Africa remains my passion, especially the financial services ecosystem in Africa and financial inclusion. While there is a huge rush globally for Fintech -which has become the latest buzzword and old traditional bankers are rushing to upgrade their skills and join the bandwagon to remain relevant in the market and arguably so, in face of current circumstances which are unprecedented in our lifetime. Africa due to its diversity, lack of infrastructure and landscape has been ahead in innovation in mobile/digital banking, starting with Mpesa, compared to most of its global peers.
While we are not seeing an end to this pandemic in the near future … its time to rehash your strategy especially for the banks/telcos in Africa and capture consumer attention and loyalty by making financial and transactional services available in the deeper trenches. The quickest opportunity that exists is for telcos and they can piggyback on their brand ,distribution and existing customer base … further enhance it and pick up the low hanging fruit and create customer stickiness by offering simple yet niche offerings and convenience. This has to be done at lightning speed, which means you need to override your internal challenges and bureaucracy and carpet bomb your markets with distribution and offerings .
This customer base which one can acquire now is immensely valuable and can be used to sell multiple credit and non credit /savings products through customer life cycle starting with traditional airtime, merchant transactions, MSME, remittances and this list can be unending. Telcos have the biggest advantage in the current circumstances as they have a brand which is well respected and trusted, efficient distribution which can be quickly enhanced without much captive investments and technology platforms. The large traditional banks in Africa will face huge challenges to play catch up due to their mindset, risk appetite, lack of sales culture and time taken to react.
The new age Digibanks /Fintechs which are mushrooming in Africa in abundance are very good for the development of the ecosystem but will struggle to build their individual brands. Distribution will remain niche and most of them will struggle to survive, as is always the case with any nascent industry.
The current pandemic has fast tracked the opportunity for Telcos as they have the customer base, technology, distribution and customer trust. Only if they have the wherewithal to think out of the box and drive a customer centric sleek FMCG distribution model and ramp it up. You need to create excitement within and outside and the African market is yours to rule.