Rosemary Kimaku, business development manager for mobile financial services (MFS) at Ericsson, spoke to Connecting Africa Editor Paula Gilbert at MWC Kigali 2023 about Ericsson's MFS business and how fintech is aiding financial and digital inclusion.
"Ericsson has typically been known as a telecoms infrastructure company, but interestingly we have had the fintech business for over ten years now, which is under the Ericsson Wallet Platform and today we have over 24 deployments globally, 19 of which are in Africa – which is where the magic happens," she explained.
The Ericsson Wallet Platform powers the underlying technology of major fintech brands like MTN Mobile Money (MoMo) and digital payments of telcos like Mascom Botswana and Tmcel in Mozambique.
Kimaku gave an update on how the MFS business is growing in Africa and Ericsson's strategy for expansion.
She shared how fintech will help unleash Africa's digital potential and boost the continent's economy and how digital identity tools can help boost access to the digital payments.
Kimaku advocated for interoperability between traditional financial institutions, fintechs and telcos. She said these groups need to find ways to "play well together" primarily in the non-competitive commercial domains, for example national or pan-African switch networks that can enable digital transactions more easily.
She offered her views on how generative artificial intelligence (AI) is reshaping the front office of financial services and what we should expect looking ahead to 2024.
There was also a discussion about how the evolution of mobile technology in Africa is directly improving financial inclusion for citizens.
"If you think about how mobile broadband has grown over time, what was most familiar to everyone was 2G and 3G, mostly based on voice, but on the back of it USSD and USSD has really been the opener towards introducing seemingly rudimentary, but very penetrative payments infrastructure," Kimaku said.
She believes the expansion of 4G and 5G will open up the system further to more affordable mobile broadband and more mature use cases via smartphones.
"As the continent is moving away from typical transactions that are cash-in, cash-out or agent based, and moving into more complex use cases such as buy-now-pay-later (BNPL), savings, lending and embedded finance you will need the power of high-speed Internet to do that, the power of smartphones with sophisticated apps to do that. So, 4G and 5G is really going to drive those capabilities greatly," she added.
She also spoke about ways to break down barriers hampering the financial inclusion of women on the continent and some Ericsson programs working to digitally educate girls and women and narrow the mobile gender gap.
— Paula Gilbert, Editor, Connecting Africa