Welcome to our networking event this evening. Here in Nairobi we are truly on the frontline of a mobile money revolution – and a bit like its political equivalent in Tunisia, it is reverberating across the continent. Like politicians in North Africa, bankers throughout the continent are having to rethink the service range they are providing. Because customers – newly empowered by the mobile money services the mobile operates are providing them – now expect services that suit their needs – and at prices they can afford. At long last the customer has more of the upper hand!
Banks that until a couple of years ago virtually ignored the so-called bottom of the pyramid - the jua kali entrepreneurs, the housewives, the farmers, the smallholders, the street vendors, the taxi drivers, in fact the majority of the country’s economically active population – are now scrambling to offer new low-cost accounts, increasingly including mobile facilities. This high-volume segment of the market, having tasted the convenience of MPesa, is not going to be interested in a non-mobile bank account.
The era of elitist colonial banking focussing on government, corporate and high-worth individuals is well and truly over!
These are indeed exciting times in the financial services sector – and I can say without any fear of contradiction that no other business event encapsulates the opportunities and challenges that the sector faces with the width and depth that AITEC’s Banking & Mobile Money COMESA Conference does. With over 100 top industry leaders from throughout Africa and beyond making presentations, participating in panel discussions and delivering masterclasses, we have an unparalleled line-up of expertise.
But we must look beyond the mobile phenomenon. The other great opportunity for banks, in this new era of regional economic integration, is cross-border regional banking. Again, local banks are scrambling to catch up with the politicians and enterprises that are thinking and acting regionally rather than nationally – as well as their Nigerian competitors who are ahead in the regional banking stakes.
To help us in this endeavour to inject a major regional perspective into the conference we have partnered with the region’s two regional apex business organisations: the East African Business Council and the COMESA Business Council. They both share our vision of breaking down borders and costs in driving forward economic costs across the region. And both organisations are going to make practical contributions to the conference outcomes: EABC by delivering an in-depth position paper on the financial services required to underpin the East African Community vision; and CBC by working with bankers from throughout COMESA region to use the conference as a platform to relaunch the CoMESA Bankers Association.
We are also pleased to have another key regional body, the African Confederation of Co-operative Savings & Credit Associations (ACCOSCA) as a Supporting Orgnanisation for the event and I’d like to acknowledge George Ombado, its Executive Director, who is here with us this evening.
Microfinance is also a rapidly expanding sub-sector – and increasing the efficiency, good governance and transparency of MFIs and SACCOS continues to be a major challenge. We are developing a wide range of MFI topics in the programme and are pleased to have the Association of Microfinance Institutions as our partner in this endeavour. I would like to thank Benjamin Nkungi, Executive Director of AMFI for the sterling support he has been giving us in developing the programme.
To incapsulate these major trends, I’m pleased to announce that the theme of the conference this year is “Innovation for a new era of financial inclusion and regional integration”.
Innovation and efficiency are crucial for banks to improve services, drive down costs and improve their bottom lines. Our conference will play a crucial role in empowering them with the knowledge to achieve this.
As you can see from all the logos on display, this is truly a partnership event. AITEC runs this event on behalf of the industry, and only with the industry’s support can we make a success of it. In that context, I want to thank all our sponsors, supporting organisations and media partners here tonight for the high level of support they have pledged this year. In return, we pledge to do our utmost create a world-beating event that will bring all stakeholders great returns in terms of new business opportunities.
And to represent all these event stakeholders I would like to invite our two Platinum Sponsors to say a few words about their vision for the event – and for the industry.
First of all, it’s my pleasure to introduce Bernard Matthewman, CEO of the Paynet Group, which has supported the event as lead sponsor since its inception five years ago.