Mobile banking - revolutionising the industry in Zambia

Mobile, banking, revolutionising, industry, Zambia, M-banking, standard, africa, zanaco, MTN MeluHow mobile banking services have affected Zambia

How mobile banking services have affected Zambia

In the olden days, one had to endure long periods of time on queues in banks just to get a statement or balance. Today, banking flows like clockwork.

With only a press of a mobile phone key, numerous bank-related services are brought to one’s doorstep,.

Mobile banking services have simplified the art of banking by reducing transaction costs, improving payment systems and helping customers avoid time-consuming traditional services.

The pioneers of mobile banking in Zambia was the Zambia National Commercial Bank (ZNCB), now rebranded Zanaco, a joint partnership between the Government and the Rabobank Group of the Netherlands. Rabobank is one of the top banks in the world with an asset base of about $650 billion and equity of $34 billion. Not only that, it has a triple A (AAA) credit rating, the highest that can be achieved by any bank.

Affordable

Xapit, Zanaco’s m-banking offering, is not only the first in the country but has proved to be the most popular as it is very affordable. For a paltry ZMK30 000, one can open a Xapit account with the widest bank network in the country. Zanaco’s current branch and agency network stands at 57. It operates in 35 out of the total 73 districts in the country. The plan in the long term is to increase to 172 branches/agencies operating in 68 districts.

Xapit gives the customer the zeal to bank as it enables one to carry out the following functions: balance enquiry, mobile banking transfer, inter-account transfer, airtime top up, bill payments (digital satellite television, utility services, tertiary education, etc), mini statements and account management (e.g. blocking a stolen or missing ATM card).

The service’s transactions are instant and value is obtained immediately as it is convenient, cost effective and easy to use. It has proved popular among farmers, traders, suppliers and indeed the general public. What makes it even more attractive is that internet access on the phone is not necessary as the software has been designed and tailored to cater for the low-income groups as well.

Partnership

In emerging markets such as Zambia, mobile technology is transforming access to banking services for people living in both urban and rural areas. Zanaco has built its m-banking model around the principle that the bank should follow its clients, instead of the other way round.

Zanaco partnered with the country’s leading mobile phone service provider, Airtel Zambia (formerly Zain Zambia and before that Celtel Zambia) to come up with this innovative service.

To expand their reach, Zanaco recently announced plans to use the country’s postal service, Zampost, to roll out its expansion programme to the country’s unbanked population. Zampost operates throughout the country. This partnership is branded Zanaco Xpress which enables customers to perform banking transactions using either Xapit or the Zanaco Point of Sale Terminals in all the Zampost branches.

“This will ultimately make Zanaco the first bank to operate in 9 out of Zambia’s 14 unbanked districts which is an unprecedented stride in the history of banking in the Zambia. Zanaco continues to strive to be leaders in implement innovative products and ways of enhancing its service delivery. Following a successful pilot involving 24 Zampost outlets, the bank will now embark on deploying the service to the rest of the country,” said Zanaco’s head of customer service and brand management Chana Musakanya.

And Zampost postmaster general Paul Simfukwe said the vast network and coverage of the postal firm should be harnessed through strategic business partnerships with institutions such as banks, utility companies and telecommunication companies.

M-Banking

The other mobile service in the country is M-Banking offered by the British-headquartered bank, Standard Chartered which was introduced in March 2009. It offers balance enquiry, mini statement, funds transfer, bills payment, airtime top up, enquiry about products and services, know the status of issued cheques, check forex rates and fixed deposit rates. The bank teamed up with the second largest (and fastest growing) mobile phone service provider in the country, MTN Zambia, a unit of the South African wireless giant MTN Group. Standard Chartered Zambia recently also partnered with Airtel to allow the bank’s customers to top up their phones using their accounts without the need for physical cash.

“With the mobile phone transactions, the bank was breaking the barriers of traditional banking to make it more convenient, accessible, fun and cheaper,” enthused Mizinga Melu, managing director of one of the country’s leading banks.

Ecobank

One of the new entrants on the Zambian banking horizon from West Africa, Ecobank offers what is called SMS Banking, a service which allows the customer to ‘take Ecobank along” wherever one goes.

“As we embrace mobile banking, the primary objective of Zambia’s mobile banking framework should be to empower the millions of citizens who do not have access to conventional banking. The essential spirit of mobile banking should be financial inclusion,” enthused Bank of Zambia (BoZ) governor Caleb Fundanga.

With the availability of cheap phones (from as low as ZMK 60 000 and affordable top up denominations (from ZMK 1 000), mobile banking is indeed here to stay and will play an integral part in the development of the country’s financial sector. With about 5 million mobile phone subscribers in the country, growth prospects for mobile banking are inestimable.

By Nawa Mutumweno

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