Video: Mobile Payments and Remittances – Understanding the impact and the opportunities August 19, 2022

Continuing our recent discussions exploring the evolution of the remittance sector, RemitONE hosted their IPR EMEA event on 2-3 March 2022. The 90-minute panel session centred around the evolution of mobile payments and remittances and how they are going to impact the industry.

The panel consisted of experts from both RemitONE and our friends and partners in other global companies. In case you missed the discussion, here is a summary of the key insights.

Webinar moderator:

  • Ababacar Seck, Managing Director of Africa, RemitONE


  • Sukhi Srivatsan, Head of Sales, AZA Finance
  • Edward Chidavarume, General Manager of Business Development, CashPesa
  • Muhammad M. Jagana, CEO, Kuringo
  • Clinton Leask, Business Development Lead, Pay@

Time Stamps

00:00 Introductions

06:32 Why does financial inclusion matter?

11:15 Who delivers financial services in the market at the moment?

14:35 What obstacles and legal infrastructure regulations are agents, MTOs and banks facing to catch up with mobile operators in Africa?

24:32 What roles do technology and mobile payments play in financial inclusion? What are the main challenges?

35:02 How will interoperability between Telcos benefit the end users?

42:22 What role do central banks and governments play in financial inclusion?

47:12 How can we improve the user experience and make it seamless for the unbanked population in Africa?

53:54 What progress should we expect to see in the years to come? What advancements need to happen?

Why does financial inclusion matter? 

Sukhi: Financial inclusion matters today because it is our greater responsibility to ensure everyone has equal opportunity, whether you are a business or an individual, to access affordable and timely financial services and products. Especially if you look at the world of mobile payments and remittances. We need to empower communities, give them access to basic needs, like food and shelter, but also increase the economic output of the country and level the playing field between developed in frontier markets.

Muhammad: Financial inclusion is one of the fastest ways to change lives, by empowering the unbanked or the underbanked; especially women and young entrepreneurs who find it very challenging sometimes to have access to financial bank accounts. I think digitalisation of the financial system makes it much easier for people, especially in Africa. As we all know today, mobile phone penetration is huge in Africa, and the majority of people know how to use things like WhatsApp, so it makes it easier for them to use their phone and to be included in the financial system.

Who delivers financial services in the market at the moment?

Muhammad: Today, companies like Kuringo and other fintechs are expanding their reach to the unbanked and providing financial inclusion services, simply by offering them an app – they do not need to have a complicated banking system or anything else for them to be able to access the payment systems. But generally, it’s the fintech companies and mobile money operators that are disrupting this market.

Sukhi: I think one important point to highlight here is a provider like RemitONE is looking to bring everything together and do a one-to-many integration. So, through the RemitONE platform, an MTO could connect and push all the remittances with one integration, but in many markets. So, there are fintechs that are really growing in each of these separate markets, but the hardship and the obstacles in each market are so unique. So, I think providers like RemitONE really look at that aspect.

What obstacles and legal infrastructure regulations are agents, MTOs and banks facing to catch up with mobile operators in Africa?

Clinton: I think the biggest challenge is that it’s always difficult for underserved incumbents. So, whether it is mobile apps and mobile operators in Central Africa, or whether it is tier one banks, like we have in South Africa, changing things without regulation or unforeseen market changes is very difficult to do. The way compliance is shaping up these days, those burdens are growing. It is getting more onerous to comply with various things around AML, CFT, FATF, particularly for onboarding and monitoring end customers, especially as new entrants and smaller players catch up – you must comply with these from the get-go.

Muhammad: These are the challenges that can create obstacles because only the big guys are there already. They have a bigger balance sheet and a bigger team. But the good thing is, especially in Africa, there is a lot of ‘plug and play’ technology coming in. If you look at it in terms of, how do I partner with somebody who specializes in providing a platform, who specializes in providing tech, who specializes in something else, and you focus on the user experience, it will help you grow your footprint.

Edward: We’ve also seen the regulator shift into a more risk-based approach when it comes to KYC on customers, which now gives the fintech players the opportunity to come up with solutions that enable them to onboard customers easily with a risk-based approach. You can have API integrations for verifying documents that you get from the customers digitally which makes onboarding easier and cheaper.

What roles do technology and mobile payments play in financial inclusion? What are the main challenges?

Edward: We are now shifting from the brick-and-mortar. The brick-and-mortar banks were the ones dominating the financial services market. But now we’re looking at the mobile app and the way that it’s increasing in Africa – by 2025 it has been expected that at least 80% of the population in Africa will have mobile phones. So, now with the technology and the mobile penetration building within Sub-Saharan Africa, it becomes easier with technology for us to offer financial solutions to these markets where you can offer mobile money solutions.

Clinton: Mobile payments are the future. There is no other way to do this and to solve what needs to be done in Africa in terms of financial inclusion. The devices aren’t a problem anymore, unlike a few years ago. It is really about ensuring that the cost of data is being tackled effectively by regulators across all countries to promote the usage of mobile payments.

Sukhi: One example is if a fintech is starting out and wants to build a mobile app. Initially, there needs to be a focus on building one thing and doing it well and gaining user attraction. And then once that is underway, and you have that retention of users, it is important to start to diversify the products and services you offer. So, not just being able to receive money, and me being able to send it to you in a P2P manner, but also, can I do other things with this wallet? Can I go and can I buy a coffee? Can I go to the merchant? And can I pay for my scarf? So, lots of different things, lots of different use cases. But, the initial steps are to start small, build focus, and then eventually build up and add more products and services. So, you can diversify and create an entire user experience within your product and within your service.

How will interoperability between Telcos benefit the end users?

Muhammad: Today, if you do not have interoperability, a certain segment of society or a certain community will be left out. The cost of doing business or the cost of providing the last mile of the financial inclusion journey to them is expensive. So, to reduce the cost of transactions, interoperability is a must. Lowering costs of transactions, increasing volumes and expanding footprints can lead to people being able to pay for basic things in life that they need. It allows farmers to sell their produce, and they don’t have to travel miles to a bank to cash their cooperative checks. I think the interoperability we’ve seen in the UK, with the open banking system, has really allowed fintechs to explode, much more than any other European or US system. So, it is essential in Africa for governments to look at interoperability as a key to open access to finance, allowing the underbanked to have access to financial inclusion, and allowing the unbanked to come on board.

Edward: It is such a key thing for end consumers. We’ve seen it in South Africa, for the mobile operators it has created a boom in terms of customers because people are now able to upgrade and do things much easier. So, there is a strong benefit for interoperability, not only for the consumers but for the Telcos as well. They will see a rise in transactions for sure.

Sukhi: So, there is a lot of hesitation when it comes to this from many of the Telcos or the bigger players. They’re asking: is my business going to be taken away? Am I going to lose revenue over this? But thinking a bit longer term, you will get more user traction and it will create a better user experience. More importantly, it increases the frequency of a user using your product.

What role do central banks and governments play in financial inclusion?

Clinton: Financial inclusion is quite a broad term and means many things to many people and industries. But, central banks and governments are key in driving financial inclusion. It comes from clear and transparent regulation that needs to be put in place with participation from their side and the industry. So, whatever they are putting into place, they need to ensure firstly, that it is going to be cost-effective for everyone. Secondly, they have to drive competition and innovation. So, we must ensure that there is a level playing field, in terms of how people can tackle it and how industries can get involved. We touched on interoperability quite a bit. We know it goes hand-in-hand with reducing costs and accelerating competition, but also making the offering bigger for everyone.

Muhammad: In addition to this, the role central banks can play is to push for government payments to be digitalised. In the Gambia, they started talking about pensions and a scheme to be paid digitally. I think this will also help push financial inclusion and would allow people to be onboarded much easier.

How can we improve the user experience and make it seamless for the unbanked population in Africa?

Edward: When it comes to user experience, the first interaction that you have with the customer is onboarding. I believe when it comes to the information that the customer must share with a service provider, it is confidential information, and there must be some level of trust. So, the customer must feel comfortable sharing that information and there must be some form of transparency on the product that makes the client comfortable. Also, the experience must be as easy to use for the customer as possible.

Sukhi: You need to make onboarding seamless. Users should be able to start using the platform quickly, whether they are individuals or businesses. For that, you need to balance both security and compliance along with a positive user experience, which a lot of fintechs have done really well. Compliance also plays an important role. So, we cannot forget about what it means to stay compliant with the regulators, what it means to stay compliant with all the financial authority bodies, and how you incorporate that as you grow from one stage to the next as a company.

Ababacar: We know that our population maintains very specific services and all the players who experience growth have very simple to use platforms and, as a result, are successful. People use their mobile phones to connect to others and to sell and pay. Now we also see QR codes that some operators are offering and all of this is very easy to use.

What progress should we expect to see in the years to come? What advancements need to happen?

Sukhi: This is a very exciting question because we can talk about some very creative ways of what the future is going to look like. Obviously, there is a lot of scope and there is plenty of opportunity. But it is going to require a lot of collaboration as we just covered. How can governments help? How can central banks help? How can the regulator help? And how can the fintechs and everybody else work together in this ecosystem? I also think traditional digital currencies and cryptocurrencies are something we all need to be aware of – the adoption is already starting to happen. We see it in many of the markets, but we still have a long way to go. And I am personally very excited about the opportunity here.

Edward: I think the one to watch out for is what the central banks are going to do with the CBDC. The whole ambition is that they are the custodians of these individual wallets and there will be an impact downstream for everyone in terms of MTOs, mobile operators and banks because it is shortcutting everyone out of the flow. So, that will be an interesting one to see.

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