Dar es Salaam. The world is abuzz with the word “fintech”.
To be fair, it is Lolita Group, founded in Mauritius, with its headquarters in Nairobi that founded a company and named it Fintech International 25 years ago and popularised the terminology, now synonymous with finance and technology.
The just-concluded Tanzania Financial Services Conference organised by Mr Deo Kilawe and his Mikono Speakers gave a wide array of speakers the opportunity to share on challenges facing financial inclusion including the micro finance sector.
Fintech International has been providing customers, largely banks and financial institutions, with tailor-made solutions that ease the institutions’ capacities to provide faster and better financial services.
Mr Polycup Osero, the Group head of sales and marketing, says in keeping with UN strategic development goals on eliminating poverty in all its forms, Fintech has identified partners and is working with microfinance institutions and Saccos that have a key role to play in mobilising savings, providing access to affordable credit and improvement of agriculture production and marketing, among others.
In responding to the challenges in the sector which include the lack of resources, high unemployment, infrastructure, low literacy including financial literacy, Fintech sees opportunities to meet Africa’s needs.
In this case, back office Coresystems become critical whether out rightly purchased or shared/hosted platforms.
It is the latter which Fintech has deployed in Malawi successfully as Mr Joseph Mayenda, chief executive officer of the Micro Finance Institutions Hub testifies.
Initially, financial institutions feared to venture into rural Malawi where over 70 per cent of our 17 m people live and 55 per cent of them were financially excluded.
The formation of the MFI Hub in Malawi was a government initiative, driven by research findings of a Finscope Survey and the need to mobilise savings and forms part of the base capital the country’s financial sector needed.
The government created the environment by working on payment systems and regulatory environment for MFIs. Creating systems was high to breaking key barriers hence to create a shared system that was inter-operable with MNO’s, National Switch.
Since Fintech entered into the arrangement with the shared core banking systems it has seen completely integrated solution that has seen more than 100 MFIs and Saccos joining the hub, thus create a net effect of more people saving/investing, easier partnerships between banks, improved confidence by clients and easier monitoring by regulators and credit referencing.
TANZANIA’S TREMENDOUS STEPS TOWARDS FINANCIAL INCLUSION
The World Bank has been active in working with different stakeholders to help develop inclusive strategies for financial inclusion based on the understanding that barriers to inclusion are barriers to human development.
In a presentation delivered by the lead private sector specialist for Africa (East), Mr Steven Dimitriyev, all of East African countries, Tanzania inclusive are at different stages on the path to charting out a National Financial Inclusion Strategy (NFIS).
All countries of EAC, except Kenya, have done similar versions of these NFIS/NFIF at least once and some are also already on their second or third generation.
Kenya does not have a formal NFIS but its financial inclusion framework is embedded within its Vision 2030, which, however, does not contain all the required elements such as time-bound action plans, and so on.
But, Kenya has been a frontrunner in financial inclusion and is quite advanced especially in the use of mobile banking/payments etc.
Tanzania is already on its second generation NFIS (here it is called National Financial Inclusion Framework, or NFIF), the latest being launched in 2017.
The World Bank sees a comprehensive approach is needed to allow new consumers to take up new financial products and reflects on the (Outreach) supply-side and demand-side barriers; the regularity and frequency of uptake e.g. average balances, frequencies of transactions per account; the degree products meet the needs of the consumers; the Impact of the services on household incomes, poverty, employment and gender.
Achieving the target will require the coordinated approach by policy makers, regulators and supervisory bodies, the private sector, civil societies and research entities.
The recent collapse of what would be Tanzanian’s foremost microfinance company, Pride Microfinance Co Ltd, is a painful reminder of how much work has to be done to create a truly enabling environment.
FINANCIAL SECTOR DEEPENING INITIATIVES
According to the head of Financial Services at Financial Sector Deepening Tanzania, Mr Innocent Ephraim, there are four dimensions to financial inclusion in Tanzania.
These include the ability to access financial services with minimal barriers: opening of accounts, the usage of financial services to include regularity, frequency and patterns, the quality of services provided to match the customers need on financial strength and protection and finally, the benefits to the users.
FSDT is an enabler and market facilitator and not a regulator as many a time people think its role is the latter.