First National Bank Botswana (FNBB) is better known as a bank of many firsts in Botswana’s cutthroat banking sector. Perhaps the bank’s biggest invention to date has been the FNB App which has surely defined and transformed the way banking is done since it was first launched more than 5 years ago. “We started working on the App in 2013 and it was successfully launched in 2014,” remembered the bank’s Head of Digital Banking, Gaogakwe Mokobi.
In an exclusive interview with Botswana Guardian on Tuesday, he explained how the App came into being. He stated that before the FNB App came into existence, the bank, which is the biggest in the market, has been on a digital banking journey which also saw them launching cell phone and internet banking. “We introduced the App to our customers, having realised that there was a gap, cellphone banking had too many steps and internet banking wasn’t as mobile as our customers required. The FNB App allows customers to transact with ease, within a much shorter time, wherever they are,” he said, adding that, the App has been a hit with customers on the move.
Mokobi, who is well respected by peers as an e-solutions expert within the banking sector, is content that, the FNBB App has changed the way banking is done in Botswana, having successfully moved thousands of customers from brick-and-mortar branches to digital banking. “The App’s major advantage is that, someone is able to transact wherever they are, as long as there is internet connectivity. The App also has higher transaction limits,” he explained. The FNB App is also intuitive. “This basically means it is easy to use and understand.”
The App is able to help customers transact and do banking services such as payments, online purchases and other self-services. These transactions are even made easier since the bank has strategic agreements and partnerships with key services providers in the country. The App is perhaps the most widely used in the country.
In Botswana, there are several commercial banks with banking Apps, who are all equally competing with the FNB App. Asked what sets the App apart from the rest in the market, Mokobi said: “I think it is the way it has been conceptualised and implemented. It was made with the customers’ needs at the center. . It has so many features which allow customers to do more self-service than visiting a branch. It is even more important, especially during COVID-19, where as a bank we want to limit branch visits by our customers,” he pointed out.
The world over, customers are increasingly worried about security and fraud. However, with the FNBB banking, there is no need to be concerned, said Mokobi, who has been with the bank for years. “Our App is very secure. It uses the same credentials as the ones used for internet banking,” said Mokobi, adding that the App is able to identify rightful owners through biometrics. The FNBB Digital Head explained that, another plus for the App is that “it is zero rated.” This means someone does not need data to use it. The bank has you covered.
Mokobi explained that they are now working to ensure the App has the capability to do more, which effectively means customers can access other services without visiting the branch. For example, someone can log a query or fraudulent transaction with the bank and get a response within a short period of time. This also includes card blocking in the case of a customer losing his or her card and even viewing your card PIN if you have forgotten it “A customer can temporarily block a card on suspicion of fraud or misplacement and later unblock it without involving the bank,” he disclosed. Mokobi has told Botswana Guardian that, ever since the App was introduced in the domestic banking sector, it has grown exponentially in terms of customer numbers and usage. He did not immediately disclose the number of customers signed up for the App.
Nonetheless, Mokobi was able to disclose they have seen a surge in usage amid COVID-19, which erupted last year in Botswana. “We have seen a 125%growth in the number of customers registered for the App and a 230% growth in transaction volumes since last April,” he disclosed to this publication. In the coming days and weeks, FNBB is expected to reward, through a competition, those who consistently use the App for their transactions.
There are more than 500 days left for the tiny but ambitious and visionary Kingdom of Qatar to hold one of the biggest global sporting events being the World Cup 2022. The country, just like South Africa in 2010 is the first Arab country to be hosting the World cup.
Africa had its turn with South Africa a decade ago. While the rest of the world is patiently waiting for Qatar to deliver its promise, migrant workers in the country have also scored victory as the country became the first in the Arab world to abolish the controversial Kafala sponsorship for workers.
Investigations revealed that Qatar did not reform her Kafala system in a unilateral way like Saudi Arabia is said to be planning to do. Consultations were carried out with International Labour Organisation, the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) and the Global Union Federations (GUFs). The Kafala system is used to monitor migrant labourers, working primarily in the construction and domestic sectors in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) member states. The member states include United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Oman and state of Kuwait. In a recent Webinar organised on migration, governance and labour migrants rights, it was agreed that Qatar has made a huge leap towards improving the rights of migrants amid reports that some people were calling on boycotting the World cup next year.
Speaking to some migrant workers from Kenya, Ethiopia and Uganda, who recently returned from Qatar on the expiration of their work contract, ITUC Deputy Secretary General, Joel Odigie says they expressed readiness to return to the work and said their work is awesome as the employment relations practices have remarkably improved. “They are looking forward to enjoying the World cup in Qatar next year,” said Odigie.According to the Deputy Secretary, Qatar removed the exit permit arrangement for all labour migrants. The practice in other GCC states is that labour migrants, especially the middle and low skilled ones like domestic workers, gardeners, security guards, shop attendants, hotel workers must obtain an exit permit before leaving the country.
Meanwhile, the country has also raised its minimum wage and now stands at QAR 1800(49 USD). Odigie says the new National Minimum wage is being enjoyed without discrimination and across all sectors. “For a reporter and an African who has reported quite extensively on labour issues, this initiative to increase the minimum wage by Qatar is progressive and commendable. The country would have easily and understandably presented the debilitating socio economic effects of the blockade as excuses. No, it did not do so but displayed her commitment to fairness by announcing this wage increase made in consultation with relevant groups,” said Odigie.
He further said, “We have been inundated by stories from African migrants in Qatar of the changing situation there. Nobody, the Kenyan, Ethiopian, Somali, Ugandan and Nigerian communities in Doha are excited about the never pausing moves of the Qatar government and her instructions to make the country a home for all. These African migrants communities are never short of information they share. For instance, they say that the initiative being taken are not cosmetic and temporal ones just to give the world cup hosting a good face but that the reforms are centred on everyone, especially non-nationals who are encouraged to be watchdogs of the reforms processes, application and enforcement.”