Has Africa been left behind by formal retail financial services? This is the question posed by the African Financial Retail Readiness Index (AFRRI).
The first annual AFRRI report looks at eight countries from Sub-Saharan Africa, comparing various metrics to determine the maturity of the current financial services in each country, and highlighting areas of opportunity for formal retail banking.
Produced by Calleo, a South African based marketing consultancy, in consultation with iVeri Payment Technologies, Africa’s leading payment solution provider, the report gives a thorough analysis of the key metrics that are required for a country to have a robust financial services sector.
Looking at factors such as demographics, economics, literacy, infrastructure, and existing banking footprints the report gives a ‘AFRRI score’ to each of the countries profiles and categorises them as ‘Ready’, ‘On its Way’, ‘Nearly There’, or ‘Left Behind’.
Perhaps unsurprisingly South Africa was the only country to achieve a ‘Ready’ status. The remaining profiled countries (Kenya, Nigeria, Ghana, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe) all fell further down on the spectrum. With large rural populations, low GDPs/high poverty rates, as well as a general lack of infrastructure, these countries generally have extremely unfavourable environments for providing financial services.
While products such as mobile money have been able to make some impact on financial inclusion (most notably in Kenya and increasingly in Tanzania and Uganda) these countries still have a long way to go in building full service retail financial sectors that are utilised by a majority of the population.
There are however signs of potential. Tanzania, for example, has demographics, economic indicators and literacy levels that show a possible demand for financial services which is clearly not being provided for. There is therefore great potential for growth in retail financial services, if the challenges around a lack of infrastructure can be overcome.
The challenge is for the retail financial services industry to come up with solutions that will work in Africa. While banks may have world-class technology, they need to consider what is feasible and provide unique solutions that are able to deal with Africa’s unique environment.
There is potential to provide much greater levels of financial services across Africa, but solutions cannot be cut and pasted from other parts of the world. They must be specifically designed for the region, country or area they are servicing.