The deadly coronavirus has brought the World to a standstill, spread through touch, African financial institutions are now going cashless to beat the virus.
The exchange of money, in cash, risky further spread of the virus, an obvious solution is to go cashless, use digital payments only. However is Africa ready?
In the face of this global tragedy, Africa’s fast digital penetration seems to have come in the nick of time. Led by the telecom companies, Africa leads the globe in use of mobile transactions.
Even in the most remotest corners of the continent, peasant farmers, pastoralists herding cows, all can be found with a mobile phone registered for mobile money transactions. Even the smallest shops accept mobile money payment for even the smallest purchases. The only limitation has always been the expensive cost of the service, however that cost is irrelevant if the money is not withdrawn to cash.
See, the expensive part of mobile money payments is when you go to draw out the money, then there is a huge service charge. But if you keep the money in your e-wallet and make or receive other payments then the service charge is very minimal. However, transactions within the same company are very inexpensive.
Another expensive element of mobile money transactions is the competing attitude of the service providers. Telecom companies want all subscribers to move to their network and so they place expensive rates for inter-company transfers.
Further still, most mobile service providers have now integrated their services with banks and other financial institutions allowing a client to transfer funds to and from a bank account via mobile e-wallets.
Salaries are paid through direct transfer into phone e-wallets from where one can commence with any financial activity they wish to make; from making a purchase to sending money to a loved one, from paying government bills like taxes to paying fines like traffic tickets, all can be done with just a scroll and click.
There you have it, Africa is actually ready to go cashless, only one catch, trust and tradition.
Many are still afraid of placing large amounts of money in their e-wallets for fear of safety. What of my account is hacked? Is a four digit PIN number really sufficient to protect my money? What if the telecom company closes down?
These concerns force many to stick to the old cash in hand and cash under the pillow tradition. Should this fear be laid to rest, Africa is ready to go cashless and by so doing reduce exchange of body fluid through touch and in turn significantly beat the spread of coronavirus.
No hardcopies: Paperless banking
Well, anyone who did not care about saving trees when activists called for the switch to soft copies, will now have no choice but to go paper free. Banks now demand the complete stop of the use of hardcopies as part of their efforts to fight the spread of coronavirus.
A good example is Stanbic Bank. The bank has been quoted in local media having issued this notice to its customers: “In the interest of public health and with immediate effect, please be advised that we will only be accepting payments via Business Online.”
Further still, the bank, has ordered that all “…bank instructions and letters must be sent on email and accompanied by the attached email indemnity form, which must be completed and signed by the authorised signatories.”
In this war against the virus, it is vital that companies move from the business as usual attitude and adapt to the new reality. The traditional ways of conducting business can no longer work in the face of this pandemic.
All companies and businesses, from corporate down to MSEs and SMEs to the informal vendor down the street, all must switch to information and communication technologies to handle their transactions.
For office setting businesses then paper exchange, from longed for purchase orders and tax invoices to dread internal memos and warning letters, it all must be done digitally.
Meetings should no longer be done in air tight conference rooms, virtual conference halls are available. In this regard, the Southern African Development Community (SADC) held its annual council of ministers meeting online via conference video call setting precedent for regional meetings in the face of the coronavirus deadly threat.
Africa can and must adopt and business must take the lead. Only a month ago, the use of hand sanitizers was for the privileged and viewed as a foreign thing, now even bus stops have them, we can adapt.
However, even if we can pay our bus fare via our mobile phones, we still have a pending problem. You see for Africa, as is the case for many other nations the world over, there is still the issue of overcrowded public transport. How can we reduce body contact when 150 of us are crammed in a 60-seater mini-bus?