Artificial Intelligence Revolution for Financial Inclusion in West Africa
Categories : AI & big data, Technology and Operational Enablers
Digital Financial Services (DFS) are now ubiquitous, and new innovations appear everywhere in the world. DFS are giving hope for financial inclusion as they tend to use technologies available to everyone, like mobile phones. Moreover, some fintech’s are even focusing on reaching out to most vulnerable and unbanked clients. They are using friendly technology to reduce the gap with populations usually forgotten by traditional financial providers.
West Africa is benefiting from this revolution with services using artificial intelligence (AI) to offer new products that really responds to the need of unbanked population. According to IBM, “Artificial intelligence leverages computers and machines to mimic the problem-solving and decision-making capabilities of the human mind”. Indeed, solutions developed thanks to AI can offer innovative services that can tackle some of the barriers encountered by the most vulnerable. We will focus on two solutions that can support customer financial inclusion through training and access to credit.
Artificial intelligence to support and train clients
In Ghana, Viamo and Fidelity Bank partnered to provide an innovative digital financial solution that reach the most vulnerable and empower them. This solution offers a customer journey providing knowledge and tools to make informed financial decisions.
Interactive Voice Response (IVR) is using artificial intelligence through automated natural language processing and speech recognition. Hence, Viamo’s platform is using IVR, chatbot and gamification to be closer to usually unbanked clients and offer them an appealing solution to enter the formal financial ecosystem. This solution is specifically designed to ensure inclusiveness of low literate clients and non-smartphone users.
This solution is focusing on three critical entry barriers that are: information, education, and access. Information on financial services and business are introduced. Financial literacy modules with relevant “Do It Yourself” services are provided and bank accounts can be opened remotely via IVR mobile platform. This solution can be used even if you don’t have a smartphone, so it is particularly adapted for West Africa and rural populations. It is a revolution for both financial providers and clients as support is available remotely. Viamo’s solution is providing a convenient and enjoyable customer experience, for people usually excluded of the financial ecosystem.
Artificial intelligence to access funding
Access to funding is very difficult for unbanked people as they don’t have any financial records. While lots of people in West Africa are self-employed or running income generating activities, accessing credit is crucial to manage their activities or invest to grow. So, to enable thin-file borrowers accessing credit, artificial intelligence is the perfect tool introduced in credit assessment.
Lenddo EFL is a society implementing psychometric testing all over the world, and particularly in development countries. Their alternative credit scoring is built using statistical methods to highlight correlations and predict risk patterns following customers profiles. To do so, they need to collect lots of data on each customer. One condition for instance, is to collect data on both good and bad payers to be able to build a predictive model.
Data can come from different sources and that is also one of the revolutions of alternative testing for credit assessment. There can be demographic data such as age, gender or localisation; data from electronic device like number of applications on a smartphone, or management of phone battery; and psychometric data collected through questions and exercises. One of the advantages is that low literate people are able to take the test. Enabling more people accessing credit, alternative credit scoring is contributing to financial inclusion.
Artificial intelligence is more and more present in digital financial services. As the technology becomes widely used and so less expensive, it offers innovative ways to support unbanked and usually excluded populations access the formal financial ecosystem. Thanks to it, some traditional entry barriers can be overcome like improved financial skills and access to credit. Indeed, thanks to AI, it is cheaper and easier to offer financial training to customers. With IVR, only a simple phone is needed to access support anytime and everywhere. Clients can improve their financial knowledge and skills and make better decisions. Accessing credit is nearly impossible for unbanked people as they lack formal financial history. But with alternative credit scoring, their propensity to repay is measured thanks to other kinds of data. It is a revolution as it gives usually marginalised people the same opportunity to benefit from formal financial services. The long-term impact of artificial intelligence is yet to be measured but it will radically transform digital financial services and can be a tool for better inclusion.
Written by Claire Matjasec