[Africa Tech Week] Digital payments driving financial inclusion in Africa
06-12-2018 12:40:26 | by: Nixon Kanali | hits: 4233 | Tags:

Over the last few years, Africa has shown so much potential for mobile money services adoption or what we can call digital payments services especially in regions where financial inclusion is limited. Due to its efficiency and safety, millions of Africans are foregoing the traditional notes and coins and are now sending money between mobile wallets, paying bills and even applying for loans.

Many companies are taking advantage of this and have recently been launching new technologies services to meet this growing demand. This week, for example, ABC highlighted how Mastercard, in partnership with Housing Finance Bank launched Mastercard Debit and Prepaid Card options to the bank’s customers. These payment solutions are expected to deliver a quick, convenient and secure alternative to cash, while further assisting in driving inclusive growth in Uganda. This announcement came just a few weeks after Mastercard entered into a similar partnership with The National Association of Savings and Credit Unions (NASCU) of Zambia to introduce a secure, efficient and transparent electronic payment system to streamline and automate payments including payroll, loans and disbursements to its savings and credit cooperative members. Remember back in October, Mastercard President and CEO, Ajay Banga visited Zimbabwe to show Mastercard's support for the country's drive to create a new wave of digital payments and inclusive growth.

Still, on matters financial inclusion, South Africa’s Nedbank announced that its mobile account more than 50 000 people had signed up for its MobiMoney service less than eight weeks after the bank rolled out a pilot project for the service.  The bank also recently partnered with Mastercard launched Qkr! with Masterpass, a mobile order-ahead and payment platform developed by Mastercard Labs, and  Nedbank POSplus™ for South African businesses. This week it also, Soth African Airways also partnered with the partnered with the bank to launch a SAA Voyager Cheque Card, the first cheque card in the world that allows users to earn air miles, and makes redeeming them quicker, easier and more rewarding than ever before.

Pan-African payments company Cellulant also announced plans to build an application programming interface (API) for Africa’s fintech companies to solve Africa’s payment problems. The interface according to the company is also expected to grow eCommerce and improve cross-border remittances in the region. Towards the end of last month, the company partnered with Facebook to build Africa’s first Augmented Reality (AR) powered try-on experiences in Facebook Messenger.

This week, Safaricom announced that it had begun trials for TubeStar Base Station, a  new and innovative network coverage technology aimed at enhancing coverage in urban areas in Kenya. The solution replaces the standard tower base station with a tubular structure that occupies up to 75 per cent less the land typically required. This was not the only news that came from Safaricom this week. The telco also introduced Zuri, an artificial intelligence (AI) Chatbot assistant available on Telegram and Facebook Messenger. Safaricom has over the past few months been working to improve service offerings for Kenyan consumers. It introduced DOT Braille Watch, in partnership with DOT incorporation to enable visually impaired persons to use M-Pesa services, it recently also deployed a faster and more private cashless payments at over 2,500 Lipa Na M-PESA merchants across Kenya.

Still on telecom, a report by the GSM Association (GSMA) this week revealed that the mobile telecommunications industry in Nigeria contributed $21 billion to the gross domestic product (GDP) in 2017, representing 5.5 per cent of the country’s total GDP. In addition, the growth of Nigeria’s digital economy resulted in the creation of nearly 500,000 direct and indirect jobs. The report also noted that modernizing regulation and policy reform will be crucial to boosting Nigeria's digital economy and accelerating internet access for millions through increased mobile broadband penetration, Remember just the other day Kenya’s mobile operators, regulator and the government came together to support a major GSMA initiative aimed at ensuring a safe online environment for children and young citizens in Kenya.

Tech Care for All (TC4A), this week also announced the launch of its East Africa business, to be headquartered in Nairobi, Kenya. The social impact company dedicated to improving health outcomes in Africa and Asia, says it is aspiring to be a key contributor to the achievement of universal healthcare by marrying technology with the transformation of local health ecosystems across both public and private sectors.

Back in South Africa, SAP launched SAP Sports One, the first sports-specific cloud solution powered by SAP's celebrated HANA platform. The solution which was launched Johannesburg provides teams and administrators with a single unified platform for the efficient management of teams and players and delivers powerful analytical insights for performance optimisation. In August this year, SAP also kicked off its first-ever programme in Nigeria at an orientation event held in Lagos.  The programme has trained more than 590 graduates since its inception in 2012, providing public and private sector organisations with critical digital skills aimed at driving digital transformation and growth in key economic hubs across the continent.

Internet Solutions also announced plans to open Africa’s largest pre-fabricated data centre in South Africa. According to a report published by IT News Africa, the data centre is due to officially begin operating in January 2019 and will be located in Rosebank, Johannesburg. In Kenya, the company recently launched a consumption-based billing service dubbed IS Open Network (ISON) by Internet Solutions while in Nigeria, it launched the first iDirect DVB-S2X network in Africa, which is currently live across more than 300 sites in the country.

Other highlights of the week include a report by Overseas Development Institute (ODI) and the Kenyan Association of Manufacturers (KAM) highlighting how Kenyan manufacturing risks further de-industrialization if the government and firms do not adapt to new digital technologies such as robotics and artificial intelligence, MTN Group becoming the first African telecommunications company to join the IoT World Alliance, the leading enabler of connected IoT solutions and Mauritania launches online investment guide targeting investors.