Four million and counting: Banks are boosting their digital offering across Africa.

Author:Williams, Stephen

Ecobank has long been one of Africa's most innovative financial institutions. Long before it became fashionable, the Lome-based bank led the way in opening a network of branches across middle Africa to create the biggest banking footprint on the continent.

Now it has the first-mover advantage of another trend; the adoption of a digital banking strategy across the 33 countries in Africa it serves. Its proprietary Ecobank Mobile App--which can be downloaded onto any internet-enabled smartphone--facilitates this strategy. In short, this gives any customer a bank in their pocket.

For Ade Ayeyemi, the group chief executive officer of Ecobank, the app's rationale is to deliver innovative, efficient and cost-effective services to those who have typically been excluded from the formal economy, "and therefore it goes far beyond the reach of the traditional branch and ATM networks in providing financial services." In Africa, there are more than 300m adults that remain unbanked.

"Customers can enjoy 24/7 access every day of the year to avail themselves of financial services through the convenience of their mobile devices with the Ecobank Mobile App," says Ayeyemi. "We have brought world-class functionality to consumers in the 33 countries in Africa where Ecobank operates."

In April, two weeks before the Bank's AGM, he was able to report that Ecobank had processed almost as many transactions on the Ecobank Mobile App in the first few months of this year as they did in the entire second half of 2017.

The app won 1m customers in its first year of launch, but upgraded features have seen the rate of sign-ups treble in half of the time to 4m users. So far, in 2018, app usage has been growing at an average 700,000 new customers a month, and $1bn of transactions in Africa have been processed by this ground-breaking technology.

With that kind of growth, it would seem that Ayeyemi's stated aspiration of building a bank with loom accounts is well on course.

Functionality and convenience

Patrick Akinwuntan, Ecobank's group executive, consumer banking, says that Ecobank is committed to providing all Africans with access to financial services, but doing so in a way that conjoins functionality with convenient, accessible and efficient banking channels.

"We want to be the digital bank of choice for all Africans," he says. "The Ecobank Xpress agents that can now be found in your local neighbourhood enable you to deposit money into your app-based Ecobank Xpress Account...

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