AITEC Banking & Mobile Money COMESA, 2011
2-3 March 2011
Key Topics for 2011
African banks have a great challenge in overcoming their heritage of colonial banking, which was designed to serve government, corporate and high-worth individuals. The bottom part of the pyramid has been badly neglected, as illustrated most extremely in Nigeria, where many of the banks squandered their capital on unsecured loans for the families and cronies of top managers. Now commercial banks are scrambling to catch up with mobile operators, who are setting the pace in terms of providing low-cost banking services. This they can do not only through technological innovation, but also through a customer-oriented corporate culture and service innovation.
The Challenges and Opportunities of Mobile
Mobile banking is the future, not a fad. Because most central banks are also tied into the old banking paradigm, they don’t fully understand the dynamics of mobile banking, worry about the risks involved and therefore resist it. No doubt they are also encouraged to do so by the banks who don’t want mobile operators encroaching into their space. Kenya is a notable exception. There, the Central Bank has taken the risk of allowing mobile operators to provide money transfer services – and it has benefited millions of Kenyans and reduced money transfer costs substantially. Money moves around the economy far more efficiently and quickly and in that sense, a higher level of financial inclusion has been achieved. Nigeria still has to liberate the market sufficiently to unleash the power of mobile financial inclusion..
A New Era of Regional Banking
Political and business trends are both dictating an ever-quickening pace in regional banking developments. Political leaders in the East African Community have now provided the framework for substantial economic integration. The COMESA region is ripe for even broader regional banking systems. SADC and ECOWAS have similar objectives. And major banks in Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa are investing substantially in cross-border operations. All senior bankers now need think regionally rather than nationally in the systems they develop and the services they provide.
Regulation vs Innovation
Regulation and innovation have to find an optimum coexistence. In order to encourage innovation and financial inclusion, positive, creative regulation is needed, rather than restrictive regulation. And communication is the key, in order to avoid misinformation and misconceptions having a negative impact on the market. Kenya’s enabling regulatory environment didn’t happen overnight. It took months, even years, of creative dialogue, negotiation and lobbying for M-Pesa to become probably the most successful instrument of financial inclusion on the continent. But for this to happen there had to be enlightened leadership in the Central Bank that kept the door open – and didn’t allow the threat of uncertainties and unknown consequences – as well as vested interests - block out wider societal considerations like financial inclusion.
Microfinance: Deepening financial services
MFIs have a vital role to play in achieving financial inclusion for the vast majority of the region’s population who remain unbanked. There have been some impressive pace-setters across the region and their business models provide valuable success case studies. However, others are struggling to meet their targets. These success and failure factors need to be evaluated to enable this sub-sector to develop a solid foundation for future growth.
Standards, Compliance and International Trends
For the region to offer truly world class banking services, it needs to learn from best practices internationally. Lessons from the world banking crisis must be learnt and appropriate steps taken to incorporate those measures that will most effectively achieve board requirements and business objectives. Important international standards are rapidly evolving and it is vital for the region’s banking leadership to understand them and their benefits.
Islamic Banking: An alternative model for equitable banking
The conference will include a focus on Sharia-compliant banking, which is playing an increased role in the region and which all major banks are beginning to offer. A review of models and services currently on offer, their track record, and growth potential will provide an invaluable bench-mark assessment opportunity for the region’s bankers.
Each of the two-day conferences provides a valuable educational forum for the financial services sector, updating CXOs and IS managers and professionals on latest international developments in payment technologies, best practices in IT project deployment, and latest trends in customer service delivery. In addition, broader themes of risk management, governance, regulation and compliance will be covered.
A range of specialist streams and workshops on a number of key topics, including those mentioned above, will allow delegates to select the sessions of greatest relevance to them.
Bankers will be asked to share their insights into optimizing customer service, operations and delivery of banking services. Peer discussions and audience participation will be encouraged by using a panel discussion format for most of the sessions.
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