Managing Director of Absa Bank Ghana, Abena Osei-Poku says collaboration is the new competition in the digital financial services space across the continent. She made the comments during a panel discussion on how Africa can build resilience and drive differentiation in the financial sector at the ongoing Financial Times Global Summit.
Africa’s financial services sector has transformed from a decade ago with digital technology leading a revolution that is impacting every facet of human life. Three players in the ecosystem – Banks, Fintechs and Telecoms – are at the forefront of this unique opportunity.
Whilst the orientation of these three players is diverse in several ways, the overall assessment has been for them to collaborate with their complementary skills in creating an ecosystem that reflects scalability, accessibility, and convenience for the customer.
Fintechs and telecom companies have consistently displayed creativity, agility and an innovative mindset that tend to cause positive disruption for the benefit of the customer. Banks, on the other hand, have a robust system of stringent governance and stability at their disposal, which is critical to the partnership.
Taking her seat alongside Sim Tshabalala, Chief Executive of Standard Bank Group and Aishah Ahmad, Deputy Governor of Nigeria’s Central Bank, Abena said:“Collaboration will always prove to be the way forward for these key stakeholders to co-exist and create sustainable synergies for the benefit of customers, clients and the financial inclusion agenda. It is a shared responsibility and there is no one size fits all.
Regulation is also of extreme importance in this dynamic and already we are seeing Central Banks continuously proving assertive, proactive and transformative in their work in this space. Thanks to the global pandemic as well, awareness around digital payments and collaboration is becoming mainstay, which is a good thing. Essentially, we continue to see a gradual harmonisation of the ecosystem thanks to the understanding of all key stakeholders and this is quite satisfying.”
Led by David Pilling, Africa Editor of the Financial Times, the panellists covered several areas, including impact of the Omicron variant of COVID-19 on African economies, financial sector regulation and cross-border transactions aided by digital currency.
On her views around blockchain technology and cryptocurrencies, Abena said: “We continue to take a closer look at the cryptocurrency concept as a Bank. It seeks to disrupt the entire financial system by driving regulation away from the Central banks into the hands of individuals aided by a web of computer connections.
Most opponents to the model worry about the risk of decentralisation to the financial system. There is also the other important point of price volatility, which becomes an issue of concern to most mainline actors in the sector.
At Absa Bank, we are still accessing the diversity of information and structure of the concept and are yet to conclusively devise a direction around it. Again, issues around closing legal loopholes to prevent cybercrime and fraud are of immense importance to us and we shall continue to keep an eye on this area.”