By Niyi Aderibigbe
“We don’t need banks!” was the centre point of a speech by Prateek Shrivastava, Co-founder of Beyond Branches, a UK-based digital financial services company and one of the panelists at the just concluded Africa CEO Round-table & Conference on Sustainability (AR-CSR) held in Calabar, Nigeria, with the theme :‘The intersection: financial inclusion, economic sustainability & social benefit’.
Shrivastava argued that financial inclusion can be improved by understanding the basic wants of consumers, stressing that digital financial services like debit and credit cards and paypal are “disrupters” and can make consumers make transactions conveniently without regular trips to a bank.
“We need disrupters … banks should understand that disrupters are coming,” he says.
Franklin Ngwu, who lectures at School of Business & Society, Glasgow Caledonian University, UK also said to ensure Africa’s unbanked population embraces the available access to finance, sociological approach to banking on the continent and not economic approach must be adopted.
President of the African Development Bank (AFDB), Dr. Donald Kaberuka, represented by a spokesperson, noted that just 24 percent of people in Africa own bank accounts. He stressed the need for the unbanked population to be greatly included as they form the core of Micro and Medium-scale Enterprises (MSMEs), which he said was responsible for 22 percent of FDI into Africa in 2013.
“Our economies are operating below global indices,” the AfDB president admitted, but noted however that countries on the continent are making good progress.
He also agreed with Shrivastava on the impact of technology on financial inclusion, saying “technology is the game changer”.
Earlier, the convener of the conference and CEO of Thistle Praxis Consulting Limited, Ini Onuk, had described financial inclusion as key to sustainable development, particularly in a growing economy like Africa’s. (Ventures Africa)