Imagine having to carry all your money in your pocket or having to hide it in a sock under your pillow to keep it safe…
If you hold a bank account with Akiba that is past: as of next month banking services will be available 24/7 through mobile phone banking. That’s why we are currently sitting in a training room, our mobile phones in pole position. We are experimenting with how to top up airtime, transfer funds, check account balances, to mention only some of the 9 different services displaced on our phone screens. Initially mobile banking will require some extra explanation to the customer but the advantages in the long run outnumber that initial effort by far, as well for the bank as for the customers: lower transaction costs, no waiting queues, no time lost in traffic, no longer walking around with big stacks of money…The number of phone transactions is believed to take over the real banking transactions in no time.
And the mobile banking bustle has advantages that go beyond our top of mind…
From behind the white safety grid protecting her shop, the 28 year old mom of two welcomes us with a broad smile. Grace is a the proud owner of a mobile phone shop in Buguruni. She has had her business for over a year now. Before she worked for about five years as an employee but her dream _ having her own shop _ wouldn’t let go. One day she opened an account, started saving some money and looked for a place to start her biashara (business). Grace clearly has entrepreneurial skills and once her own small business was a fact, she soon had the ambition to expand.
Through a friend she heard about Akiba’s solidarity group loans (in case of no collateral that is the lending methodology used). Keen to know more she attended one of the information sessions and she decided to enroll to receive her first loan of 200,000 TZS (150 USD) over a 6 month term, a lever that helped her to double her income quickly. Her daughters of 4 and 6 go to school now and it is not without pride that their mom tells us that they inherited their mother’s entrepreneurial spirit.
Grace’s shop is a beehive: while we are talking with her, customers come and go. Each of them is welcomed with a warm smile, some comforting words, a joke while Grace sells phones, charges them, installs shrieking call tones and credit and gives advice to her clients. Clearly her social skills are part of her success formula and help to grow her business amidst tough competition. “But”, she stresses, “good bookkeeping and spending your money wisely are as important”.
Whether she has faith in the future? Of course, haven’t we heard about mobile banking?
The recently launched Mobile Financial Services Development Report 2011 assesses the development of the mobile financial services ecosystem in 20 developing countries, including Tanzania. The report analyses the institutional, market, and end-users environment required for scale-up and adoption of mobile financial services. In Tanzania commercial interest from the private sector has boosted affordability and availability. Consumer protection and empowerment of end users by credit information are still underdeveloped. Moreover the low trust in the competitive bank sector still limits national inter-banking services.
Phones as universal virtual banking platforms: without doubt the future! But moja kwa moja or step by step…Meanwhile, as a temporary resident in Dar without a local bank account, I carry my money around in my pocket … and keep it safe under my pillow.