The Evolution of Neo Banking in Africa
Updated: Oct 17
The evolution of neo-banking in Africa has been marked by significant growth and development in recent years. There are already more than 450 digital banks worldwide and they are growing rapidly in both number and size.
In Africa, The absence of reliable banking infrastructure and the pressing needs of a population living in challenging conditions have propelled Africa's digital transformation and led the region to produce some of the most groundbreaking fintech solutions worldwide.
Table of Contents:
The MPesa Effect
MPesa, Africa's largest mobile money platform and largest fintech platform with over 42 million customers, helps in incredible ways to the creation of a financial infrastructure for wide segments of the population.
Despite the advances made possible by the mobile money transfer economy and solutions such as MPesa, Africa seems to be a resting giant when it comes to accessing traditional bank accounts and affordable financial services, as it is in other regions of the world.
Factors for Neobanking Growth in Africa
Several factors have contributed to the rise of neo-banking in Africa, including increasing smartphone penetration, a growing middle class, and a need for innovative financial solutions. Key factors include :
- Emergence of mobile money services,
- Rise of fintech startups
- Regulatory adaptation
- Partnerships with traditional banks
African neo-banks offer innovative features, expand across borders, attract investment, and face competition. Despite challenges such as regulatory hurdles and cybersecurity risks, they are poised to play a pivotal role in shaping the future of finance on the continent.
African Neo Banking Landscape
As per the report. the region currently has 21 digital banks serving over 27 million users across several countries. Numbers that are comparatively low in comparison to a population of over 1 billion people.
Yet there has been a surge in new digital bank launches since 2017, due mostly to the creation of Nigeria as an emerging hub for digital banking in Africa.
In spite of the region's broad terms inclusion, only a small number of economies have been able to establish them as a magnet to new entrants. South Africa and Nigeria, in particular, account for over 80% of the region's digital banks. When it comes to individual players in the area, South Africa accounts for a sizable portion of the total neo-banking consumers in the Sub-Saharan region.
Key Neo Banks Across Africa
The advent of mobile technology has been a game-changer for the African continent. With vast regions historically underserved by traditional banking infrastructures, the widespread use of mobile phones has enabled financial services to leapfrog into a new era.
It wasn't long before entrepreneurs recognized the potential for full-fledged digital banking. Thus, neo-banks began making their foray, focusing on:
Financial Inclusion: Targeting the unbanked and underbanked population, offering easy account creation, and minimal documentation.
Lower Costs: Without the overhead of physical branches, neo-banks often provide services at reduced fees.
Innovative Features: From budgeting tools to cross-border transfers, the focus is on a seamless and integrated financial experience
Comparing the Biggest African Neo-Banks
To understand the dynamism of this industry, let's compare some of the leading neo-banks:
Origin: Nigeria, with expansions to other African nations.
Notable Features: Started as a mobile payment solution, now offers diverse services from investments to bike-hailing.
Valuation: Achieved multi-billion-dollar valuations, raising hundreds of millions in funding.
Notable Features: Zero fees for many standard banking services, personal financial management tools, and the offer of overdrafts.
Growth: Rapid expansion in user base and significant funding milestones.
3. Chipper Cash:
Origin: Began its journey in multiple countries like Ghana, Nigeria, and Uganda.
Notable Features: Zero-fee cross-border transfers, peer-to-peer payments, and investment features.
Expansion: With a clear focus on intra-Africa transfers, it has become a favorite for many seeking to send money across borders.
Origin: South Africa.
Notable Features: A blend of digital and physical with kiosks across retail partners. Features include the "GoalSave" tool for savings.
Position: One of South Africa's leading digital banks with an increasing user base.
Country of Operation
Nigeria (expanded to other African countries)
Multiple African countries (Ghana, Nigeria, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, South Africa)
Mobile payments, investments, savings, loans, bike-hailing, food delivery
Free banking services for individual customers
Primarily cross-border money transfer expanded to other services
Transactional accounts, savings accounts, lending
Mobile wallet, quick payments, diverse integrated services
Digital accounts, free transfers, financial management tools, overdrafts
Peer-to-peer payments, zero-fee cross-border transfers, investment features
Physical kiosks in retail partners, online banking, "GoalSave" tool for saving and earning interest
10 million +
5 million +
5 million +
5 million +
Comprehensive app with integrated services
Sleek, user-friendly app
Simple and focused app for transfers and payments
Hybrid experience with online banking and physical kiosks
Varied fees depending on service; some services come with associated fees
No card or account maintenance fees; other fees may apply
Primarily zero fees for cross-border transfers; fees might apply for other services
No monthly fees, pay-as-you-use pricing structure
Expansion to other African countries
Plans to expand outside Nigeria
Expansion within and possibly outside Africa
Focus on consolidating presence in South Africa
Future Of Neo Banking In Africa
Neo-banking in Africa is still in its nascent stages. With a large population yet to be introduced to formal banking, the potential for growth is immense. Challenges like regulatory hurdles, trust-building, and infrastructural development need to be addressed.
Moreover, as the fintech space becomes crowded, differentiation will be key. Whether it's through superior user experience, diverse service offerings, or partnerships with other sectors like e-commerce or telecommunication, neo-banks will have to continually innovate.
In conclusion, the neo-banking wave in Africa is not just about digitizing banking. It's a socio-economic movement aimed at driving financial inclusion, empowering businesses, and fostering economic growth. As technology advances and the ecosystem matures, it will be fascinating to witness the next chapters of this transformative journey.
Collaboration among banks, fintech firms, and telecom carriers could also foster the creation of innovative financial solutions. Such cooperation can leverage each sector's distinct capabilities, such as telecom companies' client bases and distribution networks, fintech businesses' inventive competence, and banks' financial experience, to supply personalized financial services to SMEs and industries.