Building Working Capital Efficiency In Africa: Sachin Shah, Standard Bank
GF: How big a role does mobile play in corporate cash management in Africa?
Shah: Mobile manifests itself in different ways across the cash management landscape in Africa, from the markets like South Africa, with a high penetration of formalized banking services, to markets where the portion of the population with bank accounts is much smaller—and therefore we have structured different solutions across these markets.
We have partnered with a number of mobile-network providers in our key markets to facilitate payments for our corporate clients into the mobile wallets of their clients or staff—we have seen huge growth in the payment volumes for this in East Africa, for instance. In South Africa, the SnapScan app has been developed to enable clients to make payments at participating merchant points by simply scanning a code with their phone. This eliminates the need to carry cash and at the same time takes away the risk of a bank card being pilfered, as this [app] is encoded on your phone and not shared with the merchant.
GF: What cash management products are most important for corporates in Africa?
Shah: Africa is a dynamic mix of countries, with corporate requirements spanning from physical cash management and payments and collections, all the way through to more-complex treasury management solutions.
GF: Is any innovation occurring in short-term investments in Africa?
Shah: One of our key objectives is to ensure that the day-to-day working capital requirements for our clients are satisfied—and this means engaging with our clients, understanding their working capital cycle and identifying the options available to them in case they have any excess cash available. This discussion often leads to unique solutions for each company. In addition to the usual options of call, term and notice deposit accounts, additional options could be as varied as benefits from currency conversions, sweeping or pooling excess cash across multiple group entities, or, indeed, early repayments to suppliers for additional discounts.
GF: What are the growth opportunities for cash management banks in Africa?
Shah: In addition to trade activity across the Africa-Asia and –Europe corridors, intra-Africa trade is also growing rapidly. The African payments and cash management landscape is a complex mix of differing regulatory environments by country and region. A lot of progress has been made to try and harmonize this [landscape] across multiple regions like the East African Community and the Southern African Development Community in the last few years. — Susan Kelly