MASERU – Due to the emerging trends in technology, mobile transactions could soon take over debit and credit card models in Lesotho in the near future if the latest developments across the globe are anything to go by.
With the ongoing introduction of platforms and apps that allow mobile transactions by the local banks, it is apparent that in a few years to come, transactions will completely be mobile, thus erasing the use of debit and credit cards.
In this way ATMs could also be redundant.
While some local citizens are still left behind when it comes to these latest technological trends, a majority of people in Lesotho, particularly youth and middle age groups, have already started using their mobile phones for a majority of transactions.
This can be gauged by the number of people who jump into utilising these transactions as soon as they are introduced.
In this transformation era however, local banks are faced with a huge challenge to ensure that every single one of their clients, particularly those from low income households, is not left behind. If this is not taken care of, logically it simply means that some clients may be lost along the way.
Some local banks have confirmed to Public Eye that they are already undertaking initiatives to ensure that no one is left behind.
In March this year the First National Bank of Lesotho (FNBL) introduced a new mobile banking initiative dubbed Lai Lai in a move to keep up with the rest of the world in mobile transactions.
Lai Lai allows all Vodacom subscribers to utilise the banking app on their cellphones without any data cost at all. It has been described as a unique way of solving a unique problem among Basotho by the company.
“It is the innovative leading-edge distribution strategy and allows customers to perform cardless withdrawals through cellphone banking or an FNB App as well as withdraw cash at an agent,” the company head of retail, Teboho Mhlanga, said during the launch.
Within a short period after introduction, FNBL released a statement revealing that over one million worth of transactions have already gone through since the introduction of the new mobile banking service.
“This solution is the first of its kind in Lesotho’s banking sector. Over M1, 000, 000 worth of transactions have gone through the user-friendly mobile banking service,” read the statement from the bank.
Recently, the Lesotho Post Bank (LPB) also followed suit by introducing their own mobile banking initiative known as Khetsi.
The company described Khetsi as a new and unique feature which allows its clients to pay utility bills such as electricity, airtime, merchant payment as well as other important bills, including school fees.
Clients can also deposit and or withdraw money from Post Bank ATMs using cardless transactions and can send and receive money from any mode of transaction. It also allows for micro and community savings for its users.
Standard Lesotho Bank has also not been left behind as the company is quickly transforming towards the new digital era.
Through its mobile banking initiative, Standard Lesotho Bank clients are able to perform some transactions through the use of USSD or Smart App which is mostly used by people who uses smart phones.
USSD, on the other hand, allows clients to perform transactions using SMSes.
The bank agreed in an interview with Public Eye on Wednesday this week that it is time for them to embrace digital technology through the use of cellphones.
The understanding is that these latest methods are more convenient and sometimes come at reduced costs.
“Essentially you will understand that we are going through what is called a convergence in technologies. This is where we are using technology to come up with different solutions to our problems. So, because of the digital age, we do not want to be left behind in the technology journey.
“We are also in partnership with mobile network operators in the country and this is mainly to ensure convergence with latest technologies. The transformation also means that our clients can easily interact with the bank at any time even after working hours,” Standard Lesotho Bank Marketing Manager, Manyathela Kheleli, revealed in an interview with Public Eye on Wednesday.
Besides partnership with mobile networks, the bank has also partnered with South African money transfer giants Mukuru where clients can receive money from South Africa.
While some clients have been complaining that they do not only want to receive but to also be able to send money to South Africa, Kheleli was quick to point out that other innovations will be introduced to ensure that clients are able to both send and receive money across the continent.
“Our partnership with Mukuru has also gone live and people can now receive money from South Africa. We have recently launched it and we are still creating awareness to our clients about it but we are hopeful that they will enjoy it because it is a replacement of the MoneyGram which we are no longer using.
“We are going to introduce other innovations as we go in order to be able to send and receive money across the continent,” Manyathela added.
To ensure that none of their customers are left behind, the marketing manager revealed that they use different social media platforms and promotions to try and make them aware of the latest technologies. Even those who do not have the smart phones can still access our mobile banking.
Similar sentiments were echoed by the Lesotho Post Bank Corporate Affairs Manager, Bokang Mareka, who indicated that clients that may struggle to or may not have access to smartphones are catered for through the USSD method of transaction.
“So far we are happy with the progress we are making; many of our clients are enjoying these new developments based on the feedback we have been receiving. Also, in order to include all, we do promotions that are aimed at creating awareness on how to use these things,” Mareka said in an interview with Public Eye on Wednesday.
With the world moving towards the new digital era, Mareka said it would be difficult to control some of the things in terms of choosing what to do and what not do. She said sometimes they are pushed by market demands.
“For some of these things we do not choose which direction to take; we are being propelled by the demands of our customers and to also ensure that we remain relevant in the market. To remain relevant, you certainly have to satisfy the demand in the market.
“So that means, in as much as we cannot rush towards implementing some of latest technological trends based on our own standards, we will gradually keep up until the world has completely moved,” she added.
Most of these transactions, however, require use of internet services and this could be another factor that prohibits smooth transformation if the 2016 report on the state of ICT is anything to go by.
The report, which was commissioned by the Lesotho Communications Authority (LCA) and International Telecommunication Union (ITU), identified ICT as the backbone of a modern economy but revealed that in 2016, close to 65 percent of the country’s population did not have access to internet.
The population of Lesotho is estimated at around 2.2 million.
The report indicated further that access to internet in Lesotho in that year was around 32.7 percent with some bottlenecks in the market and demand challenges inhibiting internet uptake in the country.
Statistics further revealed that the country fared well in terms of mobile phone penetration, with 78.7 percent of Lesotho residents owning a mobile phone. To measure the penetration, mobile phone ownership was considered alongside mobile subscription levels.
The survey also demonstrated that the mobile phone plays a significant role in enabling access to internet.
“Among the individuals who reported having used the internet, about 85 percent accessed it for the first time via a mobile phone. Nonetheless, the price of both devices and services constrains the uptake by non-users as well as the extend of use by users,” the report stated.
If these statistics are anything to go by, it means there is need to develop policies and regulations that assure affordable access to smart devices and services, particularly to the low-incom earners.
The cheapest smart phone in Lesotho is priced at around M350.00 and with the majority of the country’s population earning just below M2,000 in salaries, it is increasingly difficult for many people to access internet which also comes with its own unbearable costs to many smart phone users.
As a result, many people, both bankable and non-bankable, could struggle to keep with transformations that are made mainly in the banking sector.