Africa lagged behind the developed world in inclusive finance, but that is rapidly changing as tech hubs spring up across the continent, providing incentives to enterprising start-ups and investors and jobs to talented young workers. The gains are spilling into the wider economy, with tech ecosystems propelling progress and development.
Developing markets surmount trials not faced by developed markets, as do their financial-services providers. Forward-looking banks in developing countries implement innovative approaches to maximize customer satisfaction in trying times. One such bank is Kenya’s Guardian Bank, which in its quest to provide its customers with only the best banking experience has developed initiatives that may set a new trend for banks worldwide.
For the 28 jurisdictions that are members of the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision, adopting Basel banking standards is a given. But why are some non-member developing countries embracing the reforms when they don’t have to? The answers vary by country, but the final lesson is that regulators should carefully evaluate the advantages and disadvantages of adopting Basel regulations in whole or in part for their nation’s unique situation.
In any economy, banks play the critical role of re-allocating capital, from surplus areas into deficit areas. It is a role that sees them take deposits from the public and use the same to issue loans to businesses, both large and small. But that process hasn’t been happening much in Sub-Saharan Africa. Instead, banks, motivated by risk-aversion, have been funneling liquidity into the coffers of governments through government-issued debt securities. SSA banks must get back to the business of lending to the private sector if they are to escalate shareholder returns.
You could be excused for thinking that financial inclusion is a given. In reality, however, this is far from the truth. As illustrated by a recent report by the World Bank, 1.7 billion adults across the world are ‘unbanked’, meaning they do not possess a bank account or have access to formal finance. This situation is not confined to just one part of the world. Whether you live in a developed country or developing region, the unbanked can be found. For example, just 14 percent of adults in the Middle East hold a bank account.
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It’s not news that many economies of the developing world face barriers to financial inclusion, making it difficult for citizens to both borrow and save; but the good news is that help has arrived in the linking of mobile payments with remittances. From sub-Saharan Africa to Latin America and the Caribbean, mobile money is bringing the previously underbanked into the fold.
Sub-Saharan African central banks are racing to enhance financial regulation, especially surrounding capital conservation and balance-sheet fortification. Ghana and Uganda are the latest to join the race having enforced ever stricter requirements on their banks, falling into step with the rest of the world in the aftermath of the global financial crisis.