African banks have a great challenge in overcoming their heritage of colonial banking, which was designed to cater primarily for government, corporate and high-worth individuals. The bottom part of the pyramid has been badly neglected. Now that the mobile operators are setting the pace in terms of providing low-cost banking services, banks are scrambling to catch up. This they can do not only through technological innovation, but also through a customer-oriented corporate culture and service innovation.
The Challenge 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. Ghana 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 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.
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 Community have now provided the framework for substantial economic integration. The region is ripe for even broader regional banking systems. 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 the set up 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.
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 work 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.
The two-day conference provides a valuable educational forum for the financial services sector, updating CXOs and IS managers on latest international developments in payment technologies, best practices in IT project deployment, and latest trends in customer service delivery. In addition, more broader themes of risk management, governance, regulation and compliance will be covered.
A range of specialist streams and workshops on a range of 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. This year we will be encouraging audience participation though employing a panel discussion format for the vast majority of the sessions.
Who is the conference aimed at?
The event will have several key audiences:
• ICT managers & professionals in the banking and financial services sector
• The Regulators
• High-level managers at CEO, COO and CFO level in banks, MFIs and telecom operators
• Innovators and service providers active in the financial services sector
• Telecom operators and service providers
• NGOs/civil society organisations directly involved with delivering banking or microfinance services in rural areas.
• Media representatives
Evaluation and Outputs
There will be several outputs from the event:
• Increased knowledge among top managers and professionals in the COMESA banking sector of latest international trends and technologies and their application in the region
• Increased awareness among high-level non-technical managers in the sector of the vital role ICT has to play in their business strategies – and the range of technologies and systems available.
• Informed media coverage that will help build a profile for the issues under discussion.
• Broker relationships between suppliers and users of systems for the financial services sector.