Bankers from Sub-Saharan Africa and China who attended the Huawei Sub-Saharan Africa Financial Services Industry Online Summit 2020 have agreed that digitisation of the sector will drive it through the coronavirus disease era and enable sustained growth after.
The pan-African conference themed ‘Accelerating Digital Transformation, Enable Business Growth Again’ was attended by 1,200 delegates from across banks, telecommunications, fintech and Information and Communications Technology companies.
Opening the event, Vice President of Huawei Southern Africa Region, Liao Yong, said advances in ICT presented unique opportunities for the banking sector, especially when almost 70 per cent of the region’s population didn’t have a bank account.
“All of these ICT advances will be critical enablers to a thriving banking sector in Sub Saharan Africa. As we can see, the merging of these two curves of ICT and banking services is powerful. But how much we can unleash the power, depends on how much and how soon banking sector goes digital,” Liao said.
There has been a rapid uptake of mobile technologies in the region with strong economic growth in the past two decades. According to statistics by GSMA, 4G mobile broadband technology adoption will overtake 2G in 2023 and the total of unique subscribers in Sub Saharan Africa will reach 600m by 2025, representing half the region’s population.
Speaking at the online event, Brett King, author of Bank 4.0, a New York-based mobile banking start-up, said the behavioural changes that come with COVID-19further underpinned the need for digital transformation in the banking sector.
“The declining use of physical branches is likely for many customers to remain a permanent feature of their lives. The reality is, this is likely to accelerate a multi-decade trend we’ve already seen towards digitisation. So when we look at the architecture of banking moving forward and the real elements that have been accelerated during the coronavirus period, you can see that that shift to digital is creating much more aligned digital experience. This basically brings us to a new model of banking,” said King.
In China, bucking the decline in Q1 Gross Domestic Product, the financial sector recorded a six per cent year-on-year growth. Analysts attribute this growing to the sector’s years of unremitting efforts in digital transformation.
Chief Digital Transformation Officer of Global Financial Services in Huawei’s Enterprise Business Group,Chen Kunte, said digitisationwould give the banking sector the resilience needed in the public health crisis.
The former Chief Information Officer of China Merchants Bank added that banking everywhere could not come true without leveraging cloud, artificial intelligent and big data.
“We need to restructure banks’ ICT platforms from legacy architecture to cloud-based, open architecture by building AI-powered and data-driven platforms to expand the way financial institutions engage and interact with their customers, and accommodate more innovative business models and service scenarios,” Chen said.
Banks from China shared some case studies on digitisation in banking services in the region.
Head of Data Analysis and Product Management at First National Bank, South Africa, Lucille De Kock, introduced FNB’s fundamental shifts across all dimensions to transform the bank into a helpful, trusted and people-centric money manager leveraging digital and data platforms.
According to the Head, Digital Financial Services, KCB Bank Kenya Limited, Alex Wekunda, 97 per cent of all transactions are done digitally, which led to substantial growth during the pandemic. “Luckily, we had invested well in our platform, so we’re able to handle the traffic that comes through this ecosystem.”
CEO/MD, KCB Group,Joshua Oigara, said the bank would continue to accelerate that investment beyond just lending platform, which had been very successful.
Huawei works with over 1,000 financial institutions globally, including six of the world’s top 10 banks in the digital transformation voyage.
Liao concluded, “Our operations of over 20 years in Sub Saharan Africa enables us think global and act local by providing our clients in the region with tailor-made solutions to make digitisation process painless and smooth, as if it is a tech company that happens to work in the financial sector rather than as a bank that tries to adapt disruptive technologies.”
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