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How digital banking is causing job losses in east Africa

Author: Allan Olingo, The East African (Kenya), Published on: 3 September 2018

"Hi, I am Leo, and I can help you: Banks going digital"

...The Lagos-based banking multinational [UBA] has revolutionised its interactions with its customers, allowing them to use social media to do basic banking on the go, thereby boosting efficiency. Clients can open bank accounts, request mini-statements, top up airtime and transfer money. The app can also log and track complaints. “Consumers spend 80 per cent of their time on three apps: Facebook, WhatsApp and YouTube so we have decided to follow them where they are, ” said UBA East and Southern Africa executive director Emeke Iwer. Since Leo was launched in January, UBA has had 35 million conversations with customers and carried out over 500,000 financial transactions for more than 300,000 users. Two years ago, Barclays Africa also unveiled a similar chatbot to facilitate two-way communication with its customers...

But as banks go increasingly digital, human interactions are becoming minimal, increasing the potential of job losses. In East Africa, top lenders Equity Bank, Co-operative Bank of Kenya and KCB have migrated over 85 per cent of their transactions from banking halls to digital channels, with employees left to handle complex tasks. Loan applications and payments for example, are now being exclusively done on mobile phones. Other services that have migrated to digital platforms include queries on account balances, account details and account opening.  While releasing its half-year financial results and indicators recently, KCB Group said the shift away from branches was in line with the bank’s digital transformation strategy. “Non-branch transactions, mobile, agency banking, point of sale terminals and ATMs stood at 87 per cent of total volumes,” said group CEO Joshua Oigara...

However, these innovations have also come at cost, with the Kenyan banking sector shedding 2,792 jobs last year, most of them support, clerical and secretarial staff. The Central Bank’s 2017 Annual Supervision Report released in July shows that the sector now has 30,903 jobs, from 33,695 in 2016, an 8.3 per cent drop. Banks also closed 39 branches as employers shifted to advanced technologies. “All staff levels recorded a decrease. This is an indicator of the consistent improvement in banks’ efficiency as a result of a review of business models, automation of processes and the shift from brick and mortar to alternative digital channels,” said CBK.

Read the full post here

Related companies: Barclays Equity Bank Kenya Commercial Bank