Traditional banking hasn’t worked well in some areas of the world, including sub-Saharan Africa, where a large percentage of the population has been financially underserviced. New, innovative fintechs have been only too happy and qualified to fill the void. By expanding access, fintechs are promoting economic and social growth in the region, especially in high-tech hubs South Africa and Kenya, which are setting an example for others to follow.
The sub-Saharan Africa business boom has lost a lot of its momentum in recent years, but mergers and acquisitions have picked up the slack. All across the area, banks are merging as an avenue to improve their balance sheets and gain market share in the lackluster-growth environment. Although this approach may work to achieve some goals, there are downside factors that banks should consider before jumping into the M&A lifeboat.
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.
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.