African digital platforms and the future of digital financial services
As societies and economies change, so should the financial products that serve them.
Financial products help us manage our lives. They enable us to receive, store and spend money. The banking, mobile money, pensions and credit products we see have been shaped by the historical structure of our economies and societies. These structures are, however, changing rapidly through digitalisation of African marketplaces. New economic actors are building the rails for online commerce that is transforming everyday activities such as commuting, ordering lunch, childcare or calling a plumber. As with the industrial revolution, the old will continue to live alongside the new, possibly for many decades.
The key question is how financial products should evolve to meet the needs of the consumers, labourers and microenterprises that will need to find relevance in this changing economy?
This is an ambitious question. To understand it better, we are embarking on a journey to identify and map the many actors that are digitising the daily commerce of individuals in Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Rwanda, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia. In particular, we seek to understand digital platforms that match providers of goods and services to consumers (also known as multi-sided platforms). These platforms (e.g. Amazon and WeChat) have transformed commerce in more developed markets and have already disrupted key industries in our focus countries (e.g. e-hailing services).
More than 300 platform providers are matching millions of active consumers to providers of goods and services, according to our preliminary findings from a systematic scan of eight focus countries. Our study aims to:
- Capture the financial products that individuals and microenterprises require to gain access to these digital platforms
- Better understand how digital platforms may be uniquely positioned to provide the financial products required to participate in changing economies
As a marketplace, digital platforms hold unique insights into the financial needs of their users and can act as a low-cost distribution channel. We are therefore capturing the insurance, credit, savings and payment services that these platforms provide to their users, and the data assets that make this possible.
To stimulate a broad and informed discussion on the role of African digital platforms and the future of financial products, we will make the findings of this mapping exercise available in a public and interactive database. In partnership with FiDA Partnership/Caribou Digital and FSD Africa, we seek to convene key actors in this space to identify immediate actions and future research that can further advance this discussion.