Moroney’s company has been the market-leading pioneer in terms of spreading knowledge on the Internet, computing and telecommunications across most of English-speaking Africa.
He spoke to Hilary Okeke on the forthcoming AITEC Banking and Payment Technologies Conference and other issues.
AITEC Banking and Payment Technologies Conference
AITEC Banking and Payment Technologies Conference is a platform where experts in banking technology from Nigeria, South Africa, UK and other parts of the world, come together to share their knowledge with the professionals and managers that attend the conference. Last year we had over 400 delegates attending the conference. In parallel with the conference, we have the exhibition which is the marketing showcase for the industry. Here, we see the latest technologies for the banking and financial services sector under one roof, providing a competitive situation where the banks and other potential buyers of the products can compare and actually quiz the companies that are on display about the services they are providing.
The Banking and Payment Technologies Conference has transformed the development of the financial credit sector from one that is rather traditional and colonial in perspective, to one that is now more outward looking, more inclusive and providing services for the unbanked. The problem that the conference has is that the vast majority of the populace still remains unbanked. They do not have basic financial services in order to transfer funds; in order to get money from one part of the country to another and also to be able to save their funds securely. The mobile banking phenomenon has hit East Africa in a big way and it is expected in this part soon. That would be a major focus of this year’s conference – Mobile Banking or what we call Branchless Banking. So, that has been the major achievement of the conference, providing a forum where new developments that are rapidly evolving can be deliberated.
Nigeria Ripe for e-Payment
Definitely! I think one needs to draw a line between e-payment and mobile payment. The former is facilitated by the Internet. I think the infrastructure is not well developed, in that way a lot of people do not have access to the Internet. For mobile payment, we are going to see huge increases in terms of volumes. Because there is rapid roll out of mobile telephony in the country, one can now leverage on that infrastructure and develop mobile banking.
Potential of Branchless Banking in Nigeria
Well, the potential is limitless. It still boils down to leveraging on the mobile networks, and there is big potential. You can use the mobile networks to transfer from user-to-user; you can also deploy wireless systems with mobile devices to function in the rural areas. At this moment, we have thousands of agents vending mobile scratch cards. Those agents can be trained and upgraded to actually become bank agents and can be in charge of certain transactions. So, the opportunities are boundless.
Role of Telecommunications in Mobile Banking
Telecommunication networks provide the backbone of the mobile banking system. In Kenya for example, on the M-pesa system there are millions of customers making fund transfers through the mobile system. The time has come for the banks to partner with mobile operators to provide these services because they have the proper banking expertise and experience in order to provide customers with the security and professionalism they need using mobile banking; whereas the mobile operators are more experienced in the infrastructure aspect. There is the need for partnership between the two sectors in order to provide effective mobile banking services.
Replicating M-pesa’s Success in Nigeria
Of course it could, but the right regulatory environment needs to be put in place. The Central Bank is grappling with that at the moment. Moneybox has been given mobile banking licence, which indicates some progress. I think we are on the eve of another banking revolution in Nigeria and we will see millions of people making use of their mobile phones for banking transactions.
Microfinance Banks and Mobile Banking
That is an important focus of this year’s conference – it includes the microfinance institutions. The conference, which would be in partnership with CGAP, EFIna and the World Bank, is going to focus on fashioning out ways in which these new technologies and new ideas can be utilized by the microfinance institutions. One of the sessions would be “Linking MFIs, Banks and payment Providers: What are the Obstacles in Nigeria?” So, we are going to look at what the problems are and what are the solutions. That would be a major focus of the conference - to find a way around to actualizing the benefits of these new developments.
Place of the Unbanked in the Branchless Banking Scenario
The unbanked are the target audience. The key untapped market out there needs low cost banking solution to be able to transfer funds from one point to another; a low cost solution to be able to invest their funds effectively, as well as access micro loans to develop their businesses. That is very critical in a branchless banking system that is based on telecoms networks.
Issues at this year’s event
They include latest software developments for ATMs. We will be looking at e-channels for microfinance banking, and the major focus will be on security issues. As we speak about mobile banking, security is a major problem. So, we would be looking at solutions in terms of security. We would be addressing ATM software trends for 2009/10, contact centres in banking, matters arising in Islamic banking, among others. In the exhibitions, we have a number of South African countries participating and we would be seeing a lot of cutting-edge technologies.