Customers inspire technological innovation - CNBC Africa

Customers inspire technological innovation


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Hikmet Ersek, the CEO of Western Union.

“A customer tells you what they want and in Africa we learned a lot. The customers were telling us to receive the money safely, I want to have it on a mobile phone, I want to use it in cash or I want to have it in an account. Our innovation efforts are responding to customer needs,” Hikmet Ersek, the CEO of Western Union, told CNBC Africa at the World Economic Forum in China. 

Western Union, which aims promote global economic opportunity and growth by bridging gaps in the financial services sector, now has 27,000 touch points across 50 African locations. 

“Africa is and continues to be a huge market. It’s important to have the locations, the main society in Africa is still cash-based and people trust our brand,” Ersek indicated. 

Their portfolio includes business solutions, consumer-to-consumer money transfers, bill payment services and stored value options such as prepaid cards.  

Ersek insists that Africa is a huge market and is driving the age of financial inclusion and innovation. 

“We also expanded our digital way to operate in Africa. In Kenya, about thirty per cent of the transactions from UK to Kenya is going direct to a mobile M-Pesa account, which means that the dynamics are changing but the people are still trusting us. People still want to use Western Union and Africa, in that context, is for us a huge market.”    

He also believes that despite Africa’s technological progression, it will continue to rely on cash and cash will continue to exist in future. 

“Cash is, for instance, easy to control. Central banks are printing money and controlling the economy, which is good. I think cash will continue to exist but it will depend on customer needs and regulatory needs,” he said.