The Banking Association of South Africa defines Financial Inclusion as the access and usage of a broad range of affordable, quality financial services and products, in a manner convenient to the financially excluded, unbanked and under-banked.
In simpler terms, Financial inclusion means that individuals and businesses have access to useful and affordable financial products and services that meet their needs – transactions, payments, savings, credit, and insurance – delivered in a responsible and sustainable way.
World Bank research shows that an estimated 2 billion working-age adults globally—more than half of the total adult population—have no access to the types of formal financial services delivered by regulated financial institutions that wealthier people rely on. This means that, despite the growth of the financial sector, access to formal financial services still remains relatively limited; particularly, in rural areas where a significant proportion of services are delivered by informal providers, with limited linkages to the formal financial sector.
In these areas, people resort to less formal avenues such as liquid assets to save income and using moneylenders to borrow money – avenues which many times turn out costly and risky.
The technological advancement of mobile phones and the evolution of the services provided by telecom providers gave birth to mobile money – a solution to financial exclusion.
Research done and published by finclusion.org in 2015 showed that 35% of Ugandans had a registered mobile money account and that mobile money was the predominant financial service in Uganda.
Currently over 8million Ugandans transact on the different mobile money platforms, a number expected to grow predominantly in the next few years.
In a chat with the Airtel managing director, V.G Somasekhar, he noted that “At Airtel, we believe mobile commerce is the next big thing and as such we have positioned Airtel money as the one stop shop for all our customer needs to ensure a boost in financial inclusion.”
“Financial services such as utility bill payments, purchase of data and airtime, group collections, ATM withdrawals, savings, school fees payments and even credit facilities termed ‘wewole’ are just some of the services that Airtel Uganda subscribers are privy to either by way of specially designed banking apps or the more conventional USSD short codes,” Somasekhar noted.
According to Somasekhar, all these offerings are geared towards introducing value-added services to the existing conventional money transfer service with an aim of creating convenience and ease for the customers.
The Airtel Money platform has been a major contributor to building a cashless economy with its customized offerings.
Airtel’s mobile money platform has integrated more than 10 banks to encourage mobile banking. Mobile banking can be used for many of the same tasks that would normally be completed at a bank branch. These include checking account balances, transferring money from one account to another, viewing account statements, transferring money from the phone to the bank and vice versa and paying bills. It is very convenient as one is able to do most of their banking on the go with minimal interruption to their day-to-day activities.
Each bank supported on the platform has a unique bank to wallet shortcode as shown below:
|Partner||Wallet 2 Bank||Bank 2 Wallet|
|Bank Of Africa||*185#||*246#|
|Finance Trust Bank||*185#||*224#|
|Housing Finance Bank||*185#||*225#|
|Diamond Trust Bank||*185#||*202#|
|Stand chartered Bank||*185#||App & Web|
Below is a table showing the fees charged;
|Tier||Cost for moving money to bank|
|5,000 – 120,000||900|
|120,001 – 250,000||1,350|
|250,001 – 500,000||1,700|
|500,001 – 1,000,000||2,,250|
|1,000,001 – 5,000,000||4,450|
Through the platform, all different types of payments ranging from utility bills such as UMEME, national water, Pay TV subscriptions, MKOPA solar and parking charges, to other crucial payments such as school fees and many other payments can be made.
Somasekhar envisions a time when Ugandans, across the country, will have full-time access to their savings, their bank accounts, and their service providers through the assortment of offerings on the Airtel Money menu.
“In this generation where there are more mobile money users than the number of bank accounts, I see a time when Airtel ‘Wewole’ will become a daily resource in the provision of reliable and affordable credit facilities. Getting a loan will be as simple as transacting on your Airtel Money platform and walking to an Airtel Money agent to pick your money,” he adds.
For financial inclusion to be realized, people have to have quick and easy access to their money. To make this a reality, Airtel Uganda has built a very robust network of agents operating in all the districts in Uganda. Recently, the telco signed a partnership with Shell in a bid to extend the network further. As part of the partnership agreement, Airtel Uganda subscribers will be able to seamlessly withdraw or deposit money using Airtel Money at 80 Shell service stations.
Somasekhar believes this partnership with Shell will be a major driver for financial inclusion as it will enable travelers to have access to their money without necessarily having to move from place to place with cash.
“Gone are the days when Ugandans needed to move thousands of kilometers with cash. With this partnership, one simply has to load Airtel Money on their account and set off with the full knowledge that they will have access to their money at any Shell petrol station,” he reiterates.
Today, the Airtel money platform has evolved beyond the simple transfer of money to become a silent advocate for growth and development of individuals and businesses through financial inclusion. For example; Ugandans have access to BIMA – the leading provider of mobile-delivered insurance and health services in emerging markets through this platform. Furthermore, Airtel Uganda implemented the Integrated Financial Inclusion Project – a project to digitize and connect together over 2000 SACCOs and help them overcome issues such as poor infrastructure, limited capacity to invest in multiple banking channels and loss of critical data due to system crashes caused by the unreliable power supply and burglary. This can be accessed through the M-SACCO option on the platform.
“Currently, Uganda’s mainstream banking system is inadequate to support Uganda’s entrepreneurial and fairly young population, especially in rural areas. Telecoms, therefore, have to play a very substantial role in supplementing on this banking system through partnerships and innovations to ensure that there is countrywide access to all sorts of financial services. At Airtel Uganda, this is a priority,” Somasekhar concluded.
Kyamutetera is a senior journalist based in Kampala