Africa: Embracing Harmony, Diversity

Providers have to deal with issues both big and small with firms both big and small.

The increasingly complex cash- and liquidity-management needs of corporations operating in Africa require a flexible approach. With companies ranging from small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to multinational giants, there is no one-size-fits-all treasury and cash-management solution.

For smaller enterprises, Ecobank is working with Mastercard to introduce Masterpass QR, a mobile payment solution expected to reach 100 million new customers across 33 African countries by 2020. This solution will make it easier and cheaper for SMEs to receive electronic payments.

At the other end of the scale, multinationals want to integrate Africa more closely into their global processes. South Africa was once the hub for centralized finance operations, but companies now also look to Ethiopia, Kenya and Mozambique.

Central banks in the 15 markets that make up the Southern African Development Community drive the implementation of a harmonized, real-time payment-and-settlement system. Other initiatives in southern Africa include continued support of the DebiCheck authenticated collections system, which provides customers with increased visibility into their debit orders.

Standard Bank is involved in both initiatives, and is modernizing payments in the East African region, in part through support for the Kenya Interbank Transaction Switch.

“Central treasuries for large multinational clients are increasingly demanding streamlined operations through a single integration point for all markets,” says Idrees Kolabhai, head of cash management and transactional products and services at Standard Bank. “Treasurers are looking for their bankers to advise on file formats and implementation processes. We have many clients in Africa who have not undertaken an ERP [enterprise resource planning] integration project with their banks and hence require a large amount of support from us to successfully integrate.”

Aurélien Viry, global head of payments and cash management for Société Générale, says the French bank is strengthening research-and-development actions in Africa to better support clients there. “We are creating African centers of expertise in cash management, such as in Cameroon, Senegal and Morocco. Many Asian customers also show their interest in Africa. We are following this business trend with sales to Mandarin-speaking customers in Africa, as well as reports and Internet tools in Mandarin including a mobile application allowing treasury reporting at any time, anywhere and on any device in Africa.”

Standard Chartered is particularly well positioned to benefit from trade flows between Asia, Africa and the Middle East. To help connect business communities and facilitate global trade and investments across all three regions, Standard Chartered has developed its ‘banking the ecosystem’ strategy, which aims to connect with client ecosystems and with those of their suppliers and buyers—integrating them all with financial and physical flows to optimize working capital and cash management, whilst securing their supply chains and enabling their businesses to grow.

Standard Chartered’s African client solutions vary to suit individual needs. Recent solutions include cheque scanning for one client, cash handling for another, and a unique payment identifier (mobile number) for buyers to reconcile payments received against online sales records. Diversity requires flexibility; one-size-fits-all approach won’t wash in Africa.


Best Overall Bank for Cash Management

Société Générale

Best Bank for Liquidity Management

Standard Bank

Best Bank for Payments and Collections


Best Provider of Short-Term Investments/Money Market Funds


Best Bank for Working Capital Optimization

Standard Chartered