One of the highlights of my trip to Johannesburg was meeting Audrey Moputhi, head of Inclusive Banking, Standard Bank South Africa. She says she has 'the best job in the world,' bringing banking services to the unbanked. 18 months into the program, the company has added more than three million new customers.
As I noted in the conversation with Simon Griffiths, Africa has physical infrastructure issues that mean most people access the internet and services via cellphone. In this conversation, Ms Moputhi explains how Standard Bank has created a partnership with local community store keepers and mom and pop shops to create a network of some 7,000 'access points.' These are places where people can sign up for a bank account in under 10 minutes. They can also use ATM style machines and/or their cell phones to access and transact moderately simple operations like prepaying for utilities and transferring money.
I was surprised to learn that many of the 'unbanked' in South Africa do want access to bank facilities - often for safety and security reasons - but that it is often expensive, time consuming and daunting for those people who will often have to travel anything up to 50 km to reach a branch. As you can see from the stats above, the SAP based mobile solution has been highly successful.
We like stories like this as they are both compelling yet demonstrative of a different aspect to technology that is rarely appreciated in Europe and the US.