Cashless Banking in Africa: How we’re creating payment solutions with technology and innovation

African economies are well positioned to benefit from rapidly accelerating technological change if they can harness the current open landscape for innovation.

East Africa is already a global leader in mobile payments, while mobile money accounts in sub-Saharan Africa are on an upward charge.

Apart from being able to leapfrog the limitations and costs of physical infrastructure, the continent stands to benefit from having the youngest, tech-savvy workforce in the world in the next decade.

Africa’s working age population is expected to grow by 450 million people by 2035. According to the World Bank and the continent is projected to have the largest working population of 1.1 billion by 2034, notes the World Economic Forum on Africa.

Recent GSMA data shows that mobile money accounts in sub-Saharan Africa are up 18.4% between 2016-17 to 33.8m registered accounts.

Banking in a cashless society will require African solutions for African problems - @nnamdi_oranye Click To Tweet

However, we cannot wait 12-15 years before adequate job creating initiatives and policies are unlocked. The answer lies in harnessing the power of the digital economy today to create African solutions for African problems. An important part of this will require promoting and partnering with African innovators to unlock sustainable growth.

We are already witnessing the significant potential of digital innovation in the remittance and mobile wallet space. Penetration of smartphones is expected to hit at least the 50% mark in 2020 from only 2% in 2010, according to the World Economic Forum, offering the continent a clean canvas for tech-based innovation.

It is an opportunity we must not miss. These are exciting times and are forcing us to think differently to come up with true Pan African innovation and development.

MFS Africa is a good example of how carefully harnessed and supported technological innovation can have ripple effects through the continent. It now operates the largest digital payments network in Africa and connects over 170m mobile wallets through 100+ partners, including Airtel, Ecobank, MTN, Orange and Vodafone across 55 markets.

It has about 15% of the African population connected to a platform.

M-Pesa, launched in Kenya in 2007, is an often-touted example of African technology making waves even outside its own borders. After capturing the local market for cash transfers it has spread to three continents and 10 countries.

Residents transfer money using the M-Pesa banking service at a store in Nairobi, Kenya, on Sunday, April 14, 2013. In the six years since Kenya’s M-Pesa brought banking-by-phone to Africa, the service has grown from a novelty to a bona fide payment network. Photographer: Trevor Snapp/Bloomberg via Getty Images

MicroEnsure, meanwhile continues on the path of developing pioneering insurance solutions for low-income people like micro-health, crop, and mobile insurance. These are solutions directly aimed at emerging customers and it is little surprise the company continues new customers by cleverly partnering with telcos. is another major success story, testing and growing its health innovation offerings for seven years in East Africa. The company works with health systems to hone their communications with patients in lower-income but also in growing areas and it hopped the pond in the opposite direction from most smaller startups and landed one of its first American clients.

Standard Bank, as Africa’s largest bank by assets, hopes to support even more start-up and tech initiatives across the continent Click To Tweet

Adventist Health White Memorial Hospital, a Los Angeles facility that works largely with lower-income Hispanics, was looking for ways to use health data to achieve better outcomes within its population.

These are examples of the role models that will inspire our next generation of innovators. We need more and tech-savvy banks to need to continue supporting them as they grasp future opportunities.

Just consider that Findex data shows that sub-Saharan Africa is home to all eight economies where 20 percent or more of adults use only a mobile money account: Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Gabon, Kenya, Senegal, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zimbabwe.

Opportunities, therefore, abound to increase account ownership up to 95 million unbanked adults in the region receive cash payments for agricultural products, and roughly 65 million save using semiformal methods.

Standard Bank, as Africa’s largest bank by assets, hopes to support even more start-up and tech initiatives across the continent to ensure these opportunities are not lost.

We are setting a new standard in digital payments with the launch of Africa’s first prepaid virtual cards ecosystem, among many other digital innovations - @nnamdi_oranye Click To Tweet

We are therefore innovating ourselves at a rapid pace to harness the benefits of the digital age to drive financial services inclusion. Mobile payment solutions like Snapscan is now available at over 25,000 merchants and a vast user network across South Africa. We are setting a new standard in digital payments with the launch of Africa’s first prepaid virtual cards ecosystem, among many other digital innovations.

The future will be about solving genuine customer problems rather than putting a band aid on them. One area in urgent need of change, for instance, is remittances, where Africa is still one of the costliest places in the world to remit payments – fees as high as 10% to 20% are still endured.

We need to harness technology to genuinely solve this problem.

Sometimes when we talk about banking in cashless society we look too far out – but we don’t have the luxury of time. Knowing your customer (KYC) is about understanding what they need today based on their culture and context and then unlocking the already available data to provide the solution.

Technology, for instance, can solve the unbanked problem on the continent. However, this does not mean you can “plug and play” by taking something that works in one country and expecting it to work in another. Success will increasingly be centered on having a Pan African view of the problem, but local implementation.

The future is certainly bright for Africa as exponential innovation continues to drive change across the continent we call home, disrupts industries and replace legacy technology.

It is now time to grasp this opportunity with both hands before the innovation wave passes us by.

Article By Nnamdi Oranye, Fintech Author and International Remittances Lead at Standard Bank Group. 

October 2018

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Afia Bobia Amanfo: Entrepreneurship as a vehicle for social change

Afia Bobia Amanfo is the co-founder of Studentshubgh, a non-profit organisation committed to the mentoring and grooming of young people in sub-Saharan Africa.

Even though she comes from an administrative background, Afia finds fulfillment addressing the challenges of disadvantaged young people and connecting them with opportunities. She has been involved with volunteer outreaches to villages and schools in Ghana for several years, before starting Studentshubgh with her co-founder, Nana Ofosu Boakye.

Afia is a graduate of the University of Ghana, Legon and the University of Lille in France. She is currently registered for the Master’s degree in International Trade at the Universite de Paris Est Creteil, France. Her career goals are to become a social entrepreneur as well as an international business analyst. Afia has a strong relationship with God, which she sees as the foundation for everything she does.

Afia Bobia Amanfo

Young people are really starved for content that addresses their issues, directs and guides them and this is the gap we seek to fill - Afia Bobia Amanfo Click To Tweet


What made you take the leap into entrepreneurship?

I have always had entrepreneurial dreams and a desire to use entrepreneurship as a vehicle for social change. But, for many years I held myself back because of a fear of failing. I finally decided to take the leap not because I had gathered enough courage, but because I was frustrated by the lack of access to quality content for young students in sub-Saharan Africa.

I interact with a lot of young people and I was distressed. By the fact that many of them were making poor decisions concerning their career, academics, relationships and life in general because they didn’t have easy access to information or a qualified mentor.

A quick check on most youth focused sites will show a bias towards entertainment. Definitely, the youth are interested in entertaining news and it is good business to give your customers what they want. However, young people on our continent are really starved for content that addresses their issues, and gives them direction and guidance. This is the gap we seek to fill.

In addition, I was motivated by the desire to lend my voice to instilling a sense of patriotism and pride in African youth. I believe there will be a change in the future of Africa only to the extent that the youth are intentionally taught to believe in themselves as Africans; and learn to exploit their abilities to their fullest potential so they can become successful future leaders. So yes, I took the leap after lots of prayers and I have not regretted it.


You built your website from scratch and you had no background experience to support this. From your experience what are the key resources and things to consider when creating a website?

Thanks to the internet, no skill is too difficult to learn today. From graphic design to website or app development, the tools are all there on Youtube or a blog out there.

So I will say:

  1. Start with research. You can research based on the type of website you want to build e.g.    a magazine, blog, e-commerce etc.
  2. Determine the best domain name registration sites
  3. Find a hosting site
  4. Find templates
  5. and learn about plugins.

You can find something whatever your budget is!

Here are a few resources you need:

  • Reliable internet connection. This is a must since you will spend several hours on      your site.


  • Domain name registration & hosting. You need to check for the availability of your domain name and register it as well. Most hosting services offer free domain name registration and free email address as part of the package. You can do a little research on the types of domain names and decide whether to register as a .com, .org, .gh etc.
  • I have been using as my hosting service which is quite affordable and also offer great customer service. Other hosting services include bluehost, godaddy  etc.


  • A website creation tool/ publishing platform. If you are a beginner like me, I will definitely recommend WordPress. WordPress has several templates ( both free and paid) and plugins. You can play around with various templates to find out what you want.
  • I think if you have an online business, it is good to try your hand at designing your site, because experimenting with various templates will give you ideas and your site will end up better.
  • You can always get an expert to add the touch-up’s, but do some experimenting on your own. Besides WordPress, you can also check other tools such as drupal, joomla or wix.


  • You are going to need some great pictures for your site. There is definitely a lack of quality African stock photos online but there are a few options both free and paid. Check out, and


Afia Bobia Amanfo


Ok, so let’s just say that was manageable. Let’s talk about building a social media following of over 7000 and developing an e-magazine in just 6 months! What’s the secret Afia?

I will say, there is actually no secret. The key to building a social media following has been widely discussed on many blogs and Youtube videos. I have watched She Leads Africa videos which spell out the strategy I used.

A  clear strategy:

We decided to invest in creating a community on social media first before launching our website.  Our strategy is 2 fold: Focused content and target advertising. To be honest, we have experimented a lot with content. We know our target audience and what we want to give them.

Experimentation and iteration:

However, we continue to experiment with the presentation of the content in order to achieve maximum impact. We have learned to consider that our target audience (students between 15 to 25) usually have very little to spend on data so we don’t do a lot of videos, we try shorter posts and also images with quotes, in order to get the message across.

A well structured team:

I also have to add that having an amazing team has been crucial. I am very big on delegation, structure and organisation and that has been our strength so far. We have a very small team of young people but everyone has a specific role. We have an editor for the e-magazine (Naana Essien) and my co-founder, Nana Ofosu Boakye is in charge of the youth mentoring. That delegation and structure helps us to achieve more than if I was trying to be a jack of all trades.

Using digital as a tool:

We have also embraced today’s digital power and the youth’s ‘addiction’ to their phones. We use WhatsApp as an extension of our community. For our mentoring groups and the broadcast feature for the distribution of four e-magazine and so far WhatsApp has been great. We are looking for more creative ways to meet the youth on platforms they are most comfortable with.

We want to see a different Africa and I believe that starts with an intentional investment in the minds of the young people - Afia Bobia Amanfo Click To Tweet

On the Studentshubgh website all areas of student’s life are included. Why students? Maybe clarify what are your hopes for this generation.

Anyone who is desperate to see a better future for Africa will be interested in the youth. They are the future. My co-founder and I really want to see a different Africa from the one we grew up in and I believe that starts with an intentional investment in the minds of young people.

I think we need to move beyond just entertaining our youth and begin to inculcate in them habits that will prepare them to succeed early on in life. We use ‘students’ as a target basically to clarify the age range but we are interested in reaching out to all young people ,aged 14-25, whether in school or out of school.


Afia Bobia Amanfo


What’s your competitive advantage?

Well, considering our vision, we actually want more people to come on board to help mentor and invest in young people. Nevertheless, our competitive advantage is and will remain innovation and creativity.

We are constantly researching and constantly discovering new ways and new methods to make an impact in the lives of young people. We want to always be one step ahead, whether it is with our e-magazine, our mentoring platform or content. We intend to continually learn and innovate.

Afia Bobia Amanfo says her competitive advantage is and will remain innovation and creativity Click To Tweet

Considering how well you have done thus far. How do you plan on maintaining this standard?

All we have been doing these few months is trying to lay a good foundation. We have more plans ahead for our website, our mentoring platform and our magazine.

We intend to be creative and remain true to our vision, while striving for excellence in everything we do and seeking good collaborations. We have a solid trust in God, who has been the foundation of everything we have done, and continues to give us more wisdom and ideas.

Afia Bobia Amanfo, would you rather reverse one decision you make everyday or be able to stop time for at least 10 seconds every day?

If I had that power, stopping time for 10 seconds will be awesome. Sometimes 24 hours doesn’t seem enough and sometimes you need a few seconds to think and decide. I have learnt that all things work together for good when you trust God.

Were you mentored as a student or do you mentor students?

If you’d like to share your story with She Leads Africa, let us know more about you and your story here.