Open Banking

The New Blueprint for Open Finance? – A Look Inside the New Saudi Open Banking Framework

Open Banking

Chris Michael, Co-Founder & CEO, Ozone API

It has been a genuine privilege for all of us at Ozone API to work with the Saudi Central Bank (SAMA) to lead the development of its open banking standard over the last few months. We are also providing the enabling technology behind SAMA’s Open Banking Lab – the model bank and conformance suite – as well as working with a number of banks in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to help them deliver their own open banking solutions.

This is much more than a compliance exercise. We are right at the forefront of helping banks in the Kingdom to unlock new business models and deliver innovative financial services. But much of this is only possible because of the ambitious approach taken by SAMA.

 

Starting with a BIG vision

Open banking and open finance are now happening all around the world. Implementation looks a bit different in each market, but where it’s being driven by central banks and regulators, it is usually with a defined outcome in mind. This can be to create more competition or to drive consumer data rights. But increasingly, it is being seen as a foundation to drive economic transformation.

There aren’t many (possibly any) countries with a more ambitious vision for transformation than the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The Saudi 2030 vision is huge, from transforming society to the creation of uber-modern megacities. A big part of this vision is the creation of world-leading industry sectors, with financial services being a key focus. And at the heart of that agenda, you’ve guessed it: open finance, starting with open banking.

The Saudi ambition is growth, fuelled by a thriving financial services sector. With this in mind, SAMA’s whole approach has been designed to drive adoption and usage by ensuring there are clear incentives for all participants: end users, third parties building on top of open finance access and the banks and financial institutions themselves.

In other markets, we’ve seen initiatives done to the banks, not with the banks or even for the banks. This may sound nuanced, but it is huge and important.

 

BIG Ambitions demand different approaches

With a big vision defined, SAMA’s approach to delivering its Open Banking Framework had to be different from other initiatives around the world.

The founding team at Ozone API were privileged to have led the development of the UK open banking standard during their time at OBIE. So being chosen to lead the development of the open banking standard in the Kingdom was a huge honour and a great opportunity to continue the journey and create a new blueprint.

With a big vision, SAMA has taken a very progressive approach, building on learnings from other markets and going way beyond.

The starting point was to define key use cases that would drive the greatest demand and drive value for the different participants. That’s the end users, the third parties and, yep, the often overlooked banks.

Use cases are the right starting point, since this creates clear consensus, allowing everyone to understand what they’re building and why. The intention is not to limit the implementation to a few use cases, but to enable these key use cases so that the foundations are there for many more which can be enabled now or added in future phases.

Then, and only then, did work start on defining the standard, the business rules to enable these use cases.

Whilst it sounds simple, elsewhere we’ve seen regulations, rules and standards defined ahead of such user-centric thinking, creating artificial and unnecessary limitations to the detriment of uptake and usage. And often the incentives across the ecosystem have been an afterthought, significantly impacting the motivations of banks to see it as anything more than a compliance project.

 

The Standard itself, what’s different?

On November 2nd 2022, SAMA published the first release of its Open Banking Framework to industry participants. This first phase includes business rules and the technical standard needed to meet a number of defined account information use cases, with future phases coming next year to include payments. But already, there are some significant improvements versus other standards.

Whilst there are many detailed enhancements and improvements, the game-changing differences can be summarised as follows:

The standard has been designed to be more efficient for banks and third parties to interpret and implement, ultimately creating a more effective ecosystem. Key to this is the inclusion of “event streaming” or webhooks. Historically, open banking APIs have been designed to replicate the behaviours seen with screen scraping, i.e. the third party goes and ‘pulls’ data from the bank at regular intervals to see what has changed. In the new KSA standard, event streaming informs third parties when things change in real time.

The standard has also been hugely simplified to ensure clear separation between business rules (i.e. detailed regulations) and the technical specifications themselves. This has led to a dramatic simplification of the documentation with a much clearer articulation of detailed implementation requirements.

Arguably the most exciting change is the creation of a new (to open banking) concept called “service requests”. This will be truly game-changing for banks and financial institutions.

The concept is simple: expose an API that allows almost any service to be initiated. In this first phase, we have enabled the creation of ‘letters of guarantee’, allowing banks to embed the setup of such products in a third party experience. This enables banks to ensure their products are in front of customers at the right time, in the right place and in the right context. Crucially, it provides the tools to have a direct impact on the metrics that matter, such as the number of customers, number of products sold, revenue per customer and so on.

 

What happens next?

Now that the framework and standard for phase 1 have been published, the market moves to focus on implementation.

Then, next year, Phase 2 will see the inclusion of payment initiation.

The implications of our work go much further than the Kingdom. We’ve seen a new blueprint emerge and other markets should take note and build on this approach.

We’re also excited to be working with banks around the world to help them unlock true value from open APIs, bringing a full suite of information, payment and service request capabilities to reinvent the role that open APIs will play in the new open banking business model. This means APIs that deliver real revenues, new customers and increasing product holding per customer – more to come in a future blog.

Contactless payments

Visa Reveals More Transit Users Are On Board with Contactless Payments in Egypt

Contactless payments
  • Survey finds 95% of consumers in Egypt either strongly or somewhat expect transit to offer contactless payment options

Visa today announced the results of its second annual Future of Urban Mobility Survey, which uncovered a desire for change among transit users in Egypt.

The survey was conducted in May 2022 among 1000 adults in Egypt and aims to better understand what matters to transit users today – and what they want the future of transit to look like. The survey included questions about how often they use public transit, why they use it, and what they expect in terms of new payment methods.

“In cities across the globe, people are venturing out again after a more than two-year hiatus,” Essam El Daly, Head of Merchant Sales and Acquiring Sector for North Africa, Levant and Pakistan at Visa, says .  “Public transit has always been a vital part of how people get to work or school, run errands, and travel to leisure activities. Now the pandemic has pushed many riders to challenge the status quo when it comes to how they pay their fares.”

 

Shifting preferences

The speed, security, and ease of digital payments have helped shift global transit user’s payment preferences. In Egypt, the Future of Urban Mobility Survey found that 95% of those surveyed either strongly or somewhat expect contactless payment options to be available on public transit.

Further, 52% of respondents in Egypt said they are most likely to pay their transit fare through contactless payments.

Contactless payments continue to help riders navigate the future of transit.

Respondents in Egypt said the top benefits of contactless payments were the time saved due to faster transactions (37%), reduced contact with surfaces and other people (37%), less worry over carrying enough cash (31%), and convenience (30%). 

The survey found that (31%) of public transit riders in Egypt cited contactless payments as the top feature that would entice them to use public transit.

Among employed riders in Egypt, 39% of riders said they take public transit at least three times a week, and 32% ride five times a week or more. Additionally, 55% of those surveyed in Egypt plan to use transit more often over the next 12 months.  As ridership continues to ramp up, it will be important that paying to ride is secure and seamless.

 

Fare-capping attracts riders

Payment options such as fare-capping represent an important opportunity for transit operators to serve as many riders as possible. Fare-capping limits how much a rider pays for their total rides in a day, week, or month, eliminating the need to tie up funds on a monthly pass or transit-dedicated card. Among survey respondents in Egypt, 37% said that capped fares would encourage them to take public transit more often than a non-fare capped system.

In the same survey, 40% of riders in Egypt ranked faster journey times as a top motivator that would encourage them to use transit more often. Fare capping can help speed up the boarding process by alleviating confusion over how to pay for newer riders. 

 

Sustainability is driving ridership

Why do riders prefer public transit? Of those surveyed in Egypt, 93% said that sustainability and the environment were a factor in how often they decide to travel by transit, and it was the top reason for 47%.

 

Contactless rollouts increasing

Open transit systems help city residents sustain their livelihoods, connect to services and pursue activities that create a vibrant city life. Visa supports global transit operators to deliver digital tools to draw in more passengers and improve the overall experience. In Q2 of this year Visa and our transit partners rolled out 50 new projects worldwide, from Thailand to Japan to Mexico and beyond, to enable riders to simply tap their contactless credit, debit, prepaid card, or payment-enabled device, without needing to purchase or load a separate transit card or handle cash while boarding.

For example, a pilot project in Izmir, Turkey, this year enabled passengers to pay with contactless domestic and foreign credit cards, debit cards and prepaid cards.

 

An economic lifeline for millions

The Future of Urban Mobility Survey also shows how public transit is an economic lifeline for millions of people around the world In Egypt, 36% of respondents said public transit is their primary form of transportation. For 48% in Egypt public transit is how they commute to and from work.

Why and How Should You Invest in Mutual Funds in Dubai?

If you’re looking for a way to grow your money, you may wonder how and where to invest. Mutual funds can be an excellent option for investors in Dubai, as they offer opportunities for growth and diversification. In this article, we’ll discuss why you should consider investing in mutual funds and explore some of the factors you need to consider when making your decision. So read on to find out more.

What are mutual funds, and why should you invest in them?

A mutual fund is a type of investment vehicle that pools money from many investors and invests it in a portfolio of securities, such as stocks, bonds, or cash. Investing in a mutual fund achieves a specific financial goal, such as capital growth or income generation.

There are many reasons why you should consider investing in mutual funds. Firstly, they offer the potential for capital growth. When you invest in a mutual fund, your money is used to purchase a basket of assets. These assets may increase in value over time, which can lead to capital gains for the investor. Mutual funds can provide you with diversification. Investing in a range of assets can spread your risk and potentially reduce the volatility of your investment portfolio.

Mutual funds can offer you professional management. When you invest in a mutual fund, your money is managed by a team of professionals with expertise in the securities market. It means that you can benefit from their knowledge and experience, which can help to grow your investment over time. Finally, mutual funds are a flexible investment option. You can invest lump sums of money or make regular contributions to your fund. It makes them an excellent option for investors with different needs and goals.

How do mutual funds work, and what are their benefits for investors in Dubai and beyond?

Mutual funds work by pooling money from many investors and investing it in a portfolio of securities. The value of the fund’s assets will rise and fall in line with the performance of the underlying securities. It means that when you invest in a mutual fund, you are exposed to the same risks as if you had invested directly in the underlying assets. However, because mutual funds are diversified investments, they can offer some protection against market volatility.

The main benefits of mutual funds for investors are capital growth potential, diversification, professional management, and flexibility. Mutual funds offer Dubai-based investors the opportunity to grow their money while spreading their risk across various assets. When selecting a mutual fund, it is crucial to consider your investment goals and risk tolerance, which will help you choose a fund that is right for you.

What to look for when choosing a mutual fund to invest in

When choosing a mutual fund to invest in, there are many factors you need to take into account. Firstly, you need to consider your investment goals. What are you looking to achieve by investing in a mutual fund? Are you looking for capital growth or income generation? It would help if you considered your risk tolerance. How much risk are you willing to take on?

You need to consider the fees charged by the fund manager. Mutual funds typically charge an annual management fee and other fees. These fees can eat into your investment returns, so comparing the fees charged by different fund managers before making your decision is essential.

Finally, you need to research the performance of the fund. Past performance is not a guarantee of future results, but it can give you an idea of how the fund has performed in the past.

How to get started investing in mutual funds

If you are interested in investing in mutual funds, there are a few things you need to do before you get started. Firstly, you need to open a brokerage account with a licensed broker. Once you have done this, you can start researching the different funds available.

Once you have selected a fund, you need to decide how much money you want to invest. You can invest lump sums of money or make regular contributions to your fund. Finally, you need to monitor your investment over time. It will help you track your progress and ensure that your investment is on track to achieve your financial goals.

Risks and rewards of investing in mutual funds

Mutual funds are a popular investment option for many investors. However, it is essential to remember that all investments come with risks. When you invest in a mutual fund, you are exposed to the same risks as if you had invested directly in the underlying assets. It means that your investment can go up or down in value, and you could lose money.

However, mutual funds also offer the potential for capital growth over the long term. If you choose a fund with a track record of solid performance, you could see your investment grow over time, making it an excellent option for investors looking to build their wealth over the long term.

Equal Gender Balance And Parity

Janngo Capital Startup Fund, Africa’s Largest Gender Equal Tech VC Fund, Reaches the First Close of its €60 Million New Fund

Equal Gender Balance And Parity

At the eve of the 77th Session of the UN General Assembly (UNGA), Janngo Capital Startup Fund (JCSF) has announced its first close at EUR34 million (approximately US$36 million) in capital commitments. Launched in Davos in 2020, Janngo Capital’s latest fund will invest 50% of its proceeds in companies founded, co-founded, or benefiting women. Backed by global financial institutions as well as leading private corporations, the fund management company plans to invest EUR60 million (approximately US$63 million) in startups leveraging technology to leapfrog development and achieve SDGs in Africa.

 

100% tech, 100% Africa, 100% equal

 

Janngo Capital Startup Fund, second investment vehicle of the management company, will provide up to EUR5 million seed and growth investments to early-stage tech and tech-enabled startups that (1) enable Africans to improve their access to essential goods and services such as healthcare, education or financial services, (2) enable African SMEs to improve their access to market & capital, or (3) create sustainable jobs at scale, with a focus on women & youth.

Women in Africa are the most entrepreneurial in the entire world with a total entrepreneurship activity rate of 26%. Yet, they face a $42 billion funding gap and have very limited access to growth capital. As one of the very few female-founded, female-owned, and female-led fund management companies in Africa, Janngo Capital has made a strong commitment to gender equality as it will invest 50% of its proceeds in companies founded, co-founded, or benefiting women.

“We are proud to lead Africa’s largest gender equal tech VC fund and see major global investors rally around our vision to back entrepreneurs building digital champions across Africa. We have built a strong track record in the region through our first fund with investments in 11 tech & tech-enabled startups, including the soonicorn Sabi, Expensya or Jexport,” said Fatoumata Bâ, Founder & Executive Chair of Janngo Capital.

“Our current portfolio companies are 56% women-led, 54% francophone and provide strong evidence of how these technology champions can positively contribute in solving key market failures and creating jobs in healthcare, logistics, financial services, retail, food & agri, mobility or the creative industry. Janngo Capital Startup Fund will play a critical role in improving access to early-stage capital for tech entrepreneurs in a more equal way, on a continent still attracting less than 2% of the global VC fund’, adds Fatoumata Bâ.

 

Proparco, Burda Principal Investments, Muller Medien & asset management veterans join anchor investors EIB, AfDB & Boost Africa

Janngo Capital Startup Fund is backed by first-class investors with an equal number of development finance institutions & leading commercial private investors, including:

  • The European Investment Bank (EIB), the world’s largest multilateral development bank active in 160 countries and with a total balance sheet of more than EUR565 billion as of 31/12/2021;
  • The African Development Bank (AfDB), Africa’s largest development finance institution with 81 member countries (54 regional and 27 non regional);
  • Boost Africa, a joint initiative supported by the European Union and led by the EIB and the African Development Bank (AfDB) with financial support from the OACPS aiming at unleashing the entrepreneurial potential of African youth through investment by venture capital funds;
  • Proparco, the private sector financing arm of the French Development Agency (AFD Group) with a balance sheet of over EUR7 billion as of 31/12/2021;
  • Burda Principal Investments (BPI), the growth capital arm of media and tech company Hubert Burda Media with successful unicorn investments such as Etsy, Vinted and Carsome;
  • Muller Medien, a German family-owned media conglomerate; with its New Business sector, Mueller Medien holds more than 60 startup investments, e.g. Booksy, UrbanSportsClub & bookingkit;
  • An ex-KKR Partner & Private Equity veteran with a strong experience in emerging markets.

 

“Africa has some of the world’s fastest-growing economies and a young, fast-growing population. We believe we can improve its living standards and social progress by supporting entrepreneurship and innovation. That is why we are pleased to partner again with Janngo Capital Startup Fund through our Boost Africa Initiative,” said Ambroise Fayolle, European Investment Bank Vice President.

Stefan Nalletamby, the African Development Bank’s Director for Financial Sector Development, said “The Janngo Fund can drive the transformation from a more traditional business ecosystem into a dynamic, youth-driven, and technology-focused entrepreneurial community. Africa is experiencing rapid mobile penetration with Android and other platforms. Janngo Start-up Fund provides huge opportunities to develop innovative and high-growth-driven start-ups and SMEs and our investment under the Boost Africa Program will help fill the severe scarcity of risk capital for the new and upcoming first generation of venture capital funds targeting early-stage businesses.” 

“With its investment in Janngo Capital Start-up Fund, PROPARCO, via FISEA +, the AFD Group facility advised by Proparco and part of the Choose Africa initiative, is partnering with a fund manager that can bring both essential financing and strong mentoring to early-stage businesses in Africa with a rare focus on the Francophone West African region. Proparco is strongly committed to supporting the new generation of entrepreneurs in Francophone Africa, where investment for start-ups lags behind their peers in other parts of the continent. Janngo’s innovative approach of operating a start-up studio was also a key convincing factor, presenting a unique way to incubate businesses that can overcome gaps in the current local market. Last but not least, we are proud to partner with a female-led fund manager that seeks to contribute to diminishing the existing gender gap in terms of start-up financing,” said Jérémie Ceyrac, Head of Private Equity at Proparco.

Digital Payment

Mastercard New Payments Index 2022: UAE Consumers Embrace Digital Payments

Digital Payment

88% of consumers in the UAE have used at least one emerging payment method in the last year, with usage expected to increase further

Financial Advice

Unparalleled Personal Financial Advice

Financial Advice

Hoxton Capital Management was founded in 2018 by UK financial advisers, Chris Ball and Matt Dean, and quickly established itself as one of the fastest growing independent advisory companies. With operations in London, Sydney, Texas and Dubai, the firm manages a growing client base of mostly expatriate clients, endeavouring to provide them with the highest possible service in the industry – And this hasn’t gone unnoticed, with MEA Markets magazine recognising it as 2022’s Most Outstanding Tailored Investment Solutions Provider – Dubai. Join us as we learn more about what the firm has to offer clients.

Hoxton Capital Management prides itself on its personalised, honest and committed approach, offering tailored solutions and relevant advice that can only come from a deep understanding of the client and their personal requirements. It works with the client to understand their financial goals and offer the right strategies to help their investments develop and move forward so they can live their financial dreams.

Putting this into action is its highly qualified team of highly experienced advisers, who offer sound knowledge and transparent advice with a personal approach. Its consultants are always available to the client, providing an unsurpassed service that is honest and informative. They focus on quality and performance in everything they do, guaranteeing that the advice they provide is best-in-class.

Once the consultant understands what is important to the client, they will set realistic goals and create a made-to-measure financial strategy tailored to their individual circumstances. Hoxton Capital is a firm believer that its financial propositions offer the best value for its clients’ investments. Its people work tirelessly to move clients’ financial strategies forward, ensuring smooth and timely delivery.

Hoxton Capital is vigilant about keeping its clients on track to reach their financial goals and maximise their financial positioning, so it offers regular updates and monthly valuations on their investment performance with complete transparency. Alongside this, the client’s investments are accessible at any time through the company’s detailed online platform, which means everything is kept in one place. The client’s personal consultant will guide them on their investments to ensure they remain updated on performance.

The firm’s unique fee structure means that clients can choose an option that best suits their circumstance. Its fee-based structure means the client pays a direct fee, agreed upon prior to service, while its commission-based structure means the client’s product provider pays a varied rate on their behalf, based on portfolio performance with no extra fees. All fees are communicated with the client before any engagement is finalised.

With a 4.8-star rating on Trustpilot, Hoxton Capital’s clients delight in its “good solid advice”, “very efficient communication”, and “fantastic support through the whole process”, with “nothing but praise for their work”. Having earned a great reputation for its unrelenting commitment to safeguarding its clients’ finances, Hoxton Capital only intends to continue in this way as it heads towards the bright future that is ahead of it.

For further information, please visit www.hoxtoncapital.com

Digital Payments

Nearly 9 in 10 People in the Middle East Report Increased Use of Digital Payments in the Past Year

Digital Payments

Since acquired habits stay with people, 92% of those surveyed intend to use Internet banking and e-wallet services more often even after the end of the pandemic

According to the Kaspersky Digital Payment survey, 93% of respondents from the Middle East reported an increase in their use of e-wallet and mobile banking in 2021. COVID-19 was one of the main factors for that: 64% report that they only started using online payments services during the pandemic. In particular, online payment services helped 61% of the respondents to maintain social distancing. Since acquired habits stay with people, 92% of those surveyed intend to use Internet banking and e-wallet services more often even after the end of the pandemic.

Convenience compelled people in the Middle East most to embrace financial technologies – 91% of those surveyed appreciated the ability to pay whenever and wherever they are. 55% also stated that Internet banking and mobile wallet services make it easier to manage financial information.

Another factor that closely correlates to the popularity of digital payment services is the decrease in financial malware attacks in the UAE by more than 70% in 2021 compared to 2020 according to Kaspersky experts. While the decrease in numbers is reassuring, the country also saw an increase in financial malware attacks on Android devices by 42% in 2021 compared to 2020. Given that online services are rapidly growing in size and numbers, new vulnerabilities are welcoming complex cyberattacks.

When asked about their reservations prior to using mobile banking and payment apps, users admitted their fears – afraid of storing their financial data online (37%) and worried that their personal devices are not secured enough (27%). 4 in 10 also revealed they do not trust the security of these platforms. 28% don’t have any reservations at all.

“Digital payment services are gaining more adopters despite the concerns and reservations. The pandemic was an opportunity in disguise for people to understand, learn and use digital payments services at their disposal for their own benefit”, said Emad Haffar, Head of Technical Experts at Kaspersky. “However, as the cashless economy grows and evolves to accommodate the needs of the new normal, it is also important to understand and stay vigilant to the cyber-risks pertaining to online transactions. Since people are becoming increasingly comfortable with accessing digital payment applications, app developers and providers should now look into cybersecurity gaps at each stage of the payment process and build security features that will win the trust of potential users, as well as keep the existing customers protected at all times”, adds Emad Haffar.

J.K. Khalil, Country General Manager, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Levant at Mastercard, said: “As the world grows increasingly connected through the power of digital transformation, cyberattacks have escalated, leaving people and businesses at risk of financial or reputational damages. As such, it is more vital than ever for industry leaders to act as the first line of defense to create a secure financial ecosystem. At Mastercard, we aim to stay ahead of fraudsters and to continually evolve and enhance our protection of cyber environments for our bank and merchant customers as we work towards a safer future for all.”

To help users in the Middle East embrace digital payment technologies securely, Kaspersky experts suggest the following:

  • Do not share your PIN, password or any other financial information with anyone online or offline.
  • Avoid using the public Wi-Fi to make any online transactions.
  • Use a separate credit or debit card to make online transactions. Set a spending limit on the card which can help keep a track of financial transactions.
  • Shop from trusted and official websites

For developers, banks and companies involved in providing digital payment services, Kaspersky recommends:

  • Invest in holistic cybersecurity solutions that can help detect fraud across multiple levels of online payment processes and consumer touchpoint.
  • Complex attacks by APT groups on financial institutions are also on a rise. In-depth visibility and threat intelligence are a necessity to keep customers protected and to ensure business continuity. Using the Kaspersky Threat Intelligence service is helpful to support your IT teams in analysing and mitigating threats.
  • Conduct cyber awareness training for employees continuously. This will help employees know the red flags to look for when an organization is under attack and to understand their role in protecting the organization.
Investing

Africa is the Place to Invest, Visiting US Congressional Delegation Acknowledges to African Development Bank Chief

Investing

United States Congressman Gregory Meeks has warned that the United States will only be part of the future if it invests in Africa now.

The congressman from New York and Chairman of the US House Foreign Affairs Committee was speaking during a visit to the African Development Bank Group on Saturday, as he and a team of congressional colleagues concluded a tour of four African countries. African Development Bank Group President Dr. Akinwumi A. Adesina and several senior Bank officials welcomed the group to the Bank’s headquarters in Abidjan.

“If the United States is not investing in Africa today – especially when we look at the size of Africa’s youth population, which is larger than America’s entire population– then we are not going to be a part of the future,” Meeks said. He added: “My singular focus had been to make sure Africa moves “from the back to the front. There’s a lot of work to do. Governments can’t do it alone. The African Development Bank will play a big role. When Prosper Africa needs guidance, I will point them to the African Development Bank.” 

Meeks was accompanied by Congressman Ami Bera of California, Congresswoman Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Congresswoman Joyce Beatty of Ohio, Congressman G.K. Butterfield of North Carolina, Congresswoman Brenda Lawrence of Michigan, and Congressman Troy Carter of Louisiana.

The group had visited Sierra Leone, Liberia and Tanzania before their arrival in Côte d’Ivoire. Members said they were inspired by the immense opportunities the African continent offers American investors.

Adesina thanked the United States for its continued support, including support for the Bank’s general capital increase in 2019, which saw its capital base rise from $93 billion to $208 billion. Adesina said the United States, the second-largest shareholder of the Bank, was “working with the right institution.” “We are African, we understand the needs of Africa, and we are driving change in Africa,” he said.

Adesina and the visiting members of Congress agreed on the need for closer cooperation between the African Development Bank and US investors. Adesina said the Bank would open an office in Washington, D.C., once Board approval was secured. He explained that the office would provide guidance about how to structure substantive US private sector investment in Africa. “We’d like to see a lot more US direct investment in infrastructure,” Adesina said. “We look forward to working with the United States Trade and Development Agency and others on this.”

Adesina said African economies were rebounding, but the continent faced mounting commercial debt, the adverse impacts of climate change, lack of opportunities for youth, and poor access to Covid-19 vaccines.

The African Development Bank is leading calls for the reallocation of $100 billion in International Monetary Fund special drawing rights (SDRs) to African countries. It is advocating that these funds be channeled through the Bank as a prescribed holder of SDRs, and as an institution which has a AAA credit rating. “SDRs offer African countries a tremendous opportunity to deal with debt,” the Bank chief said.  

Adesina asked for the United States’ support in tackling climate change. He explained that the Bank was investing heavily in climate adaptation and was working closely with US Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry and US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen on climate finance.

In April 2021, the African Development Bank, together with the Global Center on Adaptation, launched the Africa Adaptation Acceleration Program to mobilize $25 billion to support climate adaptation on the African continent. 

Africa’s youth featured prominently in the discussion. The visiting delegation learned that the African Development Bank is supporting entrepreneurship and skills development, especially digital skills, and has been working to develop youth entrepreneurship investment banks, which will support the businesses of young people.     

On health, an equally important subject given the realities of the last two years especially, the Bank president explained that as part of its plans for quality health care infrastructure, the institution would invest $3 billion in building Africa’s pharmaceutical industries and vaccine manufacturing capacities.

Adesina also looked ahead to the 16th replenishment of the African Development Fund, the African Development Bank Group’s concessional lending arm. He is promoting reform of the Fund to enable it to leverage its equity and tap into capital markets in support of Africa’s low-income countries.

The  US Congressional members and the Bank’s senior leadership  shared consensus on the transformative roles of women.  According to Adesina, the Bank, through its Affirmative Finance Action for Women initiative, would disburse $500 million to women businesses across the continent.  

Delegation members expressed strong support for the African Development Bank’s priorities and  appreciation of its development impact.

According to Congressman Butterfield, a constant refrain during the Africa visit was: “Congressman, we appreciate your aid but what we really want is trade and investment.”

Congresswoman Omar underscored the need for partnerships. She said: “We know Africa is resource-rich. Resources can only be well utilized if they are developed. Africa needs partners to prosper.” 

Congressman Bera stressed the need to address Africa’s governance issues and the importance of keeping revenue from its resources within African countries.

Discussions also covered the role of the African diaspora and the need to stem the brain drain of African professionals from the continent.    

Accompanying the African Development Bank president at the meeting were several senior officials of the institution, notably Senior Vice President Swazi Bajabulile Tshabalala, Vice President for Power, Energy, Climate Change and Green Growth Kevin Kariuki, Vice President for Agriculture, Human and Social Development Beth Dunford, Acting Chief Economist and Vice President for Economic Governance and Knowledge Management Kevin Urama. Others were Acting Vice President for Regional Development, Integration and Business Delivery Yacine Fal, Acting Vice President for Finance and Chief Financial Officer Hassatou N’Sele, and Acting Director-General, Office of the Bank President Alex Mubiru.

Joining virtually were the Bank’s Vice President for Private Sector, Infrastructure, and Industrialization Solomon Quaynor, and Senior Director of the Africa Investment Forum, Chinelo Anohu. The Africa Investment Forum, Africa’s premier investment platform, has played a key role recently in driving closer ties between the Bank and the US investment community as well as with certain business-related arms of the US government like the United States Trade and Development Agency. 

In late 2021, the Africa Investment Forum signed a memorandum of understanding with the US Trade and Development Agency to support high-quality infrastructure solutions for Sub-Saharan Africa.

Mobile Payments

Mobile Payments in Africa Continue to Grow in Popularity, Proving Importance of Local Payment Methods

Mobile Payments

Mobile payments in sub-Saharan Africa are predicted to grow by over 60% in the next 5 years, showcasing that Local Payment Methods like these are key for more expansive e-commerce opportunities.

 

The total value of mobile money transactions in emerging markets is predicted to exceed $870 billion in 2026; this growth tendency can also be seen in sub-Saharan Africa, where mobile payments are expected to grow by over 60% in the next 5 years. Seen as one of prominent payment trends in emerging markets for 2022, the popularity of mobile payments is emphasizing the importance of Local Payment Methods, and could open up the African market to a number of global e-commerce opportunities.

Mobile payments as a Local Payment Method (LPM) appeared in the sub-Saharan region in the early 2000s with Safaricom, a Kenyan mobile network operator, offering one of the first mobile payment solutions. The importance of this LPM only grew with new players and more regional countries entering the space. While mobile payments were not automatically available to each sub-Saharan country, as some still lacked technical solutions, it has become a widely spread trend that continues appearing in more African countries.

Frank Breuss, CEO of Nikulipe, a Fintech company creating and connecting Local Payment Methods to access Emerging and Fast-Growing Markets, notes that this payment trend has grown popular due to the particular circumstances sub-Saharan Africa is in.

“More than half of the African population remains without a traditional bank account even today, so solutions like mobile payments are most convenient for the region,” explains Breuss. “Mobile phones are widely available across the region, making mobile money payments the primary way for Africans to pay for goods and services like groceries, food delivery or taxi rides, or even utility bills.”

Breuss continues, adding that mobile phones in Africa are used in a very different way than they are in the US or Europe; they are often not based on monthly subscription models, but rather balances are topped up by purchasing prepaid airtime credits, that can be purchased at thousands of shops or agent-kiosks even in the most rural areas.

“This allows people, even those without a bank account or a credit card, to buy phone credits not just to make calls, but also to top-up their phone to pay local merchants for goods and services—logistically, it’s the simplest and most convenient LPM to use. Knowing all of this, understanding why mobile payments are popular in this region can, in turn, open up more global e-commerce opportunities for both international merchants and African shoppers, looking to shop more globally.”

Since much of Africa’s population has limited access to financial services, the continent is regarded as one of the world’s most attractive banking opportunities for developing the existing financial industry and introducing new products to improve financial accessibility. After previously disregarding mobile money’s target market in favor of Africans with higher income, Africa’s traditional banks are, too, looking into entering telecommunications territory. This move by local banking institutions indicates that the mobile payments market will continue growing in the upcoming years.

While mobile payment penetration varies from one sub-Saharan African country to another, at the end of 2020, 495 million people were using mobile services, which represents 46% of the region’s population. It is predicted that by 2025 this number will reach 615 million—equivalent to 50% of the region’s population. This shows that Local Payment Methods will remain an important part of not only sub-Saharan Africa’s but also fast-growing and emerging markets e-commerce growth.

Global Economy Recovery

Finance, Digital Economy Key to Driving Growth of ASEAN Markets: Industry Experts

Global Economy Recovery

Finance and digital economy are key pillars that will drive the reform agenda of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) and support the region’s economic growth in the coming decades, industry experts speaking at the Global Business Forum ASEAN in Dubai said today.

Organised by Dubai Chamber under the patronage of HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, the two-day forum explores investment and trade opportunities emerging across ASEAN markets, and positions Dubai as a global gateway for ASEAN companies.

Outlining priorities of ASEAN countries, a session titled Financing Growth brought together Stephen Moss, Regional Chief Executive Officer for the Middle East, North Africa, and Turkey (MENAT) at HSBC, based in the UAE, and Winfried Wicklein, Deputy Director General for the Southeast Asia at Asian Development Bank, based in the Philippines, both of whom joined the discussion remotely.

“The pandemic undoubtedly had a disruptive impact on the economy and adversely affected growth in South-East Asia, with the region registering a 4% contraction last year – its deepest in the last decade,” said Winfried Wicklein. “The good news is that we are expecting the region to bounce back with growth of more than 3% in 2022 and 5% in 2023. The economic recovery has been driven to a great extent by the bounce-back in the agricultural sector, as many of those who lost their jobs in tourism headed to agriculture.”

Wicklein went on to list four strategies that are necessary to lead the region’s recovery in the period ahead: “First, there is strengthening social protections, especially for vulnerable groups. Then strategy number two is to enhance the competitiveness of ASEAN’s business environment in order to attract further investments, including investment in human capital to build a competitive workforce and economy.”

“The third strategy is maintaining the ongoing digital transformation in order to generate jobs and income,” he continued. “And finally, there is ensuring that the recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic is green.”

For his part, Stephen Moss asserted that interest in ASEAN from the Middle East is at an all-time high, citing several reasons for this development. “First, if we look at ASEAN as one entity, it would be the third-largest economy in Asia and fifth-largest in the world; the region is also expected to become the world’s fourth-largest economy by 2030. It sits right in the middle of two of the world’s largest trade agreements – the CPTPP and RCEP.”

“Furthermore, exports from ASEAN are valued at over USD1.3 trillion – a figure that is expected to more than double to USD2.8 trillion by 2025, making ASEAN the world’s fastest-growing trade bloc,” he continued. “In terms of digital adoption, ASEAN already has one of the world’s most digitally enabled populations, with 40 million additional internet users reported in 2020 alone. The total number of users is expected to rise from 130 million to 300 million by 2030. This is not to mention the dynamic population, 35% of which are under 20 years old – a population that is fast moving into the middle class.

“Given all of this, we can see why investors from the Middle East are increasingly looking East towards ASEAN,” Moss concluded.

In the second session, ‘ASEAN’s Digital Landscape,’ Dr Ayesha Khanna, Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer ADDO AI, a global artificial intelligence and big data firm that headquartered in Singapore and with clients and employees located in the Middle East, Asia and the US, discussed how digitalisation was underpinning the recovery from the pandemic.

She highlighted the ‘e-Conomy Southeast Asia (SEA) Report – Roaring 20s: The SEA Digital Decade,’ published by Google, Temasek, and Bain & Company in 2021, that revealed that 40 million new internet users came online this year, bringing the internet penetration in South East Asia to 75%, with eight out of 10 of these users having purchased something online at least once.

“Not only are people in ASEAN using digital more than ever before they are using it more frequently than ever before. It is not only the scale of penetration but also the depth of penetration as more and more digital services are added. That has risen to a sense of the digital decade for ASEAN – 2020 to 2030,” she said.

“One in three of these customers think that we would not have survived without these digital services – e-commerce, transport and food, and then to financial services and travel. As it matures, it comes to education and health-tech. We have seen great examples of how people are now, using more than four digital services than they were doing before the pandemic – food and grocery delivery have gone up the most, but digital merchants for all the centres are merging,” she added.

“The net positive impact that digitisation has on the country as a whole, benefitting both end users as well as the merchants and suppliers, range from job creation to business opportunities. More than 83% SME survey say it has created more jobs and if it weren’t for digital their revenues would have declined. In fact, six in 10 of them have said they would like to maintain the use of digital supply chain financing and consumer financing as the next thing to explore. What we are seeing is that we are in a position now to move beyond just consumer services to helping small businesses,” she continued.

Dr Khanna concluded by highlighting that in her base of Singapore, startups raised $11.2bn in the first nine months of 2021 – more than double raised in the whole of 2020.

“Singapore has made a great deal of effort to attract ASEAN unicorns. The country is one of the top investment destinations in south East Asia, from where family offices and investment offices, sovereign wealth funds can have a channel and exposure to all the growing startups, billion dollar value startups, across ASEAN. This is the opportunity that we see in both ASEAN and the Middle East as well, a flourishing of digital services,” she said.

GBF ASEAN forms part of Dubai Chamber’s flagship Global Business Forum series, which was launched in 2013 under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, to provide Dubai’s business community with new opportunities and strengthen the emirate’s position as a dynamic global business hub. GBF ASEAN represents the latest in the programme, which also has GBF Africa and GBF LATAM under its umbrella.

Investment Banking

Hundreds of African Financial Professionals Benefit from European Investment Bank Banking and Microfinance Academy

Investment Banking

Abidjan hosting the EIB’s first banking best-practice engagement in West and Central Africa; Central Bank governors from West and Central Africa to highlight financial challenges; 2021 SME Banking and Microfinance Academy follows EIB training more than 40,000 finance professionals across Africa over past 7 years; Industry experts share experience and solutions to strengthen gender and agriculture finance, digitalisation and understanding of climate risk.

Financial and banking leaders and experts from across West and Central Africa will participate in the European Investment Bank’s 2021 SME Banking and Microfinance Academy, the first to be held in the region. More than 1000 banking, microfinance and development finance participants from 67 countries will share technical and practical experience of successfully increasing access to finance by smallholders, entrepreneurs and business in the fully bilingual virtual event.

“The European Investment Bank recognises the importance of ensuring that private sector financing unlocks sustainable economic and social development. This inaugural EIB West and Central Africa SME Banking and Microfinance Academy brings together partners that share the same goal and long term objective of strengthening resilience and unlocking economic and social opportunities for local communities, small holder farmers and entrepreneurs across Africa. Building on a previous best-practice sharing that strengthened specialist skills for more than 40,000 African financial professionals for the benefit of many more entrepreneurs and smallholder farmers, I am convinced of the success of the Academy.” said Ambroise Fayolle, European Investment Bank Vice President.

Opened by Jobst von Kirchmann, European Union Ambassador to Côte d’Ivoire and hosted by the European Investment Bank’s Regional Representation for West Africa in Abidjan the Banking and Microfinance Academy will provide an opportunity for African and international financial partners to share experience of supporting economic resilience crucial to address the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, accelerating digitalisation and green finance, and improving access to finance by women, remote communities and vulnerable groups.

Over two days, experts from leading financial institutions, the EIB and partners Making Finance Work for Africa (MFW4A) will share practical insights and technical best-practice that will further strengthen access to finance and facilitate investments in targeted sectors particularly in climate change mitigation and adaptation, social, gender, and the advancement of innovation and digital technology.

Central Bank governors from across West and Central Africa will also participate and discuss current challenges and financial services trends.

 

Expanding successful exchange of banking best-practice to West and Central Africa

The 2021 SME Banking and Microfinance Academy is the first time that the European Investment Bank has held the event in West and Central Africa. This follows previous banking and microfinance Academies held in East and Southern Africa since 2016.and dedicated best-practice training with more than 40,000 financial services professionals across Africa.

Banking professionals and private sector SME banking and microfinance clients across Africa already benefit from dedicated business management, banking risk management and specialised training provided by the European Investment Bank through technical assistance programmes across Africa.

Over the last decade the EIB has provided dedicated training for financial professionals in 288 banks and microfinance partners and enhanced business skills for entrepreneurs, small holder farmers and refugees across the continent.

 

Driving transformational change through increased access to finance

The 2021 SME Banking and Microfinance Academy will allow African and international banking and microfinance practitioners from across west and central Africa to share insights into the latest banking best-practices. Experience from previous academies in Nairobi and Pretoria have shown how closer cooperation and knowledge sharing is key to expanding access to finance to targeted market segments, to overcome key challenges and to foster and accelerate high-impact investment.

Participants will exchange experience and expertise on financing climate action, scaling up digitalisation, enabling financing to better reflect the needs of private sector entrepreneurs, smallholders and agriculture, and ensure that female entrepreneurs and women led business can overcome banking barriers.

Speakers will also highlight how to financial institutions are reinforcing digital investment to improve financial services delivery, sustainability reporting as well as to enhance environmental and social ratings.

 

Building on 58 years of EIB support for private sector growth and transformational investment across Africa

In recent years the European Investment Bank has worked with West and Central African based financial partners including Baobab, ECOBANK, Microcred, Kafo Jiginew, BDEAC, Société Génerale, Commercial Bank of Cameroon and PRO PME to enhance access to specialist and targeted finance.

The EIB promotes the development of the financial sector through technical assistance for both financial intermediaries and private sector final beneficiaries to strengthen managerial and financial skills.

Recent programmes have provided targeted support for African banking institutes. This includes recent partnership between the EIB and International Monetary Fund to support financial sector development across the continent. The joint EIB-IMF online course on financial inclusion and financial development.

By offering specialized technical assistance and fostering closer cooperation with its partners, across the continent the European Investment Bank is contributing to a lasting legacy of building local capacity and even developing stronger technical skills to ensure that increased access to finance overcomes daily challenges faced by small African businesses.

The European Investment Bank is the world’s largest international public bank, owned directly by the 27 European Union member states.

The EIB has operated across Africa since 1965 and last year provided EUR 5 billion for private and public investment across Africa.

Digital Economy

Vertiv Joins the Sustainable Digital Infrastructure Alliance to Help Drive a Climate-neutral Digital Economy

Digital Economy

Vertiv, is a global a global provider of critical digital infrastructure and continuity solutions, today announced that it has become a lead sponsor of the Sustainable Digital Infrastructure Alliance (SDIA).

Established in 2019, the SDIA is a non-profit network of more than 65 organizations across Europe and beyond, working to catalyse the transition to sustainable digital infrastructure. It aligns all stakeholders of the digital ecosystem – from energy supply and data centres, to fibre-optic networks and software – on the mission of fostering a sustainable digital economy and realizing their Roadmap to Sustainable Digital Infrastructure by 2030.

Max Schulze, SDIA executive chairman, welcomed Vertiv to the Alliance. “Vertiv’s experience and expertise in the critical infrastructure sector, including data centres, is well established. Together we will continue to develop new concepts and technologies to make climate-neutral data centres and digital infrastructure a reality.”

Commenting on the partnership with the SDIA, Giordano Albertazzi, president for Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) at Vertiv, said: “Achieving a successful transition to a sustainable and digital future will require the cooperation of a wide variety of stakeholders, including governments as well as organisations from across the energy and technology industries. Vertiv is proud to support a group such as the SDIA which can help bring together these contributors and align them towards the common goal of developing a sustainable digital economy.”

Initially, Vertiv and the SDIA will focus their relationship around Europe – currently at the forefront of sustainability technology development as well as government regulation and investment.

Vertiv’s membership of the SDIA follows similar initiatives with organisations such as the European Data Centre Association (EUDCA), which Vertiv joined in 2018. Vertiv, via its membership of the EUDCA, is also helping to contribute to the development of the recently announced Climate Neutral Data Centre Pact. The pact is a major self-regulatory initiative setting targets that put the cloud and data centre industry on a path to meet the European Commission’s goal for climate-neutral data centres by 2030, and supporting the wider goal of the European Green Deal to make Europe the first climate-neutral continent by 2050.

Some of the immediate areas of cooperation between SDIA and Vertiv will include the advancement of grid-interactive technologies. SDIA’s membership, which spans data centre technology suppliers and operators as well as energy companies, is well placed to help with the development and deployment of new solutions which can improve the integration between critical infrastructure and energy grids.