A panel of experts and innovative fintech gurus have called for businesses to embrace digitally-led finance and payment solutions in order to thrive during and after the impact of the novel coronavirus pandemic.
The panel discussion was held during the fifth edition of the Innovation Series event by brainchildBCW, an affiliate of Burson Cohn & Wolfe, Africa’s largest PR network.
The discussions under the event’s theme; COVID-19: Appropriate Digital Finance & Payment Solutions for Businesses in Africa called out for local entrepreneurs and SME’s to aptly redress unforeseen circumstances such as the pandemic with innovative and effective solutions to business operations so as to ensure timely service delivery and command financial inclusion in Uganda.
Addressing the audience at the virtual event, Walter Wafula the Business Unit Head at brainchildBCW mentioned the timeliness of the topic, especially with the country undergoing unprecedented times such as the COVID-19.
“As the unexpected costs and losses of COVID-19 to businesses mount, the need for practical, scalable, quick and effective solutions is urgent. Now more than ever, it’s time to put digital finance and payments to work for SME’s to survive the impact of the coronavirus,” he said.
Adding that “The COVID-19 outbreak has quickly catapulted contactless payments into the mainstream consciousness thanks to their hygienic benefits.
For businesses to fully capitalize on this unique opportunity and ignite a longer-term behaviour change among its customers, they must ramp up the speed in which they are embracing digital payment solutions.”
The recent COVID pandemic has brought the issue of financial exclusion back to the fore. With the use and acceptance of cash declining, many consumers and businesses have had to make major changes in how they operate when it comes to payments. Whilst many have embraced digital payments further, others risk being left further behind.
Speaking at the online event, Beatrice Lugalambi, General Manager Corporate Communications and Marketing, Centenary Bank, said that the behavioural changes that come with coronavirus further reinforced the need for enhancing technology in order to better service and ensure secured engagements for their customers.
“In the digital era, customer experience is a differentiating factor – and not just for banks. People generally transact more and more through digital channels. The customer experience on the digital channels is therefore crucial,” noting that, “As digital service providers, keeping the customer experience in mind while designing these digital solutions is now just as important as experiences at the physical branch locations.”
When asked about the role fintech has played in the digitization of transactions, Nielsimms Sangho, the Country Manager, Flutterwave Incorporation Uganda said that “Much as fintech in Uganda is still new to the biggest population, it’s not a question of replacing what is already in existence, but adding value to the existing payment solutions for the local businesses.”
According to the Bank of Uganda, at the end of 2019, Uganda had up to 27 million registered mobile money subscribers with a total number of transactions at 277 million with the transaction value standing at 7.3 billion.
This speedy growth can be attributed to the introduction and increase in the use of digital financial services by banks, telecoms and fintech in the economy.
“Over time, mobile money has been able to democratize most businesses into allowing to operate using the platform in exchange for the provision of products and services,” Godfrey Muhindo, the Head Merchant Portfolio-Airtel Money at Airtel Uganda commented.
Adding that, “Africa will have about 700 million mobile users in the next two years, this goes ahead to show the great shift to digital payments for the masses.”
“In the new normal, we must help everyone adapt to new and safer ways to lead our lives, and that includes the transportation industry.” Ricky Rapa, Co-founder of SafeBoda Holdings stated.
“The government recently eased public transportation with strict regulations including half-capacity seating to prevent the spread of the virus.
“Payment methods for this should also be addressed to reduce the physical cash transactions between passenger and drivers and Embracing new digital payments through contactless cards such as VISA, mobile money, cashless rides, among others should be at the forefront especially in the transport business,” he further observed.
Walter Wafula thanked the panellists for sharing and bringing abreast such stirring insights for discussion and promoting the culture of innovation in Uganda.
Encouraging the different businesses to embrace the urgent shift to digital finance and payment solutions because of the ease of accessibility, convenience and safety that these options extend to users.