Deepening financial inclusion in E.Africa

by Elayne Wangalwa 0

Financial access in East Africa is growing as a result of the expansion of services provided.

This was highlighted during a panel debate on financial inclusion in Nairobi organised by CNBC Africa in partnership with financial services firm, Afb.

According to reports, Kenya has greater access to financial points than its neighbours. In addition, the country boasts of one of the continent leaders in financial inclusion largely driven by convergence of the telecommunication sector.

Moreover, Financial Sector Deepening (FSD) Kenya states that 77 per cent of the country’s population lives within 5 km of a financial access point compared to 35 per cent and 43 per cent in Tanzania and Uganda respectively.

“We have seen an improvement in financial inclusion and as of figures from 2013 only 25 per cent of Kenyans [working-age] were excluded and in 2015 we expect even lower numbers,” Habil Olaka, CEO of Kenya Bankers Association (KBA) said during the panel debate.

According to Chidi Okpala, mobile operators in the region together with financial institutions are the key to deepening financial inclusion.

“Rapid evolution of mobile money markets in the region are picking up at a fast pace and in the next two to three years there will be an increase in financial inclusion,” Okpala noted.

James Wainaina, regional head of business for East Africa at the Mastercard Foundation said, “With the positive correlation between digitizing cash and technology inclusion, a lot of work still needs to be done.”

Regardless of measures undertaken and the progress in deepening financial inclusion access to formal financial services in the region is still low. With this pressing need to expand the access of financial services in the region for the lower income households as well as small enterprises, industry players are fast tracking processes to encompass all.

“A lot of progress has been made but there are still challenges we have to overcome. We need to create an awareness of financial products… to enjoy the full spectrum of financial services available,” Peter Mwangi, CEO at Old Mutual Kenya said.