Africa has made huge strides over the past decades towards the financial inclusion. The digitization and simplification of money management has especially proved to be a sturdy vehicle in making headway in this regard.
Yet, more work needs to be done as only 34 percent of adults in Sub-Saharan Africa have a bank account and 350 million people are still unbanked. In Kenya, financial inclusion as of August 2020 stands at 82.9%, an improvement from 26.7% in a decade, while the commercial banking industry is the fourth largest in Sub-Saharan Africa but there’s still room for growth.
Technology has been at the heart of financial inclusion in Africa and today we’re seeing how technology trends are evolving much faster than imagined. The pandemic has accelerated the pace, and we have seen digital transformation initiatives within the sector compressed from years to months.
Building the right platform
With the evolution of technology, banks are pivoting their platforms towards open ecosystems and the secure sharing of data with third-party applications from fintechs and online financial service vendors to increase access to banking services to the masses. The 2021 IBM CEO Study – that drew on input from 3,000 CEOs across 26 industries and nearly 50 countries – has found that such ‘platformification’ of banks is here to stay.
Home to over 150 fintech companies, Kenya has one of the biggest and most developed fintech ecosystems in the African continent, owning to the proliferation of mobile phones and the rise of mobile money alongside technologies such as hybrid cloud and AI to name a few.
Innovation through a secure cloud
In highly regulated industries like the financial services sector, increasing financial inclusion for the unbanked is a juggling act between security and compliance together with innovation, and hybrid cloud is the answer to the conundrum.
Hybrid cloud can help banks and fintechs cope with the hurdles of compliance, security, and innovation while meeting customer expectations and venturing into new services. As banks become platform providers, hybrid cloud adoption lowers the total cost of technology ownership and improves operational efficiency – promoting innovation, aiding in the development of new business models and supporting more fulfilling customer engagements.
While the cloud offers clear advantages to banks and most are actively using cloud services, few have actually moved mission-critical regulated workloads to the cloud to date. In many cases, this has been due to concerns about whether cloud environments complied with stringent security and regulatory requirements.
Meeting industry requirements
If banks are going to guard against fraud and criminal activity while delivering on their promises to digitally sophisticated customers, they have to build their platforms on technology solutions designed to meet regulations of the financial service industry.
In response to this, IBM launched Cloud for Financial Services – a financial sector specific cloud offering – which features built-in security, regulatory and compliance controls that help minimize risks for banks integrating with third party independent service vendors (ISVs), fintechs and software-as-a-service (SaaS) providers.
IBM has also been investing in confidential computing research and technologies for over a decade, and the solutions provide greater assurance that data is protected and visible only to its owner and no one else. This means banks can now be as compliant on the cloud as they are within their own data centers, and they can demonstrate compliance on a continuous basis.
As we continue in the journey to financially include more of our people across the African continent, the future of banking across Africa is dynamic and exciting.
With the right technology partner such as IBM and being cloud-ready, financial services institutions can build a strong ecosystem of partners – be it fintechs, startups – to offer an array of services at a quick pace and lower cost to entice the unbanked to the digital economy.
Caroline Mukiira is the General Manager, IBM East Africa.