The future of super apps in Africa relies on great user experience and strong security

Technology Banking Payments

Financial institutions are increasingly relying on apps and their turbo-charged cousins, super apps, for much needed revenue growth. Organizations that can offer a secure, low-friction app experience are more likely to migrate existing customers to digital channels, attract new customers and lower operational costs, giving them a much-needed advantage in an increasingly competitive market. Entersekt’s Tochukwu Iwuora, Pre-Sales Solutions Lead, shares how this can impact African organizations. 


Africa is one of the fastest growing app markets in the world, with Nigeria, Kenya and South Africa showing particularly high growth since the Covid-19 pandemic. With rapid urbanization, a big improvement in connectivity as well as the fact that smartphone connections in Africa are expected to double by 2025, reaching 678 million, it is reasonable to expect that the app economy will see strong growth over the next few years.   


Smartphone connections in Africa are expected to double by 2025, reaching 678 million


Nigeria has shown itself to be a particularly high-growth region and while the volumes of transactions made over apps are still fairly low, the latest figures from the Nigerian government show that app transactions in the last quarter of 2020 account for 80 percent of the value of all mobile transactions in the country.  


A good app strategy requires a hard look at security  


“Given the growth of apps in Africa, and the growing competitiveness in the financial services industry, it would be detrimental for regional financial institutions to ignore a solid app strategy. We have seen a considerable increase in questions around how to boost security and user experience from many African CIOs over the last 18 months,” explains Iwuora. “Poor user experience and concerns over security can result in customers abandoning apps for those of competitor financial institutions, especially amongst the younger generation.”  


Iwuora says that while most banking apps currently offer basic functionality such as balance checks, intra and inter-bank transfers, the demand for more functionality such as mobile payments, service subscriptions, and in-app marketplaces, which require interfacing with third parties, is rapidly increasing - and so too, the need for better security.  


“The demand for more functionality in apps is rapidly increasing.”


“When you are making a mobile data subscription or paying a utility bill on an app, you won’t want to jump through hoops when it comes to authentication. Using strong multi-factor authentication at the outset means customers are going to have a far better experience. And we are seeing a definite pushback on poor user experience especially from younger users who are used to a seamless experience on their social media platforms,” he says.  


Iwuora points out that the friction caused by poor authentication can become even more pronounced when users have to navigate the more function-rich and complex super apps. And, given that these are increasingly where financial institutions and MNOs are focusing their growth efforts, ensuring a slick user experience from the outset becomes critical.  


User experience influences super app growth trajectory   


Mobile money was born in Africa and continues to dominate the global uptake. Taking the next step in its evolution, apps like M-Pesa in Kenya, which serves more than 47 million users across its markets, are now leveraging their network dominance. The updated app will now allow users to book bus and train tickets, buy insurance as well as buy tickets for local events, with more options expected in future iterations. 


In South Africa, Nedbank Avo goes beyond banking functionality to provide a merchant platform for small traders and has already attracted over a million users and 20 000 merchants. The VodaPay super app, meanwhile, has reportedly attracted 2.2 million downloads and 1.6 million registered users in just eight months since its launch. The app offers a range of financial services including loans and savings as well as person-to-person payments and a newly launched marketplace for unsecured personal loans.  


“Super apps pose a real opportunity for financial institutions and MNOs to monetize their networks, boosting revenue and building sustainability into their business models. This is especially true in an age where traditional businesses are facing growing competition from fintechs and neo financial institutions which have a reputation for providing a better mobile experience than their traditional counterparts. However, super apps also face a greater security risk as mobile malware attacks continue to grow,” Iwuora explains.  


More moving parts mean more points of weakness 


The threat to any app grows as financial institutions add new features and integrate to more third parties, increasing the surface area that is at risk of attack. However, while financial institutions must ensure security across all systems, networks and interfaces, customer-facing security measures like authentication can have a significant impact on the overall user experience.  


“The balancing act between keeping users secure and ensuring that they have a low-friction experience is key for attracting and retaining customers. Using an inherence factor such as facial recognition or fingerprint authentication at login is a must. Then, when users engage with third-party providers for sensitive transactional services, step-up authentication by means of another authentication factor, adds additional security,” he says.   


Iwuora says that tech savvy financial institutions are already pioneering the use of behavioral analytics to create a more frictionless experience for their customers by silently analyzing their transactional and biometric behavior in the background, and then using step-up authentication only when analytics show high risk of fraud. 


“Tech-savvy financial institutions are pioneering the use of behavioral analytics to create a frictionless experience.”


“Africa has shown that it is ready to embrace all the convenience and opportunity of the app economy. Migrating consumers onto these digital channels create valuable new revenue streams and lower operating costs. But brands must be aware that poor user experiences created by intrusive authentication could make their app journey much more difficult,” Iwuora concludes.  


This article was originally published on Investing.com. 



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