The current COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated the need to embrace innovation NOW in order to create durable systems that can withstand future pandemics . The only certainty is the world post covid19 would be different from what we left behind.
In the Fintech world where Pezesha operates, COVID-19 crisis has impacted SMEs ability to access capital. Borrower’s ability to pay has been severely impacted by lockdowns, curfew and proximity-based restrictions notwithstanding the measures Pezesha is taking to support the underserved SMEs during this time. To alleviate these impact on the most vulnerable businesses and communities, in addition to strengthening the overall economy, data accessibility and mobility has to be prioritized.
The current pandemic has accelerated the need for digital channels. Instead of a customer going to a local bank branch they can instead access financial services from online or mobile banking. Instead of waiting for a collections or customer service agent to call to remind customers of their loan repayment due date, they can get an automated AI driven bot notifying them on their due date 2 days in advance.
In Kenya, some news channels announced the temporarily closure of bank branches in an effort to curtail the spread of Covid19. Some other news channels have asked how fiscal stimulus programs will reach the most vulnerable. To answer these questions brings into focus digital mobility, digital accessibility, which would be powered by an open banking infrastructure.
The premise of open banking involves standardizing data and systems, ensuring their mobility and interoperability and making them available to third parties. This makes it possible for financial institutions to expand their addressable market, achieve product diversity, personalization, real time KYC and commercialize core systems.
Below is a summary of what Hilda Morara, the founder and CEO at PataScore believe will drive a successful open banking and API economy.
1. The future is choice, affordability and convenience
Her 18 year old cousin, still has to go to the bank to fill in forms in order to open a bank account. She however has delayed this process because of the current COVID situation and the need for social distancing. With open banking capabilities, and from the comfort of her home, she would be able to open a bank account, deposit money and start transacting immediately. 75% of Kenya’s population are youths who are looking for choice, affordability and convenience at their doorstep.
Providing mobile solutions and digital on-boarding for new account holders needs to be the norm as Cash and ATMs have become a casualty of covid-19 and we are now seeing an upwards trend towards digital currency through mobile money driven by M-pesa who have gone a step further to waive transaction fees in wake of coronavirus.
2. Financial literacy to optimise the value of open banking and API economy
This entails educating the customers on transparency of pricing, availability of services terms and conditions. Financial literacy in the end will also drive financial health and prosperity for customers. During this period, financial education value add is needed more than ever to reduce debt stress and debt traps and promote financial wellbeing for life.
Pezesha recently launched FREE open financial education chatbot APIs, which financial institutions can leverage to build their own personalized inductive content and reach their existing customers to educate and retain them with the hope that their personal financial health and financial position will turn out much stronger post COVID-19 and customers will now make better informed financial decisions.
3. Data aggregation and ownership will be key
DATA is the new currency for consumers and financial institutions. On one hand, customers need to own and have control of their data and ability to give consent rights on who, why, what, when and how their data should be accessed at any given point during a credit decision at the same time understand the value of their data. On the other hand, financial institutions have access to complete data sets (instead of scraping off from SMSes) to ensure accurate understanding of holistic customers behaviour and build superior credit scoring models.
For example Patascore is playing a pivotal role by providing enabling assets and an API infrastructure that unifies all data analytics and help drive interoperability across the board.
- Patascore as an enabling assets: provides digital identity, consent management, financial literacy layer, access management and data analytics
- Patascore as an API infrastructure: provides complete and centralised mobile money APIs, 3rd parties data APIs, extractions APIs and ability to integrate with banks and other apps.
Around the world, organisations are entering into agreements to share financial data through channels including APIs, for instance in the case of Visa acquisition of Plaid. As the world continues to evolve and payments become increasingly digital and mobile, consumer yearns for the flexibility, convenience, and simplicity that they have come to see as usual, for their financial services.
As Fintechs in Kenya continue to explore ways to ensure they survive the current pandemic and unforeseeable regulatory directives, it’s imperative that innovation will be inexorable. It is apparent that without the standard data APIs to better understand customer behaviour and their holistic credit scores, will continue to hinder the growth and long term win of Fintechs during and post COVID-19 period and by extension financial inclusion to ensure no one is left behind.
4. Collaboration, Agility and Regulation
In the end, for the API economy to succeed, there is an urgent need for consolidation and collaboration from banks and Fintechs to bring to reality, what we envisioned as the future innovation in financial services. The future is NOW as the world is already moving in the direction of open banking.
Now, is the time for financial institutions and governments to show their agility and quickly implement digital solutions to meet people’s needs and allow for distribution of wealth to vulnerable communities affected by COVID-19. The firms who have shown willingness to collaborate already have a leg up on their competitors when it comes to competitive pricing, alternative wider data sources and deeper customer understanding.
To catapult sanity in open banking solutions, regulation will be key to help streamline data sharing approaches by providing guidance and policies on how data can be accessed, retrieved, ingested and shared in a standard format while ensuring consumer protection at all times as open banking comes with risks of cyber security, information security, data protection, data privacy and system risks among others.
As a result of the rapid growth in mobile penetration and mobile money economy driving digital transformation in Africa, then open banking opportunities and case studies is just a matter of time.
Radisson Individuals makes its African debut with hotel signing in Ghana, to open its doors in October 2021
Image Source: Radisson Hotel Group
Radisson Hotel Group is proud to announce its first Radisson Individuals property in Africa, with the signing of Earl Heights Suites Hotel, a member of Radisson Individuals, Accra, Ghana. Due to open by the end of 2021, this new addition places the Group firmly on track to achieving its objective of reaching 150 hotels in operation and under development by 2025.
Located in Dzorwulu, the property is currently undergoing a full renovation and is on schedule to open within this year. Just 5km from Kotoka International Airport (KIA), the main access point by air for domestic and international visitors, the serviced apartment property is conveniently located near shopping malls, restaurants, as well as the University of Ghana, situated north of the district. Also within reach, is the tranquil Legon Botanical Gardens, with its canopy walk, rope courses, canoeing and rich birdlife.
Due to its strategic geographical location, ease of access, and aviation facilities and connections, Accra has become a conference and aviation hub for West Africa. It is also dominated by local and international business activities, making the city one of the most attractive African cities to do business.
The 58-serviced apartments property will comprise of modern studios as well as spacious and elegant one- and two-bedroom suites. Creating a true destination for its guests, the property will offer culinary options in the restaurant, The Society, which will include outdoor seating as well as in the hotel bar. The property will also feature a spa, gym, pool, convenience store, and business centre, providing the perfect base for both business and leisure.
Radisson Individuals is a conversion brand that offers independent hotels and local, regional chains the opportunity to be part of the global Radisson Hotel Group platform, benefit from the Group’s international awareness and experience, with the freedom to maintain their own uniqueness and identity. Radisson Hotel Group plans to more than double its serviced apartments portfolio within the next 5 years across EMEA. Today, serviced apartments represent around 10% of the Group’s EMEA portfolio with 45 properties and more than 5,400 units in operation and under development.
Erwan Garnier, Senior Director, Development, Africa, Radisson Hotel Group, said: “We have identified Ghana as a key focus country in our five-year development plan and, Accra as a focus and primary city. The signing of the property, which compliments the Radisson Hotel & Apartments Accra announced last year and scheduled to open in 2023, is also aligned with our current conversion-focused growth strategy, which will remain a priority, especially post-pandemic. We are therefore proud the Radisson Individuals African debut, will be on Ghanaian soil, carving the path for the new brand to continue its expansion across the continent. In proud partnership with Earlbeam Group of Companies, we are thrilled to be contributing to the country’s tourism industry, a key pillar of the national economy.”
Alfred Danso Darkwah, CEO of the hotel’s owning company, Earlbeam Group of Companies, said: “The Earl Heights Suites Hotel partnership is an exciting opportunity – it brings together the union of Radisson Hotel Group and The Earlbeam Group Of Companies, two well-seasoned brands from the hospitality and real estate sector respectively. This will be the first branded apart hotel in Ghana, completely unique, providing each guest a boutique home-away-from home experience. In addition, it delivers partner confidence, guarantee of service standards, and assured safety and security, leaving a positive mark on Ghana’s hospitality sector. We believe this Radisson Individuals hotel will inject much-needed life within the local hospitality industry and pave the way for upcoming projects between Radisson Hotel Group and The Earlbeam Group of Companies.”
Image Source: Radisson Hotel Group
Herewith the link to the renders of the hotel, which is on track to open its doors in October this year Radisson Individuals
Radisson Hotel Group operates to high standards of performance and advocates socially and environmentally sustainable business practices. More than ever, Radisson Hotel Group’s highest priorities remain the health and safety of its guests and employees. The Group partnered with SGS, the world’s leading inspection and certification company, to implement the Radisson Hotels Safety Protocol, which ensures the highest hygiene standards and strengthens the Group’s existing rigorous sanitation guidelines. In the run-up to the opening of Earl Heights Suites Hotel, a member of Radisson Individuals the hotel will implement the Radisson Hotel Group brand standards including the Radisson Hotels Safety Protocol related to safety and security.
TuneCore Launches Operations in Africa, Appoints Two Female Regional Executives
TuneCore Jade Leaf and Chioma Onuchukwu
TuneCore, the leading digital music distribution and publishing administration company for independent artists, has launched operations in Africa. Jade Leaf has been hired as Head of TuneCore for Southern Africa and will share responsibility for key countries in East Africa with Chioma Onuchukwu, who has been hired as Head of TuneCore for West Africa. Both Leaf and Onuchukwu will report to Faryal Khan-Thompson, Vice President, International, TuneCore.
Onuchukwu will be based in Nigeria and oversee countries in West Africa including Nigeria, Ghana, Liberia, Sierra Leone and The Gambia. She will also look after Tanzania and Ethiopia in East Africa. Leaf’s territory encompasses Southern Africa, including South Africa, where she will be based, as well as Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Malawi and Lesotho. Leaf will also manage TuneCore operations in East African countries Kenya and Uganda.
Said Onuchukwu, “I am elated to be joining a renowned, independent music distribution powerhouse, especially in an incredible era for music creators in Africa at a time when we are gaining global recognition and increasing momentum. I look forward to collaborating with and supporting local artists.”
Before joining TuneCore, Onuchukwu was Marketing Manager at uduX Music, a music streaming platform in Nigeria. There she worked directly with popular African artists such as Davido, Yemi Alade, Patoranking, Kizz Daniel and more.
Commented Leaf, “I am incredibly excited to join the team in a time where the global conversation is around independence and ownership. TuneCore opens up a world of potential for independent artists at every level of their careers. Africa is home to a diverse range of artists who are seeking a reliable distribution service who understands their local needs and can ultimately give them the opportunity to turn their art into commercial success.”
Previously, Leaf worked at Africa’s largest Pay TV operator, Multichoice as the Marketing Manager for Youth & Music Channels, where she led brand re-imaging and marketing efforts for Music TV giant Channel O. Before that, she worked at Sony Music Entertainment Africa, focusing on African artists and content, as well as numerous marketing campaigns & projects for local and international artists.
There has been a meteoric rise in the uptake of streaming services in Africa, the growth has been attributed to several factors such as an increase in internet penetration via smartphones, the entrance of international and local streaming platforms in key territories and its youth population – More than 60% of African’s are under the age of 25.
In 2020, TuneCore saw an increase in music releases globally, with many African artists opting to use the DIY Distributor – DJ Spinall and Small Doctor in Nigeria, Spoegwolf in South Africa, Mpho Sebina in Botswana and Fena Gitu in Kenya to name a few.
Stated Khan-Thompson, “Africa is an extremely exciting music market with a lot of potential for growth. By hiring Jade and Chioma to lead our efforts, TuneCore is well positioned to maximize opportunities for independent artists across the continent. Both Chioma and Jade bring a wealth of experience and genuine interest in helping artists make their dreams come true. I couldn’t be more thrilled to have two incredible women representing the TuneCore brand in the continent”
IFC Invest in Liquid Telecom Bond to Support Broadband Connectivity in Africa
IFC, a member of the World Bank Group, invested in Thursday’s bond issued by a subsidiary of Liquid Telecommunications Holdings Ltd., which will allow the telecoms and technology solutions company to expand access to broadband Internet and digital and cloud services across Africa, further facilitating the growth of the continent’s digital economy.
Proceeds from the bond issued by Liquid Telecommunications Financing PLC, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Liquid Telecommunications Holdings Ltd, will enable the company to refinance existing debt and free up funds to expand its digital infrastructure network across Africa, including in markets with low broadband penetration.
By developing digital infrastructure, Liquid Telecommunications, Africa’s largest independent fiber, data center and cloud technology provider, aims to increase digital connectivity and inclusion in Africa and support the region’s growing digital ecosystem.
IFC played an anchor role and subscribed to 16 percent of the bond, equivalent to $100 million, which was listed on Euronext Dublin, Ireland’s main stock exchange, on February 25, 2021. The issuance raised $620 million.
Internet access in Africa relies largely on mobile networks, many of which are enabled by wholesale connectivity providers such as Liquid Telecommunications. Broadband penetration is low across the continent, with a mobile broadband penetration rate of 34 percent and fixed broadband penetration of less than five percent in most countries across sub-Saharan Africa, excluding South Africa.
“We are delighted that IFC has taken a significant anchor position in our new bond. In the countries in which we operate there are great opportunities to address under developed telecommunications and Internet access, as well as to accelerate the adoption of digital and Cloud-based services. Our refinance enables us to continue to invest in the African digital eco-system including driving penetration of digital and Cloud-based services to businesses who may not previously have had the resources to benefit from them, helping to bridge the connectivity divide, which is more crucial than ever in our current circumstances,” said Nic Rudnick, Liquid Telecom Group Chief Executive Officer.
“Our best chance at ensuring much-needed internet access for everyone in Africa, from large corporates and small businesses to individuals, is to invest in digital infrastructure. Our investment in the Liquid Telecom bond will help the company free up capital to further expand broadband access across Africa, laying a solid foundation for a faster, more resilient recovery,” said Stephanie von Friedeburg, Interim Managing Director and Executive Vice President, and Chief Operating Officer of IFC.
To support Africa’s digital economy, which could be worth $180 billion by 2025, IFC provides financing to mobile network operators, independent tower operators, data centers and broadband connectivity providers. IFC also provides capital to help entrepreneurs and innovative businesses grow and works with financial institutions and telecommunications companies to speed the adoption of digital payments and lending to expand financial inclusion.