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Technology Must Reach Tanzania’s Unbanked

Mannie T'Chawi

Cofounder and CEO, LayerCake

The prevalence of mobile money services in Africa has not missed Tanzania. Approximately 90 percent of the east African nation’s 51 million people use mobile money services as primary means for banking and transferring money.

Popular services like Vodacom’s MPesa, Tigo’s TigoPesa and Airtel’s Airtel Money have facilitated money transfers but not wealth generation or even financial inclusivity. However, an approximate $21 million is transacted daily through these same mobile money platforms.

Why Tanzania needs true mobile banking solutions?

Tanzania needs reliable technology solutions that will aid financial growth and management. Tanzania is still a heavily cash-based economy, with 68 percent of the nation living below the poverty line.

Limited access to banks has allowed mobile money providers to act like proxy-banks, serving as temporary places to hold money virtually before being withdrawn as cash. These proxy-banks are effectively more like virtual wallets than mobile banking solutions.

Big banks recognize the market.

Many have taken note of technology’s prevalence in helping average Tanzanians manage their money day to day, and now, financial institutions are optimistic about the under-tapped potential in the market. Big banks are willing to seek partnerships and guidance to reach these potential customers to aid them in their financials needs, which include everything from growing savings to building lines of credit.

Citibank Tanzania, for example, has functioned primarily as an institutional bank to maximize its resources and strengths as a global brand. The promise that comprehensive mobile money platforms could provide the tools for financial inclusion and security has lead Citibank Tanzania to explore solutions to help it reach previously unattainable customers and offer a wider array of services.

Still, only time will tell which solutions will be most effective in reaching Tanzania’s unbanked, and that time is nearing.

Government is ready for change.

The country itself is ready for radical changes to make it a competitive economy and reaching the unbanked population will be critical in that journey. The new President, John Magufuli, has been vigilant in stomping out corruption.

Magufuli is holding leaders accountable, removing wrong-doers from positions of power and influence, and prosecuting individuals and organizations that participate in graft. His administration is also overseeing the completion of the nation’s largest data centre, increasing the nation’s bandwidth and overall access to the Internet.

The tide has turned, and it won’t be long until a local solution meets the technical needs to facilitate Tanzania’s sustainable future. Improving access and dependability of financial services will be key to helping Tanzania and its people build wealth.

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Mannie T’Chawi

Cofounder and CEO, LayerCake

Mannie T'Chawi is the cofounder & CEO of LayerCake, a social enterprise that promotes financial inclusivity and security in Tanzania. Having worked in startups, Fortune companies, and NGOs, Mannie is a big proponent…