Technology solutions are changing the world and boosting economies, especially in developing countries. The African continent remains at the heart of this evolution with its technology industry growing and making a huge impact on businesses and organisations, despite the challenges it faces.
Increasingly, Africans are embracing technology and applying it across their everyday activities, especially business and payments. Reports indicate that Sub-Saharan Africa has the highest rate of mobile money usage in the world. In Sierra Leone, for instance, 70 percent of entrepreneurs depend on technology solutions such as mobile money and social media to carry out their businesses.
This indicates that opportunities now abound for financial institutions to further deepen financial inclusion among the about 360 million unbanked people in Africa, according to a 2022 survey; as well as create financial products that will help customers carry out seamless and safe cross-border financial services.
It is against this backdrop that Africa’s leading integrated payments and digital commerce company, Interswitch hosted its stakeholders and customers in Sierra Leone to a robust and insightful session at its first Breakfast Session in the country, to discuss how African businesses can leverage digital payments to unlock endless opportunities and drive growth in the financial industry.
At the session themed Accelerating Growth and Profitability – Leveraging Technology to Win, several innovative products and solutions were introduced to the Sierra Leonean audience. These products, designed for banks, fintechs, microfinance banks and corporate organisations, are expected to boost Sierra Leone’s digital payment ecosystem and by extension, advance the African economy.
The products introduced include Postilion Retail Payment, Interswitch Banking-as-a-Service; Interswitch Payment-as-a-Service; Agency Banking and Card Fusion and they provide digital payment solutions.
Speaking at the breakfast session, Olubunmi Aina, Group Head of Sales, Payment Processing and Switching (Interswitch Purepay), reiterated that the firm is committed to building a prosperous African economy by designing innovative cross-border payment products and solutions to enable the growth of businesses in Sierra Leone and beyond.
“For the last two decades, we have consistently designed products that address financial issues within the payment ecosystem. We equally have been facilitating payment, building infrastructure, and providing world-class technologies and support that aid financial institutions to deliver top-notch services to their customers.
Sierra Leoneans are no strangers to digital technologies as the people and businesses relied on technology during the Ebola outbreak of 2014 and the COVID-19 pandemic more recently. Mobile phones were used to track, monitor, and manage the spread of diseases.
This is an empirical example of platforms for mobile payments and transactions becoming major drivers of economic growth and social good. This is further reiterated by the Digital Economy Initiative for Africa (DE4A) initiative affirming that the digital economy can help accelerate the achievement of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the World Bank Group’s twin goals.
In line with one of the goals of DE4A, which is to increase connectivity across the region and connect the underserved in rural and urban areas to digital financial and government services, markets and information, Interswitch is committed to driving secure and seamless digital payment solutions across the nooks and crannies of Africa. This is expected to build the base for vibrant digital entrepreneurship and raise the level of digital literacy and skills.
Aina echoed this saying, “We are here in Sierra Leone to replicate the successes we have attained in other markets across Africa by providing the Sierra Leone market with secure and safe digital payments products to further drive growth and profitability for businesses.”
The decade-long civil war in the African country has caused significant infrastructural damage, leaving many small businesses struggling. So, bringing people onto the digital divide will spur access to formal financial services, including digital payment.
The establishment of the AfCFTA in 2018 was to increase socioeconomic development, reduce poverty, and make Africa more competitive in the global economy; by creating a single, liberalised market across the continent. The goal of the AfCTA enactment is the birth of the largest free trade area with the potential to connect 1.3 billion people across 55 countries.
One of the products and services recently introduced into the Sierra Leonian market is Interswitch’s Payment-as-a-service (PaaS) which has been developed to strategically target financially excluded persons. PaaS is a payment platform which allows financial institutions and fintechs to offer improved payment services to their customers. They also enable financial institutions to perform the usual services like issuance of cards, process transactions, access to collections and disbursement of funds.
PaaS will allow financial institutions speedily integrate to newer payment channels and enable medium and small-sized microfinance banks to offer digital financial services to their numerous customers.
With innovative solutions such as the Postilion Retail Payment, Interswitch Banking-as-a-service; Interswitch Payment-as-a-service; Agency Banking and Card Fusion being replicated across the continent, and their expected impact carefully harnessed, we are well on course to achieve Interswitch’s dream of a prosperous Africa driven by the seamless exchange of value and commerce.