While the final day of the Mediterranean Smart Cards Company (MSCC) conference covered an eclectic mix of topics, much of the talk centered around developing technological solutions to further banking in Africa.
The conference’s title, “Together for a Better Africa, was especially apt for the discussions on day two because talk centered around how a holistic banking approach could benefit the continent and spur economic growth here.
Ingenico is a global leader in payment solutions, and the company’s EEMEA Area Director, Rachid Oulad Akdim spoke to the panel about solutions for growing banking through extending services to the un-banked populations.
Expanding banking everywhere, “especially in remote rural areas, is one key, said Akdim.
Most banks would agree that spreading Africa’s banking network to every corner of the continent is critical to tapping into a population that, relative to many other parts of the world, does not engage with its banking institutions in a robust way. But Akdim also stressed that banks need to engage with the “under-banked.
Many people in Africa, like many around the planet, may have a simple checking or savings account with their bank. But to Akdim, these clients, who have already established confidence in their bank, are top candidates for establishing more complex relationships with their banks. Banks need to target these kinds of people to expand the relationship.
One of Ingenico’s top services is its Incendo Online service, a web-based solution to enhance the reach of banking.
Adding services to its roster is a serious challenge for any bank because the new services have to reach out to every terminal the bank has distributed throughout a country or the world. Incendo is a technology that allows banks to more efficiently update all hardware so that it’s up to speed with the latest offerings.
In order to make possible the sort of far-reaching banking that Akdim discussed, a company called SONEMA is leading the way in facilitating the bandwidth for banking transactions.
Yves Dollo, SONEMA’s sales director, spoke to the conference about the hardware needed for long-distance bank transactions.
According to Dollo, 90 percent of SONEMA’s business is in Africa, facilitated by five satellites. It has 300 installations in 20 countries.
The company’s mission is to provide the same level of telecommunication services available in developed countries. Its specialty is Wide Area Networks (WANs), which allow for developing countries to reach regions like Europe as part of an effort to facilitate outsourcing and other direct banking transactions.
Based in Monaco, SONEMA said it believes in constant client training, visiting client banks in the field to train employees, while bringing those same employees to Monaco for training.
By pulling together members of the banking and bank services world, MSCC was able to offer a comprehensive look at the entirety of the banking system in Africa.
From card design, to outsourcing practices, security concerns, and data transmission, this was a look at the minutiae of banking by some of Africa’s top banking insiders.
The biggest challenge that banks face in Africa is how to rapidly expand and capitalize on the vast number of potential clients while, at the same time, integrating some of the top technologies and practices. Africa, in other words, isn’t trying just to generate new clients, it’s trying to find people who don’t bank and turn them into savvy customers, capable of tapping into the broad number services banks offer – and doing it all securely.
One of the African banks’ best inroads to the population may be in the form of mobile banking. Mobile networks in Africa have reached a certain level of maturity that has surpassed growth in the banking world.
Some of the analysts at the conference suggested, therefore, that tying banking to the mobile phones may be a recipe for success.
MSCC is a leader in this regard, pushing the envelope of services it offers over the phone, including bill payments, fund transfers, balance inquiries, and requests for information like interest rates and exchange rates.
In addition to mobile phones luring new customers to the banks, they also cut down on bank costs and, by extension, improve the bottom line.
The waters ahead for banking Africa are tricky, and it will take some of the best minds to get the industry caught up to the constantly evolving world of banking in developed countries. At the same time, though, the continent hosts vast untapped markets, ripe for development.
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