WSBI Holds it 22nd Africa Regional Group Meeting in Madagascar

The annual regional meeting of African members of WSBI was held on May 30th to June 1st in Antananarivo, hosted by the Caisse d’Eparagne de Madagascar.  The theme of the meeting was “Exploring the pathways to financial services” and was attended by over dozen WSBI partners.  Representatives of African financial institutions included, Tanzanian Postal Bank, Al Barid Bank of Morocco, PostBank Uganda and savings/postal banks of Senegal, Burkina Faso, the Comoros and Zimbabwe.  External participants were also present

The conference was formally opened by the Minister of Finance and Budget of Madagascar and a panel of Madagascar-based experts from the IFC, the World Bank and the Central Bank discussed the current context and strategy on financial inclusion in the country.  Currently, Madagascar has one of the lowest rates of financial inclusion with 4-5% of the population considered included. References were made to the role played by the recent MAP study as well as the soon to be published FinScope report in designing the FI strategy for Madagascar.  In order to include the most vulnerable, savings groups also figure in the national strategy.

The opening session was followed by three afternoon panels:  The Role of Savings Groups in Building Assets & Financial Capability, The Digital Revolution to Build Bridges in Financial Inclusion and Microinsurance Lessons from the Global Arena.  Local representatives from international NGOs spoke about the growth and use of savings groups in Madagascar and UNCDF’s MicroLead presented on lessons learned from MicroLead on dormancy.  The second panel discussed CGAP’s work on client-centricity and how it can bring more benefits to FSPs as well as Orange Money’s experience in the market – currently, there are 5-6 million mobile phone users in Madagascar or which over half have registered accounts but only 1 million are active.  Centenary Bank and AL Barid Bank also contributed to the second panel describing their efforts to respond to low-income customer needs through innovation and technology.  A major obstacle cited was the low level of digital financial literacy of clients which impacts both financial institutions as well as mobile network operators.

A key message of the workshop was that the postal and savings banks have to keep up with technology in order to stay relevant and grow their client base and that the WSBI members are in an ideal situation to learn from each other.  The CEO of Tanzania Postal Bank, Moshingi Sabasaba, reminded the participants of the story of Nokia and Motorola who took their market share of the mobile telephone business for granted and failed to say ahead of the curve.