From mobile money to mobile banking, Orange takes the next step in West Africa. Fourteen years after the launch of the Orange Money transfer and payment service, we’re now opening the 100% mobile Orange Bank Africa, led by Jean-Louis Menann-Kouame, in Côte d’Ivoire. Patrick Roussel, Executive VP MEA Mobile Financial Services, tells us more about this ambitious financial inclusion project for the Middle East and Africa.
How was Orange Bank Africa founded?
Patrick Roussel – Orange Bank Africa was founded from the observation that most people in Africa work in the informal economy. Without an employment contract or sometimes an ID, they are unable to open a bank account. This was the reason for launching the original Orange Money transfer and payment service in 2008, which enables millions of people without access to a traditional bank to still make instant, reliable and secure financial transactions. Today, we want to extend the offer via a 100% digital banking service to all eligible mainstream mobile money customers.
So you are capitalising on the success of Orange Money?
P. R. – Yes indeed, Orange Money has allowed us to analyse consumer behaviour when it comes to finance on the African continent over the past 14 years. Our experience has confirmed there is a real demand for an innovative banking system that’s adapted to today’s uses.
Orange Money has more than 26 million active customers who use the service regularly. The countries in West Africa where we have the strongest roots – Senegal, Mali, Burkina Faso, and Côte d’Ivoire – offer a tremendous deployment opportunity. In addition to our Orange Money offer, Orange Bank Africa provides these customers with access to savings and loans.
What place does mobile banking have in Africa and what services will you offer that help you differentiate?
P. R. – The few so-called mobile banking offers are generally apps developed by large traditional banks. We’re developing a different model since we are neither a neo-bank looking for new customers nor a traditional bank with a network of branches. We’re expanded our existing range of 100% digital and mobile services.
Right from the first subscription, all steps can be done via a smartphone or USSD. Everything is automated and it only takes a few seconds to open an Orange Bank Africa account. Data from Orange Money allows us to check customers are eligible, for example that they have enough regular income so that their level of risk is acceptable for the bank.
Of course, people who aren’t Orange Money customers can also apply through the Orange Bank Africa application, or by going into the head office branch if they live in Abidjan.
Orange Bank Africa won the innovation prize at the La Finance S’Engage Awards in 2021. Today, the bank has 1 million customers.
Our customer knowledge, coupled with our technical expertise, enables us to develop tailor-made services. We’ve capped our loans at 500,000 FCFA (around €760), for an average loan of 35,000 FCFA, repayable over 1 to 3 months, the duration corresponding to our customers’ income (seasonal and sometimes irregular).
Orange Bank Africa is also the result of collaboration with NSIA. Can you tell us more?
P. R. – The project was achieved through our shareholder partnership with the Ivorian banker-insurer NSIA, one of the market leaders in West Africa. NSIA bank is a classical bank that mainly targets the business market. It wanted to take advantage of the adoption of digital in financial services to better address individual customers. This is a winning bet in the medium-long term! Our collaboration has been extremely fruitful, and NSIA was particularly helpful when it came to regulation and obtaining approval from the Central Bank of West African States (Banque Centrale des États de l'Afrique de l'Ouest, BCEAO).
What’s your deployment schedule for Orange Bank Africa?
P. R. – The first commercial launch will be in Côte d’Ivoire, where our head office is located, before opening branches in Senegal, Mali and Burkina Faso, subject to approval from BCEAO, which acts as the region’s banking regulator. The timing will depend on how quickly we can obtain the right licences and approvals.
What are your objectives?
P. R. – We want to successfully deploy the service in our four target countries (Senegal, Mali, Burkina Faso and Côte d’Ivoire), to attract 10 millions customers and €100 million in net banking income within 5 years. A bank’s profit cycle is not that long; it takes around 10 years. Ultimately, we’re not ruling out opening Orange Bank Africa to other customer segments such as business customers and SMEs.