African banks have been urged to leverage on emerging technologies to help the continent sail out of the stormy business environment caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Speaking during the official launch of Access Bank Kenya into the Kenyan market in Nairobi, Kenya Bankers Association (KBA) chief executive Dr Habil Olaka said only technology can help lenders, a key pillar of the economy, emerge stronger from the pandemic.
“As we navigate through the new normal, technology and digital processes will remain to be a key competitive edge. KBA remains live to continue improving on efficiency. This will enable us to harness opportunities that emerging technologies are presenting to match the evolving customer demands,” noted Dr Olaka.
While mobile money payments have been a real enabler to both corporate and personal finance in Kenya, other African nations were advised to strengthen their technology ecosystems to reach the over 600 million Africans who live in rural areas.
Digital technologies have been known to boost financial inclusion through the simplest of innovations, in a continent that still ranks lowest in the global supply chain.
From instant mobile loans and overdrafts to online payments and deliveries, emerging technologies have in the recent past identified and helped rural communities bridge the gap between them and their urban counterparts.
“It is a fact that majority of Africans still remain unbanked in rural areas and low income households in urban areas. However innovation in the sector has continued to close the gap to access of secure, efficient and friendly financial services,” he stated.
Access Bank Kenya’s country managing director Dr David Aluko said the Nigerian bank’s entry to the country will seek to tap into the technology infrastructure existent in the country to reach the unbanked and underbanked.
The bank, which has been on the forefront of adoption of technologies like Big Data analytics and Artificial Intelligence, will be betting on the broad digital credit market in Kenya which has soared in the last decade, to grow its market share as well as help heal Kenya’s economy.
“We are here to strengthen the resilience of Kenya’s banking sector and assist in repositioning the Kenya economic growth. We will put our customers at the forefront of everything we do, helping them achieve their dreams and go beyond banking to access more,” said Dr Aluko.
At the virtual event, it was revealed that the new board of directors will include three Nigerians and two Kenyans. Mr Ade Bajomo was named board chairperson, Mr Dolapo Ogundimu will be a director while Dr David Aluko will keep serving as the country managing director, one year after the Lagos-based bank acquired Kenya’s loss making Transnational Bank.
However, former directors at the Moi family-linked bank Peter Kemei and Sammy Lang’at have been retained as directors after the Sh1.6 billion buyout that was overseen by the central banks of both Kenya and Nigeria.
Mr Bajomo said the entry to Kenya confirms the East African nation’s economic significance to the African continent, as an economic and technological gateway to the rest of the world.
“East Africa has enormous potential, which Kenya is central to. We will ensure full integration of our payment systems to support our customers’ values in technology and digital platforms to deliver unique customer service insights to meet and exceed customer expectations,” he stated.
Dr Olaka added that the bank will provide competitive financial products, efficient banking solutions and customer experience in its endeavor to become “Africa’s baking gateway to the world”.
It has operations in Ghana, Sierra Leone, Gambia, Cameroon, DRC, Rwanda, Zambia and Mozambique with a plan to enter Botswana and South Africa.
“This brings endless possibilities for business growth, based on our wide network of branches. We acknowledge support from the Central Bank of Kenya and Kenya Bankers Association (KBA) in our transformation journey.”
Access Bank is the third bank to venture into the Kenyan banking sector after Guaranty Trust Bank and United Bank of Africa, usually forced to cast their profit net outside Africa’s most populous country, by the nation’s unconducive banking policies.
Nigerian banks have had to deal with a very harsh and punitive regulatory environment at home, compelling them to open branches in other countries to remain profitably afloat.
Banks in Lagos need to hold 27.5 per cent of their cash as reserves, six times that of their Nairobi counterparts, with a requirement to extend 65 per cent of their deposits as loans.