Industry players call for a ‘non-stop’ approach to Africa’s banking digitisation

PRNewswire March 30, 2023

CAPE TOWN, South Africa, March 30, 2023 /PRNewswire/ — If banks want to remain competitive in the face of neo-bank and fintech upstarts, they’ll have to fundamentally change the way they do business to be digital first. And if they’re going to achieve that goal, then working with technology partners to ensure that they have the right infrastructure in place will be crucial.  That was the overriding message from the speakers at a media roundtable event hosted during the Huawei Intelligent Finance Summit for Africa 2023, recently held in Cape Town, South Africa.

According to Jason Cao, CEO of Huawei Global Digital Finance, African banks have an opportunity to take advantage of the continent’s mobile penetration rates and increasing financial needs.  “Mobile is the core of everything,” he said, adding that there are similarities between mobile payments in China and in Africa. Futurist and author Brett King agrees that this mobile focus will be important, not just in Africa but around the globe.

Someone who has firsthand experience of how taking a digital-first approach can help improve customer experience is Eric Muriuki Njagi, Group Director, Digital Business, at the NCBA Group, one of Africa’s largest financial services companies.  

He pointed out that, for banks, making the choice to lead with technology is about deploying “money at the speed of trust.” As Njagi pointed out, “We now have payments being made instantly or in a matter of seconds,” he said, adding that the same now applies to credit. “We’re now initiating and completing about 6 million loans a day, with an average of two seconds required to complete each one.”

But, the NCBA director noted, that kind of speed means very little without trust. In a world where just five percent of fiat currency is made up of hard cash and the rest is essentially algorithmic, that’s especially critical.

“How do we trust the algorithm?” he asked.

The answer lies in a concept that Huawei calls “non-stop banking.”

Leo Chen, President of Huawei Sub-Saharan Africa Region, unveiled ‘Non Stop Banking’ initiative at the Huawei Intelligent Finance Summit for Africa 2023, the initiative calls for hand-in-hand collaboration between the ICT and banking industries and facilitate a digital future of ‘non-stop’ services, ‘non-stop’ development, and ‘non-stop’ innovation.

A good place to start on that front is with stability. As Zhentao Chen, CTO, of Digital Finance, Huawei Sub-Saharan Africa pointed out, that’s not something African banks have always been able to take for granted.Here, moving back-end systems to the cloud can be incredibly important. “Cloud can help banks bring about zero-downtime financial services,” said Cao.

Ultimately, however, if traditional banks are to compete with fintechs, they can’t just bolt on these technologies. Instead, they must integrate them into a new approach which is entirely digital-first. 

Echoing that sentiment, Cao concluded by saying that Huawei is, “committed to working with our African customers to focus on the challenges and accelerate digital transformation.” 


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