The low transaction costs, innovative products, and a wide network coverage that makes its products and services easily accessible to everyone, irrespective of location, has made Airtel Mobile Commerce Uganda Limited “a bank” for people who were previously unbanked. This is according to the Airtel Uganda Chief Commercial Officer, Amit Kapur.
Amit Kapur says that while the majority of Ugandans had been excluded from the financial system partly because services were out of reach for people especially those in rural areas, Airtel Mobile Commerce has over the years invested to ensure that such access to financial services.
Apart from offering mobile money services, Airtel Mobile Commerce, which was recently given a payment services license by the Bank of Uganda following the enactment of the National Payments Systems (NPS) Act, also offers savings and loan products.
“People at the bottom of the pyramid need savings and loan products like anyone else but their requirements are simpler; they want products which are convenient, safe, and affordable and our products are designed keeping those requirements right at the heart of it,” he says.
He adds that it is the designing of customer-centric products that will help the country achieve the financial inclusion agenda.
On its savings product, Kapur says that the institution offers a 5% interest rate on daily average finances as it seeks to maximize the benefits to customers while ensuring the convenience and safety of their money.
In addition to the current loan and savings products which it offers in partnership with partners like JUMO and KCB, Kapur says that the organization is in the process of launching Quick Loans – a check-out loan product that will be accessed across the country.
“We have worked all this past period to expand the role of Airtel services to drive financial inclusion right down the person at the bottom of the pyramid. We know that driving financial inclusion to the bottom of the pyramid is a huge task but that is the reason we exist,” Kapur notes.
He adds: “Our services can be accessed at any location through our vast network of 110,000 agents and the 1,400 Airtel Money branches across the country.”
Additionally, Kapur notes that while the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted businesses across the entire African continent, it has also brought the entire digital financial services industry forward by a couple of years.
“The pandemic has put this industry right at the centre of ensuring financial inclusion to the bottom of the pyramid. Using cashless financial services like mobile money is one important way in which you can reduce contact and the risk of COVID-19 transmission,” he explains.
To achieve full financial inclusion, however, Kapur says there is a need to build an entire ecosystem so that one does not have to withdraw the money from their mobile money account to complete a transaction but simply pay digitally. He says there is also a need for more digital savings and credit products.
“It is important to build the ecosystem; and that is where partnerships with the various merchants, banks, partnerships to build savings products, partnerships to build loan products, which become extremely critical for the development of this entire ecosystem, are important,” he notes.
Airtel Mobile Commerce Uganda Limited is among the firms participating in the second edition of the 40-Days 40-FinTech initiative that is organized by HiPipo in partnership with Crosslake Technologies, ModusBox, and Mojaloop Foundation, and sponsored by the Gates Foundation.
Kapur says that the initiative has created visibility that will accelerate the uptake of the various innovative solutions on the market to further boost financial inclusion.
He adds that with NPS Act, BOU guidelines, and the excitement from players, Uganda is in the process of building a vibrant FinTech industry that will be among the most vibrant ones across the continent.
The HiPipo Chief Executive Officer, Innocent Kawooya says that the second edition of the 40 Days 40 FinTechs has showcased several innovations around distributed ledger technologies, Artificial Intelligence, Big Data, Automated Customer Relationship Management, cash management, and lending platforms, among others.
He adds that this is an indication that with the right support, FinTechs will help Uganda and Africa achieve full financial inclusion.