Banking on Africa’s poor
LONDON — Vast distances, high costs and unstable incomes.
Those are just some of the challenges faced by millions of Africa’s poorest trying to access financial services in rural communities in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Until recently, commercial banks across the continent hadn’t bothered to reach out to impoverished Africans in rural areas because they saw little profit potential. Instead, they focused on wealthier clients with larger transactions, which had a better chance of surpassing the cost of the bank infrastructure and staff.
“Current operating models are very much focused on serving other clients who are richer and have larger transactions on average, and thereby it’s very much heavy on brick and mortar infrastructure and personal attention,” said Benedikt Wahler, a manager at Roland Berger Strategy Consultants GmbH in Nigeria.
“Those two things contribute to high transaction costs that would not be feasible for the kinds of transactions volumes that you see from low-income households.”
But now, the potential for billions of dollars in deposits from people earning less than $10 per day has spurred many financial institutions to reconsider the way they do business. Now, they hope to lure the 95 percent of the estimated 498 million adults in Sub-Saharan Africa who earn less than $10 a day. This group could account for a potential $59 billion in deposits, according to Roland Berger.