From health to the digital space, 2020 will go down in history as a year that was like no other.
In every industry, COVID-19 triggered a mix of responses, from school and workplace closures to curbs on travel to complete lockdown.
But as more transmissible variants of the virus erupted, handling cash to pay for daily bills and carrying out business in person became an increasingly risky mission.
As a result, a significant number of people and businesses than ever turned to mobile money as a safer option.
Data shows that roughly 34.7 million people in Kenya are now actively using mobile money platforms, according to latest update from the Communication Authority of Kenya (CA) covering the quarter to June 2021.
In Africa, the shift to digital wallets is fast gathering steam in countries with high rate of smartphone penetration.
In Kenya, where smartphone penetration is about 60 per cent, Absa Kenya is pioneering WhatsApp banking through Abby, an intelligent round-the-clock virtual Chatbot assistant.
Read also: Safaricom at the tip of Mount Kenya
“We are transforming banking from being a series of complex transactions into a simple conversation on WhatsApp. We have shaped a rich history as a bank of many firsts and today we are excited to continue on this streak of innovation,” Absa Bank Kenya Managing Director Jeremy Awori said at the launch of Abby.
A Global Web Index’s 2020 social media user trends report revealed that Kenya accounts for the bulk of monthly WhatsApp users internationally, with about 97 per cent of those connected to the internet active on WhatsApp.
Further, telcos, such as Safaricom, are developing super apps that can offer services beyond money management by incorporating features for everyday services such as food delivery, utility bills and taxi hailing among others.
Mobile industry body GSMA projects that the usage of smartphone in emerging markets will increase to 79 per cent by 2025.
Firm’s across industries are now taking advantage of government’s push toward digital banking services and cashless economies to roll out innovative products that enhance customers’ experience such as Abby.
Absa is set to invest at least Kes1.6 billion this year in digitalization, automation and innovation projects.
Through Abby, customers get their bank account balances, initiate bill payments, transfer funds, monitor transaction history for up to 90 days besides getting updates on the ongoing campaigns.
Absa customers use their internet banking login details including their registered mobile number to log into Abby.
Abby is enabling the shift in banking practices in Kenya where roughly 96 per cent of transactions are now occurring outside bank branches up from 91 per cent just before the pandemic struck.
According to Central Bank of Kenya, the number of bank transactions on mobile phones has surged to 85 per cent from 56 per cent of all transactions.
“At the Central Bank of Kenya, our regulatory philosophy has evolved to maximizing the opportunities presented by technology and innovation while minimizing the risks,” said Dr Njoroge at Agile Regulation for Digital Transformation webinar organized by the World Bank.