The World of eBanking: Africa

Last updated: 19 March 2014

Following on from our previous post on the world of eBanking which focused on Asia, we continue with the series by taking a look at eBanking in Africa.


The financial services sector in Africa is poised to thrive.  According to consultancy Bain & Company, the $107 billion industry could grow by 15 percent a year until 2020. One of the biggest areas of growth, they say, will be mobile banking.

Many areas in Africa lack a wired Internet infrastructure, depending instead on mobile wireless communications.  In these countries, eBanking doesn’t have to be done just by banks alone. Wireless telecommunications companies are using the SIM technology in the phone and their wireless network to partner with banking service providers.

In Uganda for example, leading African mobile operator MTN Mobile has an operational nationwide mobile payment program that makes m-payment accessible to the great majority of people, even if they do not have a banking relationship.

In its first year of operation more than 180,000 m-payment transactions had already been performed.

The Gemalto-supplied solution provides a secure, convenient and affordable means for MTN Uganda subscribers to carry out peer-to-peer fund transfer using their mobile phone. An easy-to-navigate menu enables consumers to send and receive money, buy airtime, withdraw cash from a local retailer, with the security provided by the SIM card. Since the SIM card is the only application platform working with 100% of handsets, subscribers can perform m-payment transactions using any type of mobile phone, which means the service is immediately available to all.

Gemalto provided MTN Uganda with a comprehensive solution that includes the server for interconnecting the operator with its banking service provider, and the SIM cards storing and executing the m-payment application. The company also supplied server integration services and acts as technological partner of MTN Uganda.

MTN Uganda is part of the MTN Group, a multinational telecommunications group operating in 21 countries in Africa and the Middle East and serving over 100 million subscribers, including 4.2 million in Uganda.   Gemalto is working with MTN to roll out mobile financial services in many other countries as well.

Other programs in Africa focus on conventional landline-based Internet transactions. In Nigeria, banking services company InterSwitch, which comprises 25 member banks, opted instead to use Gemalto’s complete strong authentication solution to secure both eCommerce and eBanking services from customer PCs.
InterSwitch chose to offer its member banks enhanced security by replacing static passwords with OTP using customers’ EMV cards and unconnected Ezio readers.  Users can pay their bills and taxes or buy airline tickets in a more secure and convenient manner, by authenticating themselves with a one-time-password using the device. They can also access online banking services, such as funds transfer, with increased security.

Gemalto facilitated the implementation by providing its turnkey Ezio Server and acting as the server integration partner, along with EMV card readers and unconnected tokens, all customized with InterSwitch’s branding.