital banking is not unique to Africa alone, and so unpredictability of SMEs’ business space in Africa does not account for this alone. Although digital banks make a good case for financial inclusion

26 in Africa, traditional banks are not

to exploit

embracing it quickly enough to


We can take a lot of positives

solutions is

increase competition and ensure


from the positive outlook

evidence that

improved products and services

with dubious

of stakeholders on the

digital banking

with better interest rates and


opportunities in the African

will stimulate


fintech space as well as


for SMEs.

A successful

the adoption rates of the

model for

interruption and


Africa needs a comprehensive

retail banking

will spread over

strategy to solve the challenge of

in Africa

financial inclusion. Such solutions

would have

must involve governments, banks,

to offer long

policymakers, and investors for

term loans with low-interest rates

According to the Global Findex

the effective transformation of

to stimulate business growth.

financial inclusion data from

existing lending structures. No

Such loans can be used to scale

the World Bank, 34.2% of adults

short fix will do the job of tackling

up, expand the organizational

in sub-Sahara Africa own bank

the attendant problems. Such a

structure, and hire more people,

accounts. This is only 50% of

strategy requires finance from

with increased tax payments for

the global average of 62%. While

investors to make funds available

state governments.

an average of 2% uses mobile

more flexible tenures are available

for any game-changing solutions to be introduced into the fintech

There is an increasing number


of mobile banking solutions

Why digital banking

traceable to combined efforts of

is key to financial

in several countries in Africa, the public and private sectors. The implementation of such self-

time but it’s a marathon, not a sprint.

money accounts around the world, SSA excels with adoption rates of 50% of the same 34.2%. It is this adoption rate that holds the potential to transform Africa’s economy.

inclusion in Africa

We can take a lot of positives

At the heart of digital

stakeholders on the opportunities

banking is the need

in the African fintech space as

of the customer.

well as the adoption rates of the


populace. Maximizing Africa’s


digital finance potential requires

products to meet

focusing on the continuous

the needs of a

improvement of consumer-driven

diverse customer

products, realizing that it’s a

base is the future for financial inclusion in Africa. To ensure a seamless adoption of digital banking, relevant bodies must also improve regulation to weed out fraudulent lenders that seek

from the positive outlook of

long-term process.





The coronavirus pandemic has brought financial inclusion in Africa under the spotlight, we caught up with Austin Okere to get his thoughts on the lessons that have been learned and the best way forward As the vice chairman of CWG you will have bared witness to the growth of the fintech space in Nigeria, you have spoken excitedly in the past about the future of fintech in Nigeria and how it can help with financial inclusion. With the recent events of Covid-19, it has been highlighted that financial inclusion still has more work to be done. What are your thoughts? In Nigeria for instance 84.6m people, accounting for 47% of the population are unbanked. In sharp contrast, mobile phone penetration is very high at 94.5 per cent. The digitization of retail payment systems and financial services has become an important economic development priority. It offers the prospect of reaching far more people at far lower costs with the broader range of financial services they need to build resilience and capture opportunities. This speaks to inclusiveness; an area that does not seem to hold any attraction for traditional banks.

The Haves and Have Nots In most emerging markets and developing countries, the current formal financial system only reaches a minority of the working-age adult population. Smallholder farmers, selfemployed households, and microentrepreneurs have to rely on the age-old informal financial mechanisms such as rotating savings clubs. These mechanisms

can be unreliable and very expensive. While society in the past was split between the haves and have nots, society today is split more along the lines of those who are included and those left behind. This inequality is most heavily felt in emerging markets, where 80% of the world resides. The one sector where exclusion is most rife is the financial sector.

Should Banks be changing? The biggest threat to the banks has been precisely their seeming success. Centuries of relatively significant higher returns, even during economic downturns that adversely affect the real sectors, has engendered an attitude of invincibility and pomposity, characterized by a loss of touch with their customers. Considered too big to fail, they take it for granted that they will be bailed out with

30 Exclusion during the Covid-19 lockdown. With pent-up demand and no opportunity to access financial services online and remotely, people swarmed the banks immediately the lockdown was eased to try desperately to put themselves on the inclusion

Mpesa Agent in Kenya


taxpayers’ money in the event of

more than 60% of Kenya’s 33

any missteps – this is a perfect

million mobile users and in 2015

Twitter was filled with many

set-up for disruption.

transacted $28m on her platform.

posts warning Nigerians about

Similar applications have

the risks of visiting any bank

metamorphosed across Africa,

branch due to the mammoth

and Mobile Money services are

crowd “Customers besiege banks

today generating 6.7% of Africa’s

on first day of partial lifting of

GDP. Nigeria is no exception, with

COVID-19 lockdown” was one of

Fintechs such as Interswitch, CWG

the screaming headlines on social

Plc, Paystack and Flutterwave


After centuries of conservatism in receiving deposits and making loans, there are two main issues stirring the yearning for change in the banking sector: The first being that it is a very difficult Club to join as a customer, and hence the large population of unbanked adults.

holding sway. Take for instance, Diamond bank (now merged with Access Bank) with 7m accounts after 23 years was able to add an

Secondly, even for the

another significant 6m accounts

members of this elite club, the

in just one year after the launch

relationship is acutely skewed

of the Diamond Yello Account in

in favour of the banks

collaboration with CWG and MTN.

Even though a lot has been achieved by leveraging Fintechs for Financial Inclusion, a lot more must be done to tip the scales. According to Sofie Blakstad, chief executive of Hiveonline, “Banks just aren’t set up to understand small businesses.” There is an

Early experimentation with

The rather slow progress in

estimated $2tn gap between SME

Fintechs show that they are able

Fintech uptake on the continent

funding needs and what banks

to provide financial services to

outside of Kenya starkly revealed

will provide.

the bottom of the pyramid in a

the soft underbelly of Financial

cost-effective manner and at scale, by leveraging existing telecoms infrastructure and the proliferation of mobile phones over a technology known as Blockchain. For instance MPESA, one of the pioneer Fintech companies in Kenya has made it possible for a large swathe of the population to gain financial inclusion on a continent where typically 70% of the population is unbanked. MPESA today has

Scenes outside bank branches in Nigeria on the first day after lockdown

31 payments in China, far surpassing

has worked and the pitfalls to

debit and credit cards. Peer-to-

avoid. The huge success of the

Peer (P2P) lenders in China grew

technology entrepreneurial

from 214 to over 3,000 in 2015, and

ecosystem in Silicon Valley

P2P loans increased 28-fold from

is largely due to such deep

30b yuan in 2014 to 850b yuan in

mentorship regime. This is the

2016. This shows what is possible in

model that the Ausso Leadership


Academy is replicating in our environment. The need

Jack Ma, Founder of Alibaba and Austin Okere

China is the undisputed World leader in Fintech For years, emerging economies have looked up to developed countries for ideas about how to manage their financial systems. When it comes to Fintech though, the rest of the world will be studying the experience of the emerging markets, especially China. By just about any measure of size, China is the world’s leader in Fintech. It is by far the biggest market for digital payments, accounting for half of the global market, according to the Economist Magazine. A ranking of the world’s most innovative Fintech firms gave Chinese companies four of the five top slots in 2016. The largest Chinese Fintech company, Ant Financial, and affiliate of the Alibaba Group, has been valued at about $60b, at par with UBS which is Switzerland’s biggest bank. Today, digital payments account for nearly two-thirds of non-cash

The Ausso Leadership Academy (ALA) has been running for the past couple of years now, how does it help to make an impact on the financial technology sector? The Ausso Leadership Academy was set up to mentor entrepreneurs and business leaders to optimize the jobs they create to enable shared prosperity, through institutionalizing and scaling their businesses geometrically. The goal is to create an Expanding Oasis of Outstanding Businesses through impacting at least 200 Entrepreneurs each year. There is a huge leadership gap between the visionary entrepreneur cadre and the next management layer required for the journey of sustainable business in Africa. The Ausso Leadership Academy fills this huge vacuum by making practical and democratizing entrepreneurial and business mentorship through experiential skill transfer, emphasizing what

for resourcefulness and an innovative mindset to reinvent oneself when disruption knocks is a key skill every business needs to survive present market realities. A lot of the Delegates to the Ausso Leadership Academy are from the Financial Sector including Companies seeking to test out innovative ideas in the fledging Fintech sector. The Ausso Leadership Academy has had remarkable success in the past two years with over 65 “Champions of Business” with proven track record, sharing experiences and mentoring over 150 Business Leaders and Entrepreneurs across 15 Local and International MNCs and 54 Entrepreneurial Businesses.


What are your thoughts on the current digital banking environment and suggestions for improvement? Regulatory gaps and security concerns Security has been a major concern in the Fintech space. Last week Wirecard, a German Fintech company disclosed that some of its cash was missing, eventually admitting “that there is a prevailing likelihood that the bank trust account balances in the amount of 1.9 billion EUR do not exist.” Wirecard announced on June 22, 2020 that they would file for insolvency. Freelancers around the world are unable to access their money from their prepaid Payoneer card. Despite the security challenges, Regulators cannot wish away the coming disruption by Fintechs and so have to find proactive ways in which to remain relevant in policing the sector. The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) is finally wading in to create a form of oversight by releasing a draft framework for regulatory sandbox operations aimed at controlling innovation in the Fintech sector. The new sandbox will contain a formal process for firms and startups to conduct live tests of all-new, innovative products, services, delivery channels or business models. With the new system,

all fintech innovation will have to go through a controlled environment with regulatory oversight, subject to appropriate conditions and safeguards set by the CBN. The sandbox application process is open to both existing CBN licensees such as financial institutions and other companies, including technology and telecom companies intending to test innovative payments products they want to be licensed. The

Where do you see the future of digital banking in Africa? Austin’s Five Forces Model and the future of Banking In the face of the fierce challenge facing banks, I developed a model for analyzing the future of banking called the Austin’s Five Forces Model. There are indeed five major forces at play here:

regulatory body claims that

The Austin’s five forces model

the new framework will reduce

provides an experiential way to

time-to-market for innovative

analyze the future of banking (as

products, services, and business

against banks)

models. However, with the CBN having full control over

The banks: traditional and

innovation in the sector, there is a

established, best with cash and

palpable concern that innovation

ancillary instruments

could be stifled. It may seem however, that this an acceptable trade-off to ensure security and peace of mind for customers.

Fintechs: the new kid on the block, disrupter, mostly telecom roots, best with digital currencies and mobile services

33 Regulators: Central Banks, regulating traditional banks; and Communication Commissions, responsible for telecoms regulation Currencies : traditional, such as cash and cheques; or Digital, including Bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies Customers, and the weight of their new-found voice. Typically, they clamour for whatever will give them convenience, security and lower costs. Customers are the most significant force, represented

of financial transactions such

to the those who get paid in cash,

by the outermost sector of the

as notes & coins, cheques etc.

don’t have a bank account or

concentric circles. As they tend

then the current status quo will

debit card, and who don’t use

more towards a preference for

remain. The face of banking will

credit cards.

digital currencies, the Fintechs

thus be more of the same, and

will tend to assume a more

the regulatory authority will

prominent role in the new face

continue to be Central Banks.

of banking, and the Regulatory

Between these two positions is

regime will inadvertently tend

a wide spectrum, depending on

towards the Communication

the appetite and preferences

Commissions under whose

of customers, and the pace at

purview the Fintechs fall. This

which they are willing to embrace

will introduce a regulatory


imbroglio, as future ‘Huge Banks’ may fall outside the regulatory ambit of Central Banks as seems to be the case with MPESA. Safaricom, the telecoms promoter of MPESA ironically falls under the regulation of the Communications Authority of Kenya rather than the Kenyan Central Bank. If the customers, however, maintain a strong appetite for traditional instruments

Google is also rolling out a new integration on mobile called Google Tez, which allows audio QR Codes and thus opens the door for more basic phones other than smartphones. Users of the Gmail app on Android will be able to send or request money with anyone, including those who don’t have a Gmail address,

Will Retailers jumping into Financial Services help Financial Inclusion? Fintechs are not the only ones challenging traditional banks for turf. Retailers are also jumping into the financial services fray. For instance, Amazon has launched Amazon Cash, a way to shop its site without a bank card. This product is meant to appeal

with just a tap. Facebook has also launched WhatsApp Banking. Considering that WhatsApp reaches more than 1.5 billion people in over 180 countries, this could transcend many regulatory jurisdictions in one fell swoop. Unfortunately for Facebook, Brazil’s Central Bank and antitrust regulator suspended her WhatsApp messenger payment features in the country, the app’s

34 second-biggest market with more than 120 million users; ostensibly to preserve an adequate competitive environment. Bank authorities requested that Mastercard Inc. and Visa Inc. stop payment and money transfer activities through the app. This headwind has considerably reduced the pace of advancement in the Fintech community.

The future of Fintechs The future of Fintech seems bright. Accenture recently released a report which found that investment in Fintech around the world has increased dramatically from $930 million in 2008 to more than $12 billion by early 2015. Fintechs employ Artificial Intelligence, Big Data and Machine Learning to glean the credit habits of customers from their mobile usage, and so have mitigated against the risk of default. The homepage of LendingClub (NYSE: LC) advertises personal loans of up to $40,000. You can “apply online in minutes” and “get funded in as little as a few days,”. Another prominent Fintech lender Funding Circle claims that small businesses can get loans from between $25,000 and $500,000 in as little as 10 days. These innovative services seek to fill important niches in credit markets. They enable people who have historically been shunned by banks to get loans in order to expand their businesses. Fintechs are now getting a lot of support from Governments,

believing that Fintech firms are

The changes coming with Fintech

small enough for any problems

and the underlining Blockchain

to be manageable, and on the

technology will be as large as the

other hand, might produce useful

original invention of the internet.

innovation. The intention is

Who would have imagined a

to lower market entry barriers

decade ago that e-commerce,

for fintech companies. For

championed by Amazon and

instance, France’s Central Bank

Alibaba will be displacing high

has announced opening up a

street retailers, or that ride-

new innovation lab, aiming to

hailing will be dominated by

collaborate with blockchain

UBER, a technology platform?

startups. In December 2015,

The corona virus pandemic has

Nasdaq executed its first trade

made the question of Financial

on a blockchain, through its

Inclusion a more pressing

Linq ledger. The exchange said

imperative, and Fintech seems to be

blockchain promises to expedite

our best shot at it.

trade clearing and settlement, reducing all the steps needed to transfer the asset from seller to buyer including recording the transaction from three days to as little as 10 minutes. That’s because the trades remove many manual processes and bypass third parties. As such, “settlement risk exposure can be reduced by over 99%, dramatically lowering capital costs and systemic risk,”. Other stock exchanges tinkering with blockchain include Australia, Germany, Japan, Korea, London, Toronto and Myanmar.

Austin Okere is the Founder of CWG Plc, the largest security in the technology sector of the Nigerian Stock Exchange, and Entrepreneur-in-Residence at CBS, New York. Austin also serves on the Advisory Board of the Global Business School Network, and on the World Economic Forum Global Agenda Council on Innovation and Intrapreneurship. Austin, a NonExecutive Director of Globus Bank now runs the Ausso Leadership Academy focused on Business and Entrepreneurial Mentorship


Covid-19 Are Rwandan Banks Ready As The Country Moves Swiftly Towards A Cashless Society? Over the past couple of years, a lot of

Who Won’t Be Carried

Rwandan banks have had to alter the way


they do business so they can keep up with

Right now, Rwanda’s younger

the pressures from mobile operators and the

generation, the affluent, and tech-savvy are leading the uptake

ever-changing demands of their customers.

of cashless systems. Also, a lot of

The advent of Covid-19 has led to

encouraging their customers to

governments in many countries enforcing lockdowns which have made it even more

service providers are increasingly use digital channels more often. Some banks have invested resources in customer education.

difficult to access cash. However, as things

Sensitising the customer on how

have taken a different turn, Rwandan banks

securely. However, a lot still needs

to use banking technologies

now need to move faster towards aligning

to be done to help small business

with the rest of the world is going cashless,

payments in cash because they

but are they ready?

convoluted, unreliable, and a

Indeed, as a safety strategy resulting from

owners who still prefer to accept find the new payment terminals costlier way of doing business in low-profit margin areas.

the fears of catching the virus by touching

Most customers prefer the ‘cash

infected surfaces, most local banks in Rwanda

on delivery’ option as they get to

have been making intensive efforts targeted at

or service but the seller bears the

pay only after receiving a product

encouraging their customers to go cashless. Is

risk in these types of transactions

this the end of cash as we know it?

electronic payment options.

and would be better served by


Ideally, a cashless society does not give room for errors. Banks have to ensure that their systems are resilient enough to handle new technologies and upgrades as well as secure their channels against fraudsters.

viable to cater to a cashless one.

customers won’t forget in a hurry.

The irony.

So, there is a bit of scepticism

With cashless systems, banks no longer need to store and distribute cash. This lessens the need for ATMs and physical branches. That saves money. Also, transactions can be carried out faster and at a reduced cost too, with fewer employees to handle them and

In general, businesses selling products or services at a fairly low cost, such as motorcyclists, mini-

Cash With The Current

which have been discovered to be


the elderly.


Ultimately, there are fears that

There have been

numerous groups in the society especially customers with learning disabilities, the less well-off who keep tabs of their spending by using a cash budget, customers who can’t make purchases on their own, and those who live in remote areas where the internet is less reliable.

Banks Now Know Why E-Payments Is the Way to Go The current banking infrastructure was built to handle a high cash society but is no longer

look of things, not every customer is ready for the transition to cashless systems.

to ensure that their systems are

that allow cashless payments

is bound to negatively affect

the technology fails. From the

give room for errors. Banks have

Move Away From

removing cash from circulation

banking system, especially when


and a lot of others are more likely

suitable for most customers and

enough to drive a cashless

Ideally, a cashless society does not

Can We Completely

POS (Point of Sale) terminals

banking infrastructure is robust

fewer mistakes. That again saves

markets, fast food vendors, cabs, to reap the benefits of installing

about whether the existing

resilient enough to handle new technologies and upgrades as well as secure their channels against fraudsters.

Priming for Digital Banking


Mobile operators


have an extensive

failures in several

network of resellers

banks over the last couple of years which the affected

which they have managed to increase significantly over a couple of years. A sign of

38 success. However, it’s been a

skills and technical know-how of

Financial services providers

different story with the traditional

the FinTech company.

should assess their physical

banks. Their efforts have largely been unsuccessful, with studies revealing extremely high rates of failure – close to 84% – of their digitalisation projects. The reasons for these failures are many-fold, ranging from intricacies of their current IT systems and infrastructure to a lack of expertise to run digitalisation projects, as well as bank workers slowing down the progress of digitalisation drives due to the fear that they may lose their jobs if the industry goes fully digital.

locations to make sure that

There’s Still A Lot to Be Done

managed to record successes is by partnering with FinTech companies that are more adept and technically skilled than they are. The result is a blend of brand name, experience, trust, and

Even though the requisite infrastructure for cashless systems is now ready, banks need to make sure their systems are secure and robust enough to handle the extra volumes of digital payments that will be coming their way. For each bank, there has to be a concerted effort to train and educate people in the society they can be carried along. This is necessary because there is now a plethora of viable options to traditional card payments as an alternative to cash payments. These are digital wallets, open banking, payments made within

reputation of the bank with the

Even though the requisite infrastructure for cashless systems is now ready, banks need to make sure their systems are secure and robust enough to handle the extra volumes of digital payments that will be coming their way.

open still have an effective way of contributing to their host

who are reliant on cash so that

The only way some banks have

branches that have been kept

apps, internet banking, and mobile banking.

communities. Also bank staffs need to lay less emphasis on processing and focus more on human interactions that are most important to a banking relationship. The Heads of Digital & Technology along with the Customer Experience Officers of banks should be charged with channelling the focus of the banks in the right direction. Definitely, open banking together with instant payments has strong benefits over card transactions. Merchants who decide to opt-in to this service will without a doubt feel these benefits. However, Technology & Digital officers in banks need to be aware that in a situation where there is no Plan B, Plan A is all they’ve got, and they need to make it work.

Digital Banking Nigerian Banks Want a Piece of the Action As part of a strategy to attract new customers, Nigeria’s traditional banks roll out a variety of products to announce their incursion into the world of digital banking

Over the last couple of years, an increasing number

Recently, some traditional banks in Nigeria

businesses. Now they want a slice of the pie and

announced that they will be competing with their

online banks are getting jittery about the prospects

e-banking counterparts with the launch of a

of losing out to physical banks because the latter has

range of digital banking services.

bigger financial muscle and more experience.

of Nigerians have embraced digital banking because of the higher fees charged at traditional banks. Customers in the smaller cities have also been keen on taking up online banking because it provides stress-free access to financial services. Previously, traditional banking institutions in Nigeria had stood by and watched as online financial institutions built successful and profitable


A bit of Context

in the Nigerian market. The

mobile phone, 9 out of 10 people

founder of Carbon plan to

in the East African country have a

The capacity of Nigerians to save

“become a pan-African digital

mobile money account. And 27%

has been impeded by a rise in

bank”. Their forays have driven

have taken an online loan.

inflation and one of the worst

them into the Kenyan market.

recessions that the country has ever faced, and which it has been slow to come out of. This has given rise to the launch of some FinTechs to encourage young Nigerians to embrace a culture of saving and investing. The strategy from Nigeria’s digital banks was to target semi-urban and rural customers in places where traditional banks had little or no presence.

Tagged the ‘golden age of FinTech’, the digital banking craze has gotten to the whole of Africa in a frenzy. Indeed, in sub-Saharan Africa, digital banking services like mobile money had grown to 43% in 2017 from 23% in 2011. Kenya has been the leader of this digital banking revolution. With more than 60% of Kenyans owning a

Customers were encouraged to receive or withdraw funds through their digital platforms. To chronicle the chain of events;

The capacity of Nigerians to save has been impeded by a rise in inflation and one of the worst recessions that the country has ever faced,

as PiggyBank) started offering

and which it has been slow

financial education and

to come out of. This has

banking services to clients in

given rise to the launch of

2016. While CowryWise, in

some FinTechs to encourage

2017, began offering a range

young Nigerians to embrace

of services such as digital

a culture of saving and

savings, wealth management,


By 2019, a digital-only bank known as Kuda Bank entered the fray, offering free debit cards, cheap inter-bank transfers, and a pledge to always provide improved customer service. With Kuda, you can make 25 free bank transfers each month. Carbon is another digital bank that has done great things

Brick-and mortar banks are fighting back, with some observers having the belief that the digital-only banks can only come out second-best when the gloves really come off. In 2017, Wema Bank launched ALAT in Nigeria. It is Africa’s first fully digital bank. Also, Sterling bank has introduced a new digital-only banking platform

PiggyVest (previously known

and investments.

The Counter

known as GoMoney. Standard Chartered Bank also has a new offering, a digital bank targeted at the youth market. The

42 bank is dangling several carrots;

According to a brand engagement

unlimited free bank transfers and

strategist at Cowrywise,

Zero fees on ATM withdrawals.

Ajetomobi Feranmi: “At

According to Mide Akinduko, a Nigerian student, “Standard Chartered Bank comes with years of experience and a global reputation and it can easily kick Kuda out of the market.” However, no matter how hard the traditional banks try, they are still a bit short of offering benefits close to what their digital banking counterparts are offering. Mutual funds and loans were not available from my bank the way they were available in other apps like Carbon and Cowrywise,” says Akinduko. However, experts still believe that at the end of the day, cash and brick-and-mortar banking institutions will remain the leaders in Nigeria. Oluwaseun Oyajumo, an investment and venture analyst, explains; “People unfairly assumed that low transfer fees were the main value proposition of these fintech platforms, however, some have had higher charges than the banks. Their main value is in their nimble approach and ease of use.” A few of the digital banks have welcomed the competition, saying it can only help everyone improve.

Final Thoughts

Cowrywise, we decided to work

The advent of digital

beyond trying to own a market,

banking and the rise of

to become the underlying

e-banks mean traditional

technology for old legacy financial

banks have no other choice

institutions to meet with the new

but to deliver improved

younger demographic.”

services at a reduced cost to

A lot of consumers have nothing but praise for digital-only FinTechs and the way they have addressed their apprehensions at a time of tough regulations. In my opinion, the FinTech startups have done a lot about the distribution of their products and easing customer pains in the past few years of existence. Their main obstacle to doing more has been relatively onerous regulations,” said Oyajumo. However, it’s highly likely that Nigeria’s smaller e-banks will be consumed by the traditional banks. Oyajumo says:

It’s inevitable that

some of these startups will get acquired in the next 5 years as the banks rather than organically build innovation, buys them to acquire a new demographic of customers and technical and business innovation at the same time.”

consumers. Only time will tell if some of the fledgling e-banks will end up in the bellies of their bigger rivals. However, as we already know; when a bigger elephant and a smaller elephant fight, there can only be one winner; the customer.


Evolution of

African Finance

Digital Banking is the new trend across Africa as Financial Institutions compete for the Continent’s Young and Tech-Savvy Financial institutions in Africa

to some much-needed confidence

profitability. Africa gives us the

are evolving at a very fast pace

within the industry. While

opportunity to help address

with the expansion of digital

speaking about Africa’s move

some of the continent’s historic

banking platforms targeted at

toward digital banking, CEO of

economic challenges while also

the growing population of smart

EQIBank, Jason Blick, said “Africa

driving expansion in our digital-

and tech-savvy youths. With

is benefiting from an unexpected

banking products and services.”

services such as digital wallets,

advantage: its historically

EQIBank is a global digital-only

branchless banking, and financial

modest telco infrastructure”. He

bank serving both private and

transactions on mobile gadgets,

continued, “It’s a perfect storm of

corporate clients.

customers of these institutions are

opportunity for forward-thinking

enjoying a transformation never

digital banks, many of whom see

seen before on the continent. For financial analysts, bankers, and other experts, this has led

Africa as the world’s No. 2 banking market in terms of growth and

The increasing acceptance of digital banking platforms across the industry is all-encompassing with digital startups and existing banks all jostling for space. For instance, one institution that is making its way through the digital transformation is Standard Chartered Bank which launched its first fully digital bank in Côte d’Ivoire in 2018, according to Jaydeep Gupta, Chartered Bank’s Africa and Middle East head of Retail Banking. This year, the bank has rolled out more digital-only banks across

45 Africa covering


Investing in Youth


According to McKinsey,



the main business driver

digital models

Chijioke Dozie, CEO and co-


across these digital

consist of

founder of the Lagos-based


banking platforms is

fintechs, start-

financial services company,

Ghana, Zambia,

a plan to reduce costs

ups, and Telcos

Carbon, affirms that South

and Kenya. And

through the use of end-

trying to make

there’s more to

to-end automation and

it into banking,


getting rid of branches.

according to strategy

Gupta said; “We


will launch the digital bank in Nigeria” before year-end, says Gupta, “and we are keen to maintain our momentum and expand across the region with the digital-bank solution where it is needed most.” The mobile application from Standard Chartered allows customers access to a range of banking solutions without needing to visit a physical branch. “Demand for digital banking services is coming directly from consumers,” says Gupta, “particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, because of a high mobile penetration and a digitally savvy, young population” who are hungry for digital experiences across sectors. Another institution, WEMA Bank, a 75-year-old Nigerian bank, launched Nigeria’s first fully digital bank in 2018, offering branchless customer service. Ecobank, another front-runner, has successfully rolled out its digital banking platform known as Xpress, a platform that garnered 3 million customers all over Africa within six months.

McKinsey. These include South Africabased banks Tyme Bank and Bank Zero. Patrick Motsepe’s African Rainbow Capital controls Tyme Bank which became the first fully digital bank in South Africa after

Africa, Kenya, and Nigeria have remarkably high prospects for digital banking, especially among the youth. According to Dozie, “Many people under 30 have largely been underserved by the traditional banking system. For many of these consumers, financial inclusion is about having access to the necessary advisory and business management services to

launching branchless operations

enable their businesses to thrive

in August. It runs mobile and

and expand anywhere. Africa is

online platforms in addition

a mobile-first market—and in

to kiosks inside retail outlets

some cases mobile-only—and

like Boxer stores and Pick n Pay

most people are used to accessing

supermarkets, which provide

a wide range of services primarily

a kind of physical presence to

via their mobile phones. Adding

customers. To open an account,

banking to this range of services

customers need an ID number

will not be too much of a

and a South African mobile-


network number that will prompt some additional questions and confirmations. According to McKinsey, the main business driver across these digital banking platforms is a plan to reduce costs through the use of end-to-end automation and getting rid of branches. The strategy experts also point to “increased cross-sell through advanced analytics to identify relevant offerings for customers that they can purchase directly on digital channels” as a significant business driver.

As well as extensive smartphone use, sub-Saharan Africa is a key market for mobile money. In 2018, the region recorded a 14% yearly growth of registered mobile wallets to 396 million, according to GSMA, a trade group. Telecoms companies are seizing the opportunity to launch digital banking services in places like Nigeria, Tanzania, Zimbabwe, and Kenya, either in collaboration with banks or as part of mobile money solutions connected to banks and available through mobile phones.

46 McKinsey reports that more than 40% of banking users in Africa prefer digital channels for their financial requirements. The preference is stronger at Standard Chartered Bank,

Despite facing limitations such as regulatory holdbacks, high data costs, and the dearth of skilled technologists to drive the deployment of the platforms, digital banks will introduce the much-needed competition into banking in Africa, and this

its sister bank,

competition, and data privacy

for a lot of

issues. However, the World Bank

support with

warns that a lot still needs to be

both banks


having left the aegis of Econet Wireless, the mobile

Despite facing limitations such as regulatory holdbacks, high data costs, and the dearth of

telecoms giant.

skilled technologists to drive the

Kumire, a market research


digital banks will introduce the

analyst at 11:FS, a fintech

warns that

much-needed competition into


despite the

banking in Africa, and this should

early success

help cut fees, says Joanne Kumire,

recorded with

a market research analyst at 11:FS,

should help cut fees, says Joanne

where about 96% of its digital banking customers “prefer to transact outside the physical branch network.” Standard Chartered’s elite customers follow the same trend. “Today, half of our Priority Banking clients use our digital channels, and close to 40% of our Private Banking clients use their mobiles to manage their banking needs,” says Gupta. “We fully expect these numbers to grow as we continue to introduce new features to bring greater ease and convenience for our clients.

digital-only banking platforms, some countries are more open to change than others. For instance, some North African countries like Morocco and Tunisia, with deeprooted banking infrastructure, might not be as ambitious for branchless services as lowbanking-penetration countries

registered users.”

by regulations that are better and

local currency. This is done in collaboration with moneytransfer partners like Western Union. EcoCash also offers crossdigital financial services such as payments, microloans, and transfers with Steward Bank and other partner banks. EcoCash has relied heavily on Steward Bank,

creating an enabling legal and regulatory environment, many developing economies, including in the Africa region, can play an active role in facilitating digital

financial infrastructure that

innovations can only be increased

remittances are converted into

spokesperson, “In addition to

Creating the Perfect Environment

Africa are serving over 85,000 new

provides a service where diaspora

According to a World Bank

financial services by supporting

Confidence in financial

platform – EcoCash, now

a fintech consultancy.

such as Egypt.

Additionally, our digital banks in

Zimbabwe’s mobile money

deployment of the platforms,

more consistent. According to a World Bank report, governments in sub-Saharan African countries have started to develop regulatory policies in response to the advances in digital banking and financial services. They are fine-tuning current legal and regulatory frameworks to tackle challenges relating to Anti-Money Laundering and Combating the Financing of Terrorism methods, consumer protection,

the development of critical would support the interoperability of payment instruments or integration of digital data into credit reporting systems.” Unlocking the prospects of digital banking in Africa depends largely on how solutions and platforms are tailored to suit the local markets and their specific features, especially incessant power outages. However, the fastpaced adoption of these services so far suggests that there is a high level of bullishness that the industry will maintain its current momentum.

Examining the Impact of

Digital Banking on Financial Inclusion in Africa Even though 800 million people in the sub-

Africa’s young population, the

Saharan region of Africa don’t have access to

users, and the dearth of access to

mobile internet, mobile money solutions from

large numbers of smartphone commercial banking services has created a situation that favours

mainstream banks have recorded successes

the rapid growth of digital

in African countries with large populations of

Saharan region of the continent.

the unbanked, prompting a shift towards the growth of digital banking Africa strategies across the continent.

banking solutions across the Sub-

In a bid to take advantage of existing telecoms infrastructure, Africa’s banking industry has decided to go mobile-first, and this seems to be a smart move as


Mobile Money Pioneers

mobile broadband networks serve

For Standard Chartered, the

over 70 percent of the population,

British Multinational bank, the

indicating a great chance of

latest trend is a result of a retail

A paper on banking in sub-

success for digital banking Africa.

banking sector, which, in trying to

Saharan Africa by the European

respond to low levels of banking

Investment Bank reports that by

uptake and significant reliance on

2014, 11 percent of sub-Saharan

cash in sub-Saharan Africa, has

Africans had mobile money

come up with innovative business

accounts – the highest globally.


This had grown to 21 percent of

Besides, because digital accounts can bring down transaction costs by close to 90 percent, financial institutions could be raking in huge profits while maintaining low expenses for customers. According to Thairu Ndungu, Consolidated Bank of Ghana’s Deputy Managing Director, the biggest drivers of digital banking are the young and tech-savvy, who prefer to check their bank balance on a smartphone rather than visit a bank branch or ATM hundreds of miles away, especially in the rural areas. Ndungu, speaking in The Hague while attending the Temenos Community Forum 2019 said: “The biggest opportunity [for digital banking] is the young demography across Africa, People between the age of 20 to 35, who are very technologically conscious, are looking at ways of

All the same, this drive for digital transformation does not signal a

The ‘mobile money’ payment

halt to investing in the physical

system is quite popular in sub-

infrastructure of banks, what it

Saharan Africa. It involves the

means is that the strategy has

use of a mobile device to send,

changed from an operations-

receive, spend, and store money

based one to a customer-centric

without recourse to the banks

strategy. Reaching clients

or needing to open an account.

more extensively and serving

The service is also useful for the

them practical products takes

payment of products and services

precedence over every day

at restaurants and shops in a way


that’s fast and secure.

In an interview with CIO Africa,

Mobile money is a handy and low-

Michael Gorriz, Standard

cost solution in less-developed or

Chartered Bank’s Group Chief

rural areas, where the customary

Information Officer, said “A

banking and financial services are

digital delivery model can bring

non-existent, and not viable for

affordable banking to many more

small businesses and low-income

people than a traditional physical


branches-only model,”

the opportunity to attract those kind of clients by moving more and more to the digital side of banking.” This new breed of young banking customers expects to have 24/7 access to services, whether it’s sending money to family via international transfer or being able to access Twitter.

In sub-Saharan Africa, the number of mobile money accounts

banking like it’s social media... and as such, banks have now

adults by 2017.

This does not mean we are downplaying the importance of our physical network. Our branches still have a role to play, but it is moving away from being transactions-focused and instead used as a means for us to educate our clients on digital, as well as advising them on more complex wealth and investment matters.

exceeds that of traditional bank accounts, confirming the region as number one in the world when it comes to using mobile money services, according to Chris Skinner, a financial markets commentator. M-Pesa, launched in 2007 by Safaricom, a Kenyan telecommunications company affiliated with Vodafone, is the most popular mobile money

service. M-Pesa (M for mobile and

Uganda, Botswana, Ghana,

sourced to date are also good

‘pesa’ means money in Swahili)

Zimbabwe, and Kenya, have

indicators that our digital

is a phone-based payment service

access to more than 70 banking

proposition is truly meeting

where users can convert messages

services, including account

the needs of the customers,”

into cash at authorised agents and

opening, without going to a

explained Gorriz, “71 percent of

shops across the country.

physical bank.

our clients are under the age of 35;

Currently, about three-quarters

Analysts and economists at

of Kenya’s adult population (22

the BMCE Bank of Africa and

million people) are using M-Pesa

the Institute of Africa agree on

and the company has extended its

the advancement of digitalised

services to other African, Eastern

services for the deposit,

European, and Asian markets.

withdrawal, and transfer of

Digital banking Africa may

money as well as applying

present an opportunity for

for loans, as being vital to

financial institutions to

overcoming the challenges of

attract rural and underbanked

financial inclusion in West and

populations. If the digitalisation

Central Africa. Two regions with

of banking services can maintain

high levels of mobile penetration

its current momentum in sub-

Go Digital or Face Extinction: Banks Urged to Adopt Digital Banking Africa Solutions to Remain Relevant In the African Market

institutions, after seeing the unparalled demands for mobile money services, have decided to take a chance on digital banking solutions to

are conducted outside of our branches; the accounts are also highly transactional with usage of up to four times a week.”

that will likely

Saharan Africa, the continent’s

ease the adoption

countries with the lowest banking

Currently, about three-

of digital banking

penetration levels will possibly

quarters of Kenya’s


enjoy a better-quality and all-

Traditional banks and financial

96 percent of their transactions

adult population (22 million people) are


using M-Pesa and the


company has extended

of the clients

its services to other African, Eastern European, and Asian markets.

avoid going extinct in the market. Earlier in the year, Standard Chartered launched the second stage of its digital-only retail bank in key African markets resulting from the success of the first phase in Côte d’Ivoire (CDI) in 2018. Now, Standard Chartered Bank customers in Tanzania, Zambia,

encompassing access to banking services, promoting financial inclusion within these markets.


How Covid-19 is


Digital Finance Before Covid-19, digital finance was already changing at a fast pace. And since the start of the crisis, there has been an increase in government financial interventions and this is expected to continue post-the-pandemic. A changing attitude towards data is also expected to have a big effect on finance.

Over the past couple of months, Covid-19 has had a big impact on the global economy, and in turn digital finance. These are what to expect at the end of the crisis.

Changing attitudes towards Data Data debates have always been about issues of privacy and if people are happy with using their data for platform services. Now, the discourse is changing. Various European governments are presently looking at the possibility of tracking health, location, and other personal data for monitoring, control, and personalised health advice on Covid-19. There are other instances where data sharing could be beneficial during a lockdown. Serious liquidity issues

arising from the lockdown have shown the need for quick credit checks. Therefore, platform data may prove to be valuable where financial data is not readily available. Considering the challenges we’re facing, extensive data sharing may be the norm for now, even though data protection and usage are vital ultimately. It is also possible that, after the pandemic, people may see data in a new light by reconsidering its value, the likely benefits of sharing it, and the need to protect us all from data abuse. This may give rise to new business models, for instance, data guardians (a role banks are clearly in a great position to carry out). The acceleration of the creation of legal standards to regulate data sharing and protection is another likely outcome.

Cybersecurity As more people work from home, there is an increased reliance on national and corporate network infrastructures. With a lot of resources reassigned to get things moving, businesses, and the health care sector, are at growing risks of cyber-security incidents like data leaks and ransomeware attacks, as well as the spread of fake news. Maybe it is all about creating security gaps that can be exploited later, but to guard against this threat, it is expected that cybersecurity will move to the top of the agenda for policymakers. And as this is a borderless crime, at the international level is where it’s best to fight it. The EU might set up an agency at its own level but the cooperation won’t be as deep

53 as what we have in finance and the markets.

Inequality and Financial Inclusion in Focus The pandemic has revealed the disparity in society. Digital financial institutions will probably be asked to strengthen their drive towards financial inclusion by making it easier for temporary workers, the self-employed, as well as SMEs (Small and Medium-sized Enterprises), to access financial products. Limited availability of financial data coupled with the huge costs of processing them contributes to delaying access for these groups. Supplementing financial data with an array of non-financial data sources could be a solution to this problem.

Less Foreign Dependence Covid-19 has shown how fragile governments can be, so both the authorities and businesses will be looking for less cumbersome cross-border supply lines and reduced foreign dependencies. However, with governments now realising the importance of highquality telecoms infrastructure to enable workers to work from home, countries like China; leaders in the required 5G technology, will know they are in a good position to negotiate. Finance is now a complex crossborder business with connections ranging from financial ties to supervision and IT outsourcing. Authorities were already studying

these connections, which may yet come under intense scrutiny postCovid-19. Whether bigtech will continue to play a role in finance remains unclear with Europe’s growing criticism of bigtech before the pandemic. However, one thing is clear; Europe’s realisation that major digital platforms have become an integral part of daily life especially in this period of lockdowns.

More government involvement To a certain degree, the involvement of government in the economy, as well as the financial sector, will most likely continue. With changes in the geopolitical scene before Covid-19, policymakers were already coming to terms with the strategic role of essential domestic infrastructures such as payments and communications. And since the European Commission has already identified data as a strategic priority, governments are finally waking up to the importance of data. In finance, governments have once again solidified their roles with the setting up of large guarantee schemes to help businesses survive the crisis. The reality is, it will take a long time for governments to start reducing their levels of intervention in finance and the economy at large. And this will probably bring back the debates about the division of labour in finance with regards to private and public sectors, once this crisis ends.

Faster adoption in Retail The retail sector is expected to adopt digital finance technologies at a fast pace after the pandemic. Many people have been left with no other option but to become used to doing business digitally, for instance, through video conferencing and using contactless modes of payment. There is an expectation of rapid acceptance of identity verification via video calls which might be a boost for digital-only financial institutions, and probably be the death knell for brick-and-mortar financial institutions.

Final Thoughts We have to be proactive in thought and our actions. The coronavirus pandemic is a massive shock that caught us all napping. However, we’ve started to notice a change in the way we collaborate; the public and private sector partnership in finance, the changes to worldwide interconnectivity, the importance of improved cybersecurity collaboration, fast-paced digitisation, better focus on financial inclusion, and a change in the way we see data. Indeed, policymakers and financial institutions need to start thinking about these all-important factors.


Origins and Growth

Outlook of Digital Banking in Africa While the banking sector is experiencing poor

world’s second-largest banking market in terms

performances and slow growth in most parts of

of development and profitability.

the world, Africa’s banking sector is growing at a fast pace, recording profits double the global average. According to a study conducted by McKinsey consulting and made public in February 2018, Africa is now the

And it’s all thanks to digital technology. McKinsey reports that more Africans now have bank accounts with the numbers increasing from 170 million in 2012 to almost 300 million in 2017, and estimated to reach 450 million within the next five years. On the continental level, revenues are expected to grow from $86 billion to $129 billion between 2017 and 2019. Yet, this performance is not evenly distributed across the different regions and countries within the continent with just five African countries namely Nigeria, Angola, Morocco, South Africa, and Egypt, currently accounting for 68% of the total banking revenues on the continent. This explains the emergence of innovative business models to solve the myriad of challenges bedevilling


Africa’s retail banking sector, especially low level of bank access, weakness of ATMs and branch networks, and the massive dependence on cash. Even though traditional banking services are yet to be extensively adopted by Africans, the continent’s reliance on mobile and digital offerings is on the increase. With 5 branches per 100,000 African residents compared to 13 branches per 100,000 in emerging Asian markets, the rapid growth of digital banking is hardly surprising. Indeed, between 2014 and 2016, the volume of digital banking transactions went up by 13% per annum in Africa, as a result of improved reliability, security, and availability of electronic channels. Africa is now the second-fastest developing market in the world in terms of electronic payments behind the Asia-Pacific region. Besides, using digital channels for banking transactions is now the preferred option for around 40% of Africans.

The Conception of Africa’s Digital Banks Mobile money has grown from transactional operations such as salary payments, cash in and cash out, bank to mobile transfers, and bill payments to advanced financial services consisting of a complete ecosystem such as microfinance and insurance, and aided by a progressively developing digitalisation. Africa had around 346 million registered mobile money accounts in 2018 compared to 120 million bank accounts. Kenya’s Safaricom, a subsidiary of Vodafone, started the digital revolution with the introduction of its mobile banking service known as the M-Pesa System. In a world that was hitherto very poorly banked, with a 5 to 15% banking rate in African countries, except for the Maghreb region and South Africa, mobile telecom companies took advantage of their closeness to customers to make use of mobile terminals, either through the use of basic phones known as ‘Feature phones’ on the USSD protocol or smartphones to provide an array of mobile banking services.

From Competitors to Partners: Mobile Telecommunications Operators and FinTech The autonomous rise of FinTech has caused disruptions to the organised banking market for many years. As new innovative

players, FinTech is subjecting banks to a new type of competition in a market where the competition is already tough. Banks already have mobile telecoms operators and other companies specialising in money transfer and payments to contend with. These competitors now hold a huge market share courtesy of their innovations on mobile payment and mobile money transfer solutions. This leading position is only possible because they created awareness and educated people, particularly those with limited bank access who realise the benefits of dematerialised money compared to the customary bank account. Traditional banks, faced with the latest innovations from operators and new players, and in the backgrounds of a booming market, have to adapt to stay competitive. Consequently, new partnerships have been formed between telecom operators and banks on the one hand, and FinTech on the other, to deliver online/mobile financial services to consumers while profiting from a lower cost than the branch network of the bank.

Digital Banking: The Morocco Angle Many years after the M-Pesa application was rolled out, banking institutions are in the grips of a digital frenzy. They are increasing their investments in hopes of catching up in the areas of online financial services and mobile payments. For instance,

56 in Morocco and its Maghreb neigbours, where the central bank regulations are more stringent, banks have started to realise the importance of digital technology to their continued existence. Recently, in September 2019, Inwi rolled out a mobile payment solution known as ‘inwi money,’ thereby becoming Morocco’s first telecom operator to deliver this kind of solution to the Moroccan public after getting approval from the Moroccan Central Bank; Bank Al-Maghrib to set up the payment institution. Inwi money will allow every mobile phone owner to have a mobile wallet linked to his phone number irrespective of his telecom operator. The customer can then fund his wallet or withdraw money from it using the various points of sale authorised by the telecom operator, or by using other means like a bank transfer.

Digital Banking: Solving Africa’s Problems on Financial Inclusion Sub-Saharan Africa’s high acceptance levels for digital banking solutions have turned the region into a beacon of light for the other regions of the world. In Africa, the limited level of banking coverage along with the proliferation of mobile phones has generated a powerful leverage effect, but in Europe and other developed regions of the world, the market is mature with a high population of banked individuals.

This is coupled with a denser and more qualitative banking system with broad banking networks that do not allow operators to take the place of banks. The expansion of 3G coupled with the rise in the number of people who use smartphones in Africa is opening new vistas and promoting access to banking services.

for banks to scale. The paucity of existing systems in Africa relieves the banks of this burden and allows them to forge ahead with their financial inclusion projects. Deploying digital banking solutions to serve the new population of users is a technological leap of faith. Therefore, digital banking provides an alternative to traditional banking that ensures banks can overcome the deficiencies

When it comes to disruptive innovation, the vastness of the The paucity of existing systems systems in Africa required relieves the banks of is always this burden and allows a difficult them to forge ahead hurdle with their financial inclusion projects.

in banking infrastructures to drive Africa’s financial inclusion project.


Sandboxes and Open Banking:

Solutions to Financial inclusion in Nigeria? Efforts by fintech companies, commercial banks, and the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) have been instrumental to the rising awareness of financial inclusion in Nigeria. Several products, solutions, and regulations have driven this buzz. One of such is the Central Bank of Nigeria making it compulsory for players in the agency banking sector to prioritise banking in rural areas to be awarded operational licences. These places must have had the minimal presence of banks and banking activities. Commercial banks have responded to these affordable and easily accessible products by fintechs, not willing to lose ground in the financial sector, to the delight of customers who are spoilt

for choice. The recent flag-off of fintech sandboxes and open banking initiatives could spell good news for financial inclusion if their objectives are realised. In 2018, the Open Technology Foundation launched Open Banking Nigeria to open up access to financial services via the harmonisation of Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) of Nigerian banks. The launch will integrate all innovations by third party providers to build financial solutions. The development of customised solutions will result from the seamless sharing of customer-permitted data. The first innovation sandbox the financial technology industry has seen in Nigeria was launched

in December 2019 by Financial Services Innovators (FSI) in collaboration with the CBN and the Nigerian Inter-Bank Settlement System (NIBSS). One feature of the launch was a release of the NIBSS’ API in. One of the objectives of this sandbox was to create a safe testing environment for innovative ideas whilst gaining knowledge of industry licences and regulations. Ecobank recently launched a similar product as part of its efforts to foster financial innovation. The pan-African sandbox, which will feature Kenya’s “Africa’s Talking” and Nigeria’s Flutterwave will flag-off in 33 African countries.


Financial Inclusion: A case for its relevance and sustenance.

Investments at Flourish, believes that sandboxes can go a step further from lowering the barrier of entry for fintech companies to saving them a lot in time and According to reports, open cost of developing new products. banking is not expected to He believes that some startups become widely known outside fail because of how much time the financial sector but its work and money goes into developing will benefit the consumer a great and conveying your product to deal. Open banking will allow the market, and ensuring they for seamless connection of a are well received by the market. customer’s bank account with “For example, the know-yourregulated third parties that could customer or KYC process is a build up their credit ratings, offer huge problem for many fintech automatic savings, discounts, and companies in Nigeria. Even other products/services. though the bank verification number exists, to access the data Damola Yusuf, Technology behind the BVN of any customer, Advisory partner with PriceWater I need a licence, Coopers (PwC) but if I’m a in Nigeria and A market survey carried young startup, Adedeji Olowe, out by a fintech in and I’m building Trustee at the a solution that Kenya revealed that if Open Technology requires KYC, I a simple hotline, or an Foundation, and won’t have the innovation office that is the CEO of Trium money to get the readily accessible is set networks suggest licence, and most up by the regulator, this in their study that investor demand could provide solutions sharing of data a startup has to a lot of regulatory and standardised such a licence APIs with third questions that a lot of before putting parties will startups encounter. in funds, but enable financial with a sandbox, institutions startups can to reach access existing APIs of established underserved markets with a wider bodies and reduce the cost and array of products than currently time it will take to purchase a KYC exist. Olowe opines that just as licence” he adds. the establishment of a framework for card payments brought about According to the United Nations, the use of ATMs the world over, studies show that there are the creation of an API standard still some reservations despite for all banks will usher a similar the obvious benefits. A Special revolution in Nigeria. Advocate for Inclusive Finance Ameya Upadhyay, CEO of

and Development to the United Nations Secretary-General,

Her Majesty, Queen Máxima of Netherlands, in a study of over 50 countries (Nigeria included), pointed out that although a sandbox has its merits, one could not ignore the cost and complexity that comes along with their usage. According to the report, sandboxes may not be as invaluable as they have been touted to be and may be insufficient to deepen financial inclusion not to mention the fact that there might be cheaper unexplored alternatives. A market survey carried out by a fintech in Kenya revealed that if a simple hotline, or an innovation office that is readily accessible is set up by the regulator, this could provide solutions to a lot of regulatory questions that a lot of startups encounter. Another report suggests that comparative or risk-based licencing systems and regulations could help reduce the costs fintech startups incur to comply with regulations. The story remains different for fintech startups in Nigeria as they grapple with insufficient financial firepower and the barrier of entry has remained high. Olowe, in his 2020 forecast, predicts that CBN will kickoff open banking. His financial predictions leave us with this question: will the regulators’ catch-up game with innovation work apace with the sandbox to extend the current boundaries of financial inclusion that exist today?


Sierra Leone’s Thumbprint Innovation Means Unbanked Can Now Sign Up For Bank Accounts Other African countries can now look to Sierra Leone’s blockchainbased financial inclusion program for inspiration.

Several African countries with a large base of the unbanked population can look to Sierra Leone for inspiration as their recently launched blockchainbased financial Inclusion program allows citizens to sign up for a bank account with a simple press of their thumbs. The Sierra Leonean government in collaboration with Kiva, a Silicon Valley microloan company introduced the Kiva protocol on Wednesday. The Kiva protocol is a biometric system designed to connect or recognize a person with their thumbprint.

This innovation offers a myriad of benefits; it will help the country generate a comprehensive credit bureau hitherto unimagined, supporters of the program hope that it will encourage reluctant banks to give loans to persons without credit histories, it will likely enable government services to get to those who need it most, it will help mobile operators and start-ups minimize costs and also help several businesses to come into a more formal economy. “From the individual, to the start-up, to the government, to the business…the proof of ID becomes instantaneous, meaning

61 Of the total number of adults in Sierra Leone, only about 20% have Bank accounts which can be linked to their per capita GDP of $500 per year. The government of Sierra Leone appraising the need for financial inclusion has made this a particular item of serious interest as it will likely help citizens climb out of poverty. The current development is not unconnected with Technology; mobile money has brought an innovative system that has changed payments as we have come to know it thereby changing the landscape of business and savings all over Africa.

more access services for Sierra Leoneans” states Sierra Leone’s chief innovation officer, David Sengeh. “This is a great step that a small country is taking” A report from Sierra Leone’s civil registration authority states that about 5.1m persons have registered for the program. Mr. Sengeh, assuring the citizens of the safety of their information indicated that the government helped Kiva to draft the data protection segment of the agreement, ergo, there should be no worries as regards the security of data.

After the government launched a biometric, digital ID system in India, the number of her citizens with a bank account has climbed up to 80%. Several countries are switching to the budding blockchain technology which enables most companies or groups to maintain a stable information base. Facebook plans to create its blockchain network. The proposed blockchain network which was announced in June is aimed at providing free or very low-cost international money transfers through mobile phones for the large number of people who exist without a bank account. Despite the obvious forward strides, certain challenges remain. According to the World Bank, around 1 billion people all over the world – a greater percentage of which can be found in SubSaharan Africa – do not possess primary credentials while a larger number possess inconsistent

or unverifiable means of identification. According to the McKinsey Global Institute, about 3.4billion people possess some form of identification but are impotent to use it in the digital sphere. Less than 50% of children aged 5 or under have their births registered in most of Sub-Saharan Africa. The World Bank also states that the group less likely to have any form of official identification are the poor, the women, refugees, disabled and those living in the rural parts of the countries. “This invisibility has significant implications” for individuals attempting to gain access to services, the World Bank said in a report published the previous week. It went on to say “without a secure and trusted way to prove their identity, people…will often find themselves unable to access critical healthcare and social services, enrol in school, open a bank account, obtain a mobile phone, get a job, vote in an election, or register a business in the formal sector.” Sierra Leone’s government aims to change all of that; Kiva avows that it aims to extend the scheme to other countries with the announcement due to be made later in the year.


Sparkle The New Digital Ecosystem Aimed at Redefining the Lives of Nigerians the World Over Sparkle, a digital ecosystem, was recently launched in Lagos. It aims to offer an allinclusive service to Nigerians in sectors such as lifestyle, financial, and business support.

The Central Bank of Nigeria has granted Sparkle the license it needs to provide banking operations to Nigerians. It promises the opportunity to experience a world driven by data. Its founder is none other than Tech Investor and former Chief Executive Officer of Diamond Bank, Uzoma Dozie. Mr. Dozie has always been involved in conversations about the use of technology in broadening the reach of the financial sector. Before Sparkle, he launched TechFest in 2018 and is the brain behind Tech Turks, his online TV show that spotlights entrepreneurs. Sparkle promises a data-driven platform that offers extensible

payment options and savings which will give its users control of their finances and will complement their lifestyle. With the launch of the mobile app which is available on android and iOS platforms, Sparkle emerges at a very advantageous time in Nigeria with data showing that 79% of the population has access to mobile services. A large part of Nigeria’s closeto-200-million citizens are young, tech-savvy, and very active on social media. Businesses rely on social media to market their products and services to Nigerians, and Sparkle can take advantage of the current state of things with government restrictions on economic activities

63 services rendered, including public utilities. Sending and saving money can be done between sparkle users with or without their local bank accounts. The app comes with a tool called Sparkle stash which will assist users to improve their savings culture. Adhering to the principles of financial inclusion, Sparkle has become a part of Women’s World Banking and will be championing the cause for all people groups in the world’s developing markets. Sparkle is also a member of Open Banking Nigeria in its bid to increase financial inclusion and forge partnerships in the financial services sector. Mr. Dozie had this to say on the day

At Sparkle, the core values are “Sparkle will be transparency, Nigeria. We transformational for freedom, are helping to Nigerians across the simplicity, drive forward globe and I am hugely inclusivity, and the growth of excited to be launching personalisation. Nigeria’s budding it today. Customers entrepreneurs will benefit and individuals. from Sparkle’s Join us to make partnerships with history as we Microsoft, Price enter the future of commerce and Waterhouse Coopers Nigeria, and look towards this exciting phase VISA to revolutionise business and of growth.” put back control in the customers’ own hands. The partnership Sparkle’s users will enjoy a oneaims to provide expert support in account multiple-wallet system. cloud computing, APIs, machine They will be able to monitor learning, data science, as well their spending trends section by as tax and financial advisory section. Sparkle users will enjoy services. a 24-hour support from Indy, Sparkle was launched:

forcing a rapid adoption of digital banking platforms. Mr. Dozie had this to say on the day Sparkle was launched: “Sparkle will be transformational for Nigerians across the globe and I am hugely excited to be launching it today. Sparkle is redefining Nigerian commerce by merging financial services with a seamless lifestyle solution. We are removing barriers using technology and data, driving inclusion at scale. In doing so, we are empowering Nigerians to fulfil their potential, democratizing access to valuable solutions for both business and personal needs. We are working with global partners to unleash freedom, flexibility and transparency in

a chatbot developed for that purpose. Other services include split payments for products and


Standard Bank Improves

Digital Drive with

Cloud Collaborations

The financial services sector

The Journey so far‌.

more established

Founded in 1862, Standard Bank prides itself as a top industry player in South Africa with longstanding interests across Africa. Reports for the first half of 2018 showed active customer strength of 11.8 million across Africa, with over 68% of that number in South Africa alone. As the world gravitates to a more platform-based business model, Standard Bank Group has been taking steps to offer nimble mobile banking solutions that customers can operate by themselves.

players like

2019 was pivotal to the

continues to welcome new entrants, increasing competition for the more traditional banking institutions, including older,

Standard Bank.

digitisation agenda of Standard

Bank. She contracted Amazon Web Services in March, to facilitate migration to the cloud alongside the launch of an AWS Cloud Centre of Excellence. As part of the deal, AWS was going to equip employees with training programmes that came with certification. They went further to revamp corporate functions on the roadmap to digital transformation in its bid to stay ahead of the competition. Signing an accord with Microsoft in April of 2019 expanded their already fruitful relationship, upgrading their finance, treasury, and productivity functions with cloud services. This meant migrating their SAP S/4HANA

65 modules and SAP Enterprise Resource Planning to Microsoft Azure allowing Standard Bank to offer a new and improved customer experience.

customers as much freedom Mr. Dozie had this as they create to say on the day customerSparkle was launched: centred products “Sparkle will be and services. transformational for He stated thus: Nigerians across the “Our extended globe and I am hugely agreement excited to be launching with Salesforce is a major it today. step towards More than a transforming hundred of its the Standard branches were Bank Group shut down as the bank rolled into a client-centred platform out its remote banking strategy, business that delivers a range partnering with iiDENTIFii of individualised, instantly in October of 2019. The tech available solutions, services company, based in CapeTown, and opportunities, enabled by added remote onboarding for modern digital technologies and digital biometric authentication to delivered in whatever way a client the Bank’s list of capabilities. prefers. Our goal is to use our data capabilities to build deeper, better The deal with Salesforce and more enduring relationships with our clients.” In June 2020, Standard Bank “With the Salesforce Customer signed a contract that sees 360 platform, Standard Bank will Salesforce take responsibility be able to build a single source of for running her Digital Platform truth across the entire customer which in effect allows Salesforce journey and respond quickly to to be the oil in the wheels of her changing customer needs” opines operational ecosystem. Existing Gavin Patterson who doubles deals with AWS and Microsoft as Salesforce’s President and Azure were vital on the path to Chief Revenue Officer. He goes signing a deal with the software further to say: “Recent events solutions’ giants. have accelerated the digital CEO of Standard Bank Group, transformation of all aspects of Sim Tshabalala in an interview our society and a digital customer said the deal with Salesforce is strategy is now imperative to the the first of many more to come very survival of a business.” and it shows their resolve to give

One can see that Standard Bank Group has no plans to be left behind in the world of digital banking. By signing this agreement, they have bolstered their switch from a primarily offline-focused business model to a digitally run platform. Clientele can be assured of a more customer-centred approach based on data that will deliver products and services that will transform the business ecosystem. Tshabalala had this to say: “In order to defend our markets and to grow new ones, we have to become a platform provider. And to do that, we have partnered with Salesforce, and also with Microsoft and AWS.” “We don’t want to be the shop; we want to be the mall. We want to provide both our own services and the services of our partners in the Standard Bank Group ecosystem.” Upgrading to cloud services has saved Standard Bank Group millions in the cost of product creation and dissemination, and with this changeover to a platform-based business model, the bank stays ahead of the competition, moving into the future of financial services whilst maintaining a long, rich history of driving business growth in Africa. Clients can now come on board the platform and create products and services that suit their businesses.


A Look at the Four African Cities Evolving As Fintech Hubs Africa continues to take giant strides towards the pinnacle of development where most of the advanced countries have already pitched their tents. This advancement does not exclude the wider tech community and Fintech. In several articles ranking cities noted to be on the growth path, emergent cities, including those from Africa, are beginning to stand up and demand notice. The economic benefits of growing Africa’s Fintech ecosystem cannot be overemphasised because growth in the Fintech sector will cause an avalanche of innovations to sweep through the continent, not only that, it will also encourage home-grown talent and promote intellectual property.

According to the estimates of several reputable platforms, Africa remains home to the biggest population of unbanked and underbanked people. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) concurs with this assessment whilst asserting that Africa’s informal economy is one of the largest in the world. This landscape presents Fintech start-ups and Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) with the perfect platform to key in and utilise this reservoir of underbanked and unbanked citizens. The statistics emerging out of Africa in 2018 showed that Africa amassed more than $1 billion in Venture Capital funding for start-ups and much of the capital and deal-flow from this funding went to Fintech.

67 The megacity has several startup incubators like LeadPath, Passion incubator, Co-creation, and Wennovation Hub domiciled within her borders thus proving its readiness to help Fintech flourish in all aspects.

Below are four of the emergent Fintech hubs in Africa;

Johannesburg: Some of Africa’s leading banks and financial institutions are domiciled in Johannesburg, the largest city in South Africa. These banks and institutions include Standard Bank Group, FirstRand, Absa Group, Nedbank Group, and Investec making Johannesburg a melting pot of Fintech opportunities for Africa. Utilising its position as South Africa’s primary financial hub, it has created an ecosystem that supports the growth of Fintech.

ProjectKhoka and the intergovernmental Fintech working group overseen by the South African has Lagos as her commercial hub with a population Reserve bank has made a direct contribution to the of more than 20 million inhabiting the megacity. development of Fintech. The city is fast becoming Several of the country’s financial institutions are the hub of attraction for the banking needs of lowdomiciled in Lagos with institutions like First Bank income customers, insurance, of Nigeria, Access Bank, First City and financial inclusion Fintech. Monument Bank, and Ecobank. Close Nigeria, the most Over 220 programs in the city of to these Nigerian banks are some Johannesburg provided support to populous country in international establishments like start-ups. 30% of the 450 startAfrica has Lagos as her Citibank. The 2017 Global Findex ups projected to exist in the city commercial hub with a report published by the World are Fintech related. population of more than Bank stated that, as at 2017, 40% 20 million inhabiting Capetown: Another big player of Nigerian adults operated a bank the megacity. Several of in Africa’s Fintech game is South account, 6% owned an online account the country’s financial Africa’s second-largest city, while more than two-thirds of adults institutions are domiciled Capetown. Major tech industries, had a mobile phone. These statistics in Lagos with institutions about 47% of them start-ups, show that Nigeria’s relatively young like First Bank of Nigeria, can be found in the western cape and digital native population presents Access Bank, First City of the country, where the city of a fertile ground for Fintech to Capetown is located. Gauteng, flourish. Monument Bank, and where Johannesburg is located, Ecobank. The Fintech Association of Nigeria has 44% of start-ups. is a component in the ecosystem Besides being home to most of the county’s attempting to get Fintech thriving. The first African tech start-ups, Capetown also provides 75% of Fintech summit held in 2018 was hosted by Lagos.

Lagos: Nigeria, the most populous country in Africa

68 the nation’s venture capital deals. 20% of the over 500 entrepreneurial companies located in Capetown are e-commerce companies while 15% are Fintech companies. The oldest tech incubator in Africa can also be found in Capetown; The Cape Innovation and Technology Initiative (CiTi). “Capetown has an international pool of talent, a growing ecosystem of support and a relatively low cost of living, helping promote not just Fintech but tech in general.” Reports the CiTi website.

its emergence. Several papers on crypto assets have been released by the Financial Intelligence sector, Conduct Authority, National Treasury, South African Revenue Service, and the South African Reserve Bank to enable a wider range of understanding of Fintech offerings.

Nairobi: Kenya’s capital

city was ranked second after Johannesburg as Africa’s largest Fintech hub. The Findexable Global Fintech ranking published in 2020 by Findexable Limited states; “Nairobi is Africa’s second-largest Fintech hubs, Many of South Africa’s rules are with an estimated 20 percent of Fintech-friendly. To help Fintech Africa’s Fintechs and an emerging thrive, the South African Reserve ecosystem of local Bank created investors the Financial and venture Technology The four cities presented capital firms Programme; above made it into the complemented this program global top 100 Fintech by a steady rise is aimed at Ecosystem list on the of international assessing the inaugural edition of the investors and growth of Global Fintech index city growing interest Fintech and the rankings. To achieve from global consideration a perfect ranking, the firms.” In Nairobi, of the following factors and the Fintech regulatory more were taken into companies have implications of account; the number of Fintech start-ups and hubs in the city, the scale of investment, and the regulatory environment.

hinged their major operations on the provision of payments, remittances, banking, and lending technologies. The four cities presented above made it into the global top 100 Fintech Ecosystem list on the inaugural edition of the Global Fintech index city rankings. To achieve a perfect ranking, the following factors and more were taken into account; the number of Fintech start-ups and hubs in the city, the scale of investment, and the regulatory environment. Several other African cities did not make it into the first 100 but they are making giant advancements in the Fintech sector. These cities include; Ghana’s capital city, Accra, Rwanda’s capital, Kigali, and Egypt’s capital, Cairo which was not recorded here because Egypt is often placed in the same box as Middle Eastern countries. Fintech offers Africa enormous opportunities and will help fill up certain gaps and proffer innovative solutions that will have global ramifications.

Thousands of Zambian Farmers Get Access to Digital Banking through AgriPay Zambia has more than two million smallholder farmers alongside a rural population of almost 9.7 million. About 40% of these are financially excluded Zambia has a rural population of about 9.7million people, 40% of which do not operate any bank account. Paying for goods and services is difficult for this set of people. They cannot receive payment for goods and services via online payment portals, so a lot of productive hours are lost trying to go about their economic activities. The average farmer lives many kilometres away from his closest neighbour, and even farther away from agro-dealers and banks. With over two million small-holder farmers, sending and receiving money conventionally is difficult not to mention it significantly reduces their productivity. Being unable to make and receive digital payments hurts the planning and easy flow of goods and services. Where banking services are available, they are sometimes limited and can further take time to process transactions. Farmers are vulnerable to too many avoidable risks with the status quo, and so getting rid of these inconveniences will have far-reaching effects on rural communities. Reduced downtimes as a result of payment transactions and confirmations will improve the

flow of goods and services. Zanaco Bank identified this bottleneck and has partnered with Mercy Corps/Agrifin Accelerate (AFA) and the UNCDF (UN Capital Development Fund) to develop and test their strategy to reach farmers directly and avail them of the opportunity to send, save and receive money with ease. Features like agronomic information and financial literacy will be added to accelerate the financial inclusion of farmers in the Zambian economy.

How AgriPay was conceived and introduced Before AgriPay was released by its partners, AFA conducted market research to understand the needs of farmers and what their distinct financial challenges were. This formed Zanaco’s customer-centric design process for the development of the product. When the product was fully developed, the team set out to design strategies for its release to its rural customer target. This strategy involved using the Booster Team model - a model modified from UNCDF’s work with a coffee value chain in Uganda. UNCDF

championed the use of the Booster Team to bring in agents that would enhance last-mile service delivery and build a strong, self-sustaining ecosystem around the use of the AgriPay account. The Booster Team also got smallholder farmers involved. The developing partners (Zanaco, AFA, and UNCDF) identified the need to collaborate with other actors in the value chain to encourage easy adoption by agribusinesses. This collaboration was supposed to help AgriPay leverage on their customer base to bring in other customers that may be outside the rural farmer target market. Several agents offering banking services sprang up, as a result, offering banking services closer to farmers. The bank channelled the product in six provinces, with the Booster Teams comprising 15 – 20 youths, who had received sufficient training in sales and had appreciable knowledge of the product. These teams were equipped to demonstrate the product to potential customers. By the end of the pilot phase, a partnership with Musika (a non-

profit organisation that aims to support private sector development in small-scale agriculture) had already yielded about 50% of Xpress agents and members of the Cotton Association of Zambia had already contributed 60% of activated farmers’ accounts.

Who opened AgriPay accounts? In May 2019, Zanaco and UNCDF the Booster Teams were deployed to begin their awareness and onboarding activities. Beginning in Central and Lusaka Provinces, and going on to Copperbelt, Luapula, Eastern, and Southern, each Booster Team responded to smallholder farmers’ questions and addressed concerns promptly. This direct system of support boosted customer confidence, put them at ease with the new accounts, and was responsible for signing up 307 Xpress agents to the AgriPay ecosystem. Around September 2019, AgriPay had signed up 3,030 customers, 31% youth and 53% female, and farmers were pleased to embrace the account because they were custommade to their needs. Brillian Handondo, a farmer in Southern Province said, “This account has really helped me. Once I receive money, I’m able to easily transact, such as sending money to my child in college.” This simple transaction was previously difficult to do.

What were the contributing factors to AgriPay’s success?

The AgriPay pilot achieved what it aimed to do – increase access and usage of digital financial services by underserved sections of the population.

This direct system of support boosted customer confidence, put them at ease with the new accounts, and was responsible for signing up 307 Xpress agents to the AgriPay ecosystem.

Many decisions were pivotal to the success of AgriPay, one of which was the decision to unveil the product in stages and learning from challenges encountered in each phase to ensure smooth implementation and upscaling. Pre-sensitization efforts also meant Booster Teams were very familiar with the product and could disseminate the right information to farmers. Key partners like the Cotton Association of Zambia, Dairy Association of Zambia, and Vitalite Zambia helped build trust in the product. Other partnerships with various non-profit organizations and farmers’ associations gave them the mandate to be ambassadors of AgriPay and present the product to farmers. Cotton Association savings groups and Vitalite traders became agents, as AgriPay leveraged on the strength of these organizations to reach potential customers.

The Booster Team’s success was driven by the inherent trust customers and agribusinesses have in the partner or the agribusinesses they are used to working with. This is an immense success factor for AgriPay.

For the successful extension of AgriPay to other provinces in Zambia, sales teams have to understand the culture of target communities. It is important to learn the type of farming carried out in a locale and carry out sensitization based on their schedules. Flexibility and learning from each phase also mean where necessary, the bank may engage floating agents who could better reach farmers in certain areas rather than fixed agents. AgriPay is successful because it provides a platform to increase financial inclusion for farmers, and the account also allows digital expansion for the smallholder farmer and their communities. This digital ecosystem of services significantly enhances the quality of life in these rural communities and everyone can contribute more to the economy.

Why Every Nigerian Should Embrace Digital Financial Literacy in the Post-COVID-19 Era In a bid to increase the contribution of the ICT sector to its economy, Nigeria sets a 95% digital literacy target over the next ten years under the Digital Economy Strategy. In a bid to increase the contribution of the ICT sector to its economy, Nigeria sets a 95% digital literacy target over the next ten years under the Digital Economy Strategy. Digital literacy has become more important for the growth of Nigeria’s developing economy, more so in these times that the country’s economy is being ravaged by the COVID-19 pandemic and a slump in oil prices. Since the start of the pandemic, the Lagos State Government has kicked off a partnership with Microsoft Office to provide training in digital literacy for 18,000 secondary school teachers. The program aims to equip, engage, and train them on how to leverage technology to deliver classes during the lockdown.

On the other hand, and as a result of the obvious digital literacy gaps in the country, digital financial literacy is yet to see the uptake that it deserves. Companies like NetPlusDotCom have been organising webinars to sensitise Nigerians on the significance of an unavoidable transformation to digital payments and financing after COVID-19.

with a Digital Economy Strategy aimed at meeting a 95% digital literacy target within the next ten years. The goal is to make the ICT sector more active in the Nigerian economy. Last year, the ICT sector generated 13.8% of the country’s GDP, higher than the contribution from the Oil and Gas sector, which had hitherto been the country’s cash cow.

The fact is, there is an abundance of talent training outlets in Nigeria, such as Learn Factory and Decagon. These outlets offer training programs covering an array of specialised and advanced digital literacy skills in fields like Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, and Software development.

Unfortunately, the development of digital financial literacy in Nigeria is bedevilled by certain challenges including;

With the hope of tapping into the services provided by these outlets, the country has come up

Policy Implementation: existing regulations aimed at promoting digital literacy are not implemented. Difficulty in Conceptualisation: digital literacy is considered to be too difficult to theorise, so it is assumed that the layman will find

73 understanding the process a bit difficult.

the regular curriculum. This is necessary for the future.

Resistance to Change: most times people resist change. Having the same attitude towards digital literacy hurts the promotion of digital financial literacy.

Recommended Solutions

High Infrastructure Costs: power and access to the internet are quite costly, and they are important for promoting digital financial literacy. Digital Divide: some unreached communities are unaware of the concept of digital literacy. Scepticism: there are pockets of Nigerians who are sceptical about the digital literacy program. School Curriculum: there is no component of digital literacy in

Government and other institutions should invest in research and development to help Nigerians become more acquainted with international standards of promoting digital literacy. Tax incentives/reliefs for telecoms companies to enable them to reduce data costs. While the telecoms companies can in turn provide ICT parks for free internet access. Create awareness and engage citizens more on existing and new digital literacy policies. Organisations with works

centered on digital literacy should partner with schools to come up with a more robust curriculum. To stop the resistance to change, orientation programs should be developed to emphasise the need for digital literacy using a bottomtop approach in reaching out to people in rural communities. Partnerships between Government, civil society groups, and multilateral organisations should be considered. This provides an avenue for reaching underserved communities in the local language to avoid indifference due to language barriers.