In Sub-Saharan Africa, a large percentage of the population lacks access to traditional financial institutions with technology emerging as a powerful tool in driving financial inclusion in the region.
With the rapid advancement of digital technology, the region has witnessed significant progress in expanding financial services to the previously underserved and unbanked populations. Mastercard is one of the organizations that have been leveraging on technology to promote financial inclusion in Africa.
We caught up with Mark Elliottt, the Division President for Sub-Saharan Africa at Mastercard, who spoke on how Mastercard is using technological innovation to advance financial inclusion in Africa. At Mastercard, Mark is responsible for driving the company’s innovation and growth agenda and finding new ways to scale the latest payments technologies to drive financial inclusion.
Mark spoke of the Pan African Payment and Settlement System (PAPSS) which has provided an opportunity to grow financial inclusion in the continent. He further said that these innovative cross-border platforms can help organizations within an ecosystem to stay relevant and future-proof their operations.
“PAPSS, as an example, addresses the historic challenges of making payments across African borders, adding value through a common African market infrastructure for all stakeholders,” Mark said in an exclusive interview with CIO Africa.
“The move towards pan-African integration has exciting possibilities, yet the complexities of national solutions are an operating reality. Payments and data have become increasingly central to the operation of economies, and countries often veer towards finding national solutions. However, without a level playing field and private sector access, innovation can quickly fall behind,” he added.
Sub-Saharan Africa is experiencing a digital revolution that is transforming various sectors, including finance. The widespread adoption of mobile phones, especially smartphones, and the increasing availability of the internet have paved the way for innovative financial technology (FinTech) solutions. Mobile money, digital wallets, and other electronic payment systems have played a crucial role in connecting previously excluded populations to the formal financial system.
In all this, Mark described Mastercard as an enabler in the continent’s journey towards achieving financial inclusion for the majority of the population. Given its position in the market, Mastercard understands the need to blend global expertise with localization.
“At Mastercard, we see our role as an enabler, helping countries to digitize economies by accessing innovative, fit-for-purpose products, services, and strategic consultancy to positively develop wider digital infrastructure, urban mobility, and interoperability. We understand the need to blend global expertise with localization, in order to and help grow Africa’s position in the global marketplace,” Mark explained.
The role of technology in driving financial inclusion in Sub-Saharan Africa cannot be underestimated. The region’s digital revolution has unlocked new opportunities to bring millions of unbanked individuals into the formal financial system. Mobile money, digital wallets, and other FinTech innovations have shown great promise in overcoming traditional barriers to financial inclusion.