Africa | May 21, 2018

Can artificial intelligence boost global financial inclusion?

Dennis Price
ImpactAlpha Editor

Dennis Price

ImpactAlpha, May 21 – Artificial intelligence has a big role to play in extending financial services to the next billion customers. A wonky new report highlights financial service providers in Africa that are wielding AI to lower costs, boost revenues and gain a competitive edge with low-income populations.

The report from FIBR, a partnership of BFA consulting and MasterCard Foundation, makes the case that automation, machine learning, statistics and programming can help providers “micro-segment” customers and suit services to their finances. The use cases:

  • Credit assessments. Kenya’s Branch and Tala are using behavioral data from phones to provide mobile credit to individuals directly. South Africa’s Lulalend is using machine learning to score and lend to small businesses.
  • Personal finance. Abe AI in the U.S., in partnership with Absa Bank in South Africa, is predicting customer spending and savings activity and providing nudges toward healthier financial behaviors.
  • Interactive interfaces. South Africa-based DataProphet is helping insurance companies introduce machine-learning enabled chatbots to lower customer-service costs.
  • Voice recognition. More than a billion illiterate individuals (as well as the elderly and blind) may potentially be reached via voice-recognition AI that completes tasks over the phone without a human. In India, 28% of Google searches are conducted by voice.

Artificial intelligence algorithms are only as good as their data, notes the report from the consulting firm BFA. “More diverse individuals — including women, for example, or individuals from under-represented groups — may identify sources of bias inherent in the data and processes that might have been missed otherwise.”

Go deeper: BFA is hosting a webinar on AI applied to financial services in Africa on June 6.