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A mobile-led risk-based approach is crucial to achieving financial inclusion in Africa

By , CIO of Mukuru
Africa , 27 Jul 2022
Sandy Rheeder, CIO of Mukuru.
Sandy Rheeder, CIO of Mukuru.

Fintechs that are innovating, operating and growing throughout Africa have moved on from the broad academic concept of financial inclusion to the practical onboarding and walking hand-in-hand with underserved people along a financial journey.

The first port of call is to understand that serving the underserved is not just about technology. It’s about the human element of dealing with people that are not part of the mainstream financial system; it’s about reaching them and engaging with them where they are and when they need you.

Repeat use of a product or service happens when you create products that serve real customer needs.

The world of mobile access has unlocked an ecosystem where mobile channels can sit alongside a predominantly cash economy, and this is vital for meaningful digital inclusion.

If a Fintech wishes to onboard people and develop trust, it must be able to do this without forcing customers to take a financial leap to mobile money or a digital store of value. Often, off the bat, it is a bridge too far. Trust needs to be developed first.

Financial inclusion must be seen as a journey, and you start by putting someone in control of their financial destiny without asking them to put their money into something that they don’t yet understand, such as the concept of the cloud.

Our market still operates predominantly on 2G mobile connections, which means that USSD is a critical channel. An effective Fintech meets these customers at the touchpoints where they currently transact and then walks them down a path towards understanding mobile use cases.

Once the customer understands that they can control a digital transaction, encouraging them to partake in the world of mobile wallets and digital payments becomes a logical progression.

There are still millions of people who can’t be reached by field agents. It’s not fair that they should be excluded because they live in remote regions. They, too, should have access to financial services.

A mobile-led risk-based approach represents the solution to finding them and helping them along their financial journeys.

By the very nature of connectivity on this continent, mobile sign-up is a critical entry point to the journey and basic mobile channels need to be available. Fintechs must understand the market, as well as the regulations in various territories, and then address the barriers to sign-up which perpetuate financial exclusion.

Collaboration between regulators is important - for access to identification - and Fintechs make this process far easier. The point is that one doesn’t have to swing the door wide open in the first instance because of the very limitations that left people excluded in the first place.

Rather, with a careful, mobile-led, risk-based approach the door can be inched wider until they reach a point where they step into full financial inclusion.

Financial inclusion and verified customer onboarding can, and do, work hand-in-hand. If you start someone on their financial journey by giving them access to a digital channel rather than forcing them to convert immediately to a digital store of value, you start moving people along a financial journey they can control.

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