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EA banks largely untouched by crisis

NAIROBI, Kenya, Jan 15 – Although the global banking industry is going through what may be its worst crisis in history, East African banks have escaped the worst of it and are able to capitalise on the untapped potential of the region.

This is the message the organisers of the African Banking and Technology Conference, to be held in Nairobi over February 17 to19 are sending to the event’s participants.

“The banking sector in East Africa has mercifully little exposure to the toxic sub-prime mortgage in the US and therefore is well placed to endure the current international financial crisis,” said Sean Moroney, the Chairman of AITEC Africa, which is hosting the event.

He pointed out that the conference, which mainly focuses on the technologies, products and services developed for the banking sector, presented an opportunity through which a majority of people without access to formal financial services for future growth would benefit from such innovations.

Mr Moroney said that about 200 delegates are expected to attend this year’s event, which will focus on the customer experience in relation to all technology implementation and services, while at the same time challenging suppliers and bankers to evaluate their systems.

Key speakers, he added, have been invited and were expected to share their experiences on technology deployment with the participants.

The event will also include a banking mall where financial institutions will be invited to showcase their products and services in mini branches, while the exhibition visitors will be able to compare and assess the range of products available on the market.

He also disclosed that the meeting would for the first time focus on the microfinance sector, which has recorded tremendous growth in the last few years. Africa has seen the explosion of many microfinance institutions, which calls for the development of innovative technology solutions for the industry.

“A major focus of the conference will be mobile banking, but other sessions will look at the development of a regional switch to facilitate inter-bank financial transactions,” Mr Moroney said, adding that the meeting would be sponsored by several corporate bigwigs, including Safaricom.

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One of the guest speakers, Joe DiVanna, the Chief Executive Officer of Maris Strategies, said the seminar would provide a valuable opportunity for banks to learn more about the range of mobile banking services that have been developed across Africa and beyond, and assess the best options for their own adoption.

“Banks have been upstaged by the mobile operators in terms of providing low-cost money transfer services for customers and are now having to play catch-up. They need to decide whether mobile operators are competitors or potential partners that could help them extend banking services to the majority of Africa’s population,” he charged.

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