The United Bank for Africa (UBA) has gone Facebook Banking. Yes, you can do your banking while on Facebook Messenger. As Nigeria’s most expansive bank in Africa [by footprint], UBA is taking this feature to many customers in about 20 African countries in the continent.
Pan African Financial institution, United Bank for Africa (UBA) has again disrupted the e-payment space with the introduction of Master Pass ‘Quick Response’ (QR) Bot. The revolutionary solution enables the micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) in Nigeria and across Africa to receive digital payments from their customers through scanning, using their Facebook account.
Developed by MasterCard International in partnership with Facebook, Master Pass ‘Quick Response’ (QR), allows payment collection by SMEs through Facebook Messenger and delivers unified and instant self-service across a range of interconnected payment solutions.
Like LEO, the acclaimed artificial intelligence payment solution introduced by the Africa’s global bank, UBA, Master Pass ‘Quick Response’ (QR)is a a chat Bot, currently available via Facebook Messenger as Masterpass QR for Merchants.
Zenith Bank and other banks have already unveiled a similar product. Largely, the Nigerian banking sector, the most innovative in the economy, continues to redesign itself. That is why I do think no one is going to eat the banks’ lunches. They have proven to transmute and command their spaces when they need to. From Sterling Bank’s Specta to Wema Bank ALAT, we have seen these banks come up with products that would create envy in the eyes of the fintech entrepreneurs who dream to disrupt their businesses.
Today, I can say that Nigerian banks have evolved. They are indeed the best fintechs in the nation. If ALAT is a startup, it would be a category-king company. If the newly unveiled Specta is also one, we would debate the massive war chest of N10 billion for retail lending that takes less than 5 minutes. From UBA to GTBank all the way to Ecobank (yes, Togo), we are witnessing a total redesign in the banking sector. Here, I explain how these banks have moved form the centers of the smiling curves to the edges while retaining those center pipes
MasterCard is winning a huge market base with these partnerships with African banks. The great winner at the end would be Facebook. Facebook is the platform and I expect this path to be the natural trajectory as the ICT utilities take over the lands. Once Facebook perfects the integration with MasterCard on Messenger, it would do same on Instagram and WhatsApp. Then, it would be opened to any financial institution that wants. MasterCard is a natural payment aggregator, agnostic of banking institutions. Facebook would be the platform while MasterCard would act as the “interface institution”[payment processing] and banks the hosts [the accounts]. The implication is that over time few would bother to notice the hosts, focusing more on the platforms [once you have set up an account and put your bank details, there is no need to even remember the bank again as the transactions would happen on Facebook while MasterCard handles the underneath processing with the banks]. Simply, there is nothing anyone can do but to join the ecosystem. That is the elemental feature of the Aggregation Construct.
The Future Remains Voice Banking
Yet, Facebook Banking is not the disruptive product that would redesign the sector [it is an important product nevertheless, and certainly part of the future]. Largely. Facebook banking offers only marginal value. I do not believe that many Africans would join the Bot which many banks are unveiling because we are not traditionally good on writing [Bot does not solve the illiteracy challenge in the continent]. We are “talking people” and I do not expect that to change. So, as the banks unveil Bots, they have to do what they have to do to avoid the narratives that fintechs did it before them. The real value will come when they begin to unveil voice banking. Yes, we are Africans – we like to talk. Banks need to find ways to get us to talk our banking needs.
I expect voice computing to continue to advance. Voice banking will be one of the main enterprise level applications that will be built on top of it for Africa. The banking sector in Africa must explore the opportunities. In Nigeria, for example, the BVN can be expanded to also include the voice capture. Bringing more citizens into African banking sector will require delivering services in ways they can understand. In the 21st century, one does not need to be literate to do banking.
Google is going to become the main driver of social media banking with products like Tez and Duplex. The Duplex which is an AI system that offers actual natural human-level phone calling capabilities will be the Bot that would change markets in places like Nigeria. It would handle the illiteracy equation which Bot does not have an answer because it still takes someone to read and write to use Facebook. But getting voice to work for Africa would require efforts and research investments on voice technology. That would be the challenge and also the path to the opportunity.