Upwardly mobile: The many faces of mobile banking in modern Africa

The story so far….

At the end of 2014, there were more than 635 million mobile subscriptions in sub-Saharan Africa, with this predicted to rise to about 930m by late 2019, when it is also estimated that three in four mobile subscriptions will be internet inclusive.

Luckily, mobile banking in Africa is a topic which is being discussed endlessly as banks scramble to not only ensure they are part of the all-important financial inclusion story, but also as they try to understand how to service these customers in a way which is cost effective, efficient and convenient. While the African market is undoubtable becoming more technologically sophisticated by the minute, many banks and commentators alike are now asking, is there still a place for standard mobile banking in a continent where 2016 will be seen as the first year ever that smartphone sales will outstrip basic mobile phone sales?

The simple answer to this is yes. Due to the geographically dispersed populations and often unstable and intermittent internet connectivity in many regions, hardy solutions which can operate under these adverse conditions will always be needed by those wishing to bank without visiting a bricks and mortar branch. For banks tackling the both the African market and fast growing markets in general, the key to success lies in having a well-rounded, holistic approach to mobile banking and successfully incorporating both a mobile solution and a mobile app solution into their portfolio. In order to service both customers in rural locations with unreliable access to internet as well as providing next-generation app services to millennials and tech-savvy customers, this two pronged approach is of paramount importance in letting customers bank their way through a combination of USSD, text and internet via apps and mobile web browsers.

The future of the app

According to a recent study by Gallup, the percentage of adults with mobile phones in Africa ranges from a high of 84% in South Africa to a low of 16% in Central African Republic, signaling the potential for tremendous continued growth in the industry on the sub-continent. Mobile banking apps which can adapt and excel in these diverse environments are the undoubted future of mobile banking where internet connectivity can be unreliable and sporadic.

As such, having an app which allows users to perform tasks while they are offline which will then be actioned once they are connected will genuinely both enhance convenience for the customer and ensure that these transactions stay with the bank itself as opposed to being redirected to third parties. The app can then take care of the execution of any queued actions when the next internet coverage is available, simply.

Another example of a product of the future which is available right now through mobile app banking is merchant services. These can be deployed by banks to create an enhanced experience for their customers who are increasingly turning to their mobile devices to help them in each and every part of their lives. With this, partner retailers can publish their own agreed upon actionable campaigns and offers to customers right there on the banks mobile app. It enables them to give their instant response to the retailer directly through the app and accept or reject subscriptions to those campaigns. By allowing customers to opt-in by choice, security and privacy is always ensured. At CR2 we kept all of these in mind to design our new mobile banking app, BankWorld V3 which is creating a buzz right now for exactly these reasons. By utilising a single platform to offer both cutting-edge mobile app services as well as SMS, USSD and mobile web, we help banks to provide a unique and personalised experience for each and every customer, right there in the palm of their hand.

A holistic view of mobile

While we can clearly see that mobile banking apps are increasingly becoming the norm both in Africa and globally, we also have to address the needs of those who do not have access to smartphone technology. By offering customers mobile banking services which cover all mobile technologies including SMS, app, USSD and internet on mobile, banks can give their customers a market leading banking experience regardless of which device they use, or how reliable their access to an internet connection. An integrated, fully inclusive mobile experience will inherently take the complexity out of providing banking technologies over multiple and disparate technologies and allow banks to both capitalise on constantly evolving technologies, and ensure that those who do not have access to the latest and greatest devices are still being serviced.

Keep it personal

With mobile phones without a doubt the most personal tech device a customer has, it seems only natural to use it to give them personalised services and offerings, just like those they receive from retailers. The key here is to be aware that being truly personal means knowing your customer, their demands, their preferences and being there when they need you. While there are many ways to analyse customer data in order to build up a picture of their relationship and user patters, there are very few like CR2’s BankWorld which are available across a single platform and can combine the information from each and every self-service channel to compile a totally 360-degree view of them as an individual.

Money Vouchers – the mobile future of remittance

In 2014 alone, about $67 billion in funds were transferred by African expatriates back to people on the continent. For many years, banking customers have resigned themselves to paying sometimes extortionate fees to companies such as Western Union to send and receive international remittances. With a mobile banking solution such as CR2’s BankWorld Mobile, mutual benefits for both the customer and the bank can be realised whereby the customer can save money on the remittance, while the bank can ensure that fees stay with them as oppose to being handed to an external provider. With fees charged by mobile banking companies for transactions generally lower than traditional intermediaries like Western Union, the growth potential for financial phone applications appears enormous. This win-win situation can be realised by a product such as CR2’s Money Vouchers, which allows both domestic and international remittance via a customer’s mobile phone, the fund for which can then be collected by the recipient directly at the ATM. Importantly, this service will also give banks a chance to tap into this new and significant opportunity for revenue generation in a market which is only growing year on year.

The future meets the present

The most important element for banks to take on board when they are deciding on a mobile banking strategy for Africa is to release that it is a continent of two halves. On one hand, there is a rapidly urbanising population in countries such as Nigeria and a smartphone revolution which no signs of stopping, while on the other are geographically dispersed customers with little access to reliable internet connection. Both sets of customers need to be serviced and banks need to take this opportunity to truly view their mobile offering in a holistic way. By taking advantage of evolving mobile technologies and applying them to meet the challenges and disparity in this region, banks can take this most trusted device and offer all customers the convenience and experience that will let them bank their way.