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Posted on December 9, 2016

Policy expert welcomes new era for financial sector innovation

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Kenya’s annual financial inclusion lecture sets out how to protect consumers and drive growth in financial services

 8 December 2016

 

Kenya’s annual financial inclusion lecture sets out how to protect consumers and drive growth in financial services

 “No matter who tells it, the story of Kenya’s financial sector innovation over the past decade seems to always hinge around one key phrase: ‘test and learn’”, said Rafe Mazer, Financial Sector Specialist in policy at CGAP, speaking to a packed audience at Nairobi’s Crowne Hotel.

We now live in what Mazer called an “increasingly crowded savannah”. Flexibility and openness to innovation have been key drivers of Kenya’s financial inclusion success. However, Mazer said, “there comes a time when a market is mature enough that a less active policymaker role will not succeed.” Now is the time for increased regulation and policy action, he said.

Mazer delivered the 2nd Kenya lecture on financial inclusion, organised by FSD Kenya, on Thursday evening. FSD Kenya established the lecture series last year to mark FSD Kenya’s tenth birthday and the first decade of the financial services revolution in Kenya. World expert on mobile money, Dr Tavneet Suri, associate professor of economics at MIT, delivered last year’s lecture, “The mobile money revolution in Kenya: Can the promise be fulfilled?”.

Mazer’s lecture, “The increasingly crowded savannah: consumer protection and competition in Kenya’s expanding financial sector,” presented a vision for how Kenya might now apply its ‘test and learn’ approach in a new era of increased market supervision and policy action.

For the last ten years, financial service providers and regulators have collaborated to allow for new products such as mobile money to grow from experiments into essential parts of our financial lives.

“What we need now is a sufficient shift towards more active market supervision and policy action on consumer protection and competition to support a greater diversity of providers and product types, and maximise consumer welfare,” Mazer said.

The vision Mazer laid out was first to ‘test’ best approaches to key consumer protection challenges such as transparency of product terms, access to and control of our digital identities, and the ability to drive market competition through shopping around and switching products with ease.

Secondly, to ‘learn’ from consumers themselves by meeting them where they live to understand what is working and what challenges they face with financial products.

Digitising financial services will create a range of new opportunities for access, innovation and improved consumer experiences, Mazer said. Major banks in Kenya are putting an end to bank branch expansion in favour of mobile financial services. Changes like this will pose new challenges: “How do you summarize loan terms in a 160 character SMS?”, he asked. “What would a credit bureau for mobile money look like?”

“We have reasons to be excited about increased consumer protection and competition in Kenya. The recent establishment of a steering committee to establish the new Financial Services Authority is just one sign that financial consumer protection is being taken more seriously in Kenya,” Mazer said.

ENDS

For interview requests, please contact Joyce Omondi, FSD Kenya’s Communications Manager, via email joyce.omondi@fsdkenya.org. Or join the conversation on Twitter: @FSDKe #FSDLecture

 

About FSD Kenya

The Kenya Financial Sector Deepening (FSD) programme was established in early 2005 to support the development of financial markets in Kenya as a means to stimulate wealth creation and reduce poverty. Working in partnership with the financial services industry, the programme’s goal is to expand access to financial services among lower income households and smaller enterprises to create value through financial inclusion. It operates as an independent trust under the supervision of professional trustees, KPMG Kenya, with policy guidance from a Programme Investment Committee (PIC). Current funders include the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID), the Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA), and the Bill & Melinda Gates foundation.

 About Rafe Mazer

Rafe Mazer leads CGAP’s work on applying behavioral research to consumer protection and financial inclusion. Research issues Rafe has explored include: Does digital delivery credit change how we borrow and save? Why do financial sales staff sometimes give the right advice, and others times mislead consumers? Do consumers really care about their data privacy in financial inclusion? Why do some consumers choose to complain about a problem, while others remain silent?

Rafe’s research has been used to develop a range of financial inclusion solutions, including interactive SMS for mobile savings and credit, key facts statements and disclosure regulations, complaints handling regulations, data disclosure messaging, and regulations for consumer protection in digital financial services. He has led research in markets including Ghana, Kenya, Malaysia, Mexico, Nicaragua, the Philippines, and Tanzania.

Contacts

Joyce Omondi, Communications Manager, FSD Kenya | joyce.omondi@fsdkenya.org

FSD Kenya, 5th Floor KMA Centre, Mara Road, Upper Hill

Tel: (020) 2923000 | Website: www.fsdkenya.org

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