Looking at the mobile space in Africa and success stories like M-Pesa, all the talk is about SMS and similar mobile technologies for filling the mobile gap. Afterall, if most of Africa has mobile phones, and most of them are lacking access to financial services then putting the two together should clearly build a solution enabling financial services for those with mobile phones. M-Pesa shows this works, and other markets are following. It’s a logical and clearly succesful model in some of these markets.
Africans Should be Developing for Smartphones, Not USSD or Feature Phones
But in this model, one must be careful not to lose sight of where the market, customers and technology are heading. As Gretzky once said “A good hockey player plays where the puck is. A great hockey player plays where the puck is going to be.” And where the puck is going to be is online. And on affordable smartphones. With three billion new people coming online in the next 5 years and most Africans having a smartphone in 5 years the time is now to plan and develop for a connected, online and technology-equipped Africa. Developing for it after it has happened would be too late. As this article mentions, “the time is now” to develop for smartphone, not USSD or Features phones.
With rabid competition in the smartphone market, extremely cheap and powerful technology platforms quickly coming into the hands of the one billion in Africa, the only question is, how will the financial industry react? Will they prepare their services and delivery models for this connected world? Or will they be left behind by their forward-thinking competition?