Are We Prepared for Africa’s Next Frontier?

By Wabo Moswate, Stanbic Bank Botswana Head of Everyday Banking, Lending and Cash

Bill Gates famously stated, way back in 1994, that “Banking is necessary, banks are not.” As with many things, Mr. Gates appeared to be right on the proverbial money well before others even caught wind of the digital revolution’s arrival. But, and I mean no disrespect to the Microsoft Founder, but perhaps his utterance was perhaps slightly simplistic given our current reality and the needs of the modern consumer.

Banking today exists in entirely different forms than when the concept was first birthed centuries ago. The rise of mobile money, fintechs and other more transformative platforms has meant that banking itself now wears a different proverbial cloak – we can transact, plan, budget and save – indeed even more than this – in a multitude of different ways that now accommodate the need for greater inclusion and accessibility, that are mindful of more transitive and mobile needs, and which take cognisance of increasing technological advancements. Today, these advancements range from simulation and augmented reality to big data analytics and the industrial internet of things, and even to new business models, artificial intelligence and horizontal and vertical integration and supply chain intricacies.

The onus is on traditional banks or modern platform businesses that serve as the new generation of banking institutions to leverage these for progress, technological advancements are after all a means to an end, and allow us to empower and support the consumer – be it individual or institutional – to fuel their growth. It is about ensuring that nobody is left behind, and that we, as partners to our clients from the “banking” sector, show up in innovative and nuanced ways to bring relevant and meaningful value. Our role has not changed – to provide support and security – but how we deliver it is, of course, evolving every day.

Cyber Security is amongst the most easily understood – though complex in nature – aspect of digitalization and digitization.  It is about, at once, ensuring we are Responsive, Preventive, Predictive and Detective. The goal is, at every cost, to protect the customer and their finances. This could be from fraudsters or scammers in targeted attacks, or even lesser issues of phishing. We are duty bound and committed to ensuring the utmost security and state of the art protocols for complete peace of mind. Just as fraudsters leverage technology to find new means of preying, we aim to be a step ahead of them with technological advancements to combat any risk.

Other means are more about creating opportunity and possibilities. Through data science and behavioural economics capabilities, which includes Machine Learning, Artificial intelligence and Data Mining or Business Intelligence (BI),  we use various tools to understand business performance and customer behaviour and to better appreciate customer spend patterns. This allows us as banking professionals to recommend customised solutions for clients and customers, for example building credit scoring models to score clients and pre-approve them for credit facilities. The Stanbic Bank Digital Lending capability (Toro Loan), does this, for example. You log into Internet Banking, find an offer, accept it and funds are automatically disbursed into your account.

 Robotics and Automation are also an area of considerable growth. We see this across the industry in means such as Chat Bots/Virtual Assistants, BOTs and the aforementioned Digital Lending Capability. We have a chatbot called Thuso which clients can use to inquire about a range of information, while we have also implemented BOTs which can open accounts for us without human interaction. The purpose of this is not to replace the human factor, but to add an even greater degree of convenience for the end user, being the customer or client. They receive more real-time support, thus enhancing their experience.

New business models are an area of considerable growth and certainly of considerable investment, including at Stanbic Bank. As part of our strategy, we want to become a digitally enabled platform business and an ecosystem curator that can compete and win in a world where competitive lines are constantly being re-drawn.  This is how we stay ahead of the proverbial curve and ensure that we shape a future fit banking operation for the modern age. This is not the bank of the past, but one that truly evolves for future proofed consumer support.

To achieve this ambition, we launched our Unayo platform in 2021, an inclusive services platform that is designed to connect businesses and people with mutual financial interests. It connects communities and businesses to help them grow and is especially crucial in advancing our inclusion and accessibility agenda, for the solution is completely digital and accessed via mobile devices, thus catering to users who may not even have a bank account and are thus typically unserved. It is a single hub for economic activity that puts the power in the consumers’ hands to improve their financial wellbeing as part of a growing and thriving economic ecosystem.

We are well beyond the point of seeing “digital” as a revolution. Today, it is a way of life, and we can, and must all embrace this brave new world and explore how we can all make the most of it for the singular purpose of advancing progress and growth. And so, banking remains necessary, and yet it is evolving. Banks, too, have their role, albeit a modernised and equally evolved one. These are not the banks of yester-year. They are platform business partners that help shape brighter futures.

After all, Botswana is our home, and we drive her growth; we can and must make use of any and all strategic means through which we can deliver on this and deliver on this sustainably.  This is our mandate, goal, and ambition. This is the future of our industry, and this is how we influence Africa’s next frontier.