This article was written by Thabo Molefe, Head of Africa Regions, TransUnion Africa. The original article was published by TransUnion. You can find the article here.
In today’s fast-paced digital era, data has emerged as a powerful catalyst, reshaping the landscape of the credit market and revolutionising the way consumers navigate their financial journeys. Gone are the days of one-size-fits-all approaches, as the abundance of data offers opportunity for consumers and the credit market to thrive.
This transformative shift empowers individuals with tailored financial solutions, while enabling lenders to make more informed and accurate decisions. By harnessing the potential of data, a new era of win-win scenarios is born, where consumers and the credit market can truly flourish together, paving the way for a more inclusive and prosperous financial ecosystem.
The data-driven shift in the credit market holds tremendous possibilities for Africa, ushering in a multitude of benefits and opportunities for the continent.
Firstly, access to robust and reliable data allows financial institutions to gain deeper insights into the creditworthiness of individuals and businesses, reducing and helping to better manage risks, and enabling them to expand their lending portfolios. This, in turn, promotes greater financial inclusion by extending credit to underserved populations who were previously excluded from traditional banking systems.
Moreover, data-driven credit assessments can help overcome the limitations of traditional collateral-based lending, which often hindered small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in Africa. By analysing alternative data sources such as mobile phone payment history and digital transactions lenders can assess the creditworthiness of previously underserved entrepreneurs, unlocking financing opportunities that fuel business growth and economic development.
The availability of more comprehensive and wider reaching data facilitates enables the development of innovative FinTech solutions tailored to the unique needs of African consumers. Mobile money platforms, for instance, have already gained significant traction across the continent, providing convenient and secure financial services to millions. By leveraging data analytics, these platforms can offer personalised credit options, such as microloans and pay-as-you-go models, empowering individuals to invest in education, healthcare, and entrepreneurship, ultimately driving socioeconomic progress.
Furthermore, a data-driven credit market opens doors for international investors and partners, attracted by the potential of Africa’s emerging economies. With access to reliable credit information, investors can make more informed decisions, fostering increased foreign direct investment and fuelling economic growth across various sectors.
Empowering Consumers for Mutual Gain
Today’s consumers are redefining the next normal for the African credit market. They have new digital demands, heightened experiential expectations, and evolving purchasing and repayment behaviours. This means forward-focused lenders are increasingly being challenged to respond in new and creative ways simply to stay competitive.
This evolution in the consumer credit space is taking place against the backdrop of African economies experiencing a mixed post-pandemic recovery, as each country adapts to current conditions and strategizes for the future. External headwinds, such as the effects of global conflicts and inflationary pressures continue to pose a challenge to progress.
As a result, consumers find themselves facing heightened uncertainty around job security and increased demands on their already strained disposable income.
Consumers are responding in diverse ways, with behavioural changes reflecting a new set of priorities across the lending landscape. Lenders are also responding with a clear shift towards short-term, revolving and micro loans to address immediate cost of living expenses.
Credit is critical to consumer wellbeing and financial inclusion. By accessing credit products and services, consumers are empowered to manage their daily, and often unforeseen financial needs. Financial inclusion allows economic advancement and upward mobility opportunities for consumers looking to buy their first vehicle, first home or to fund higher education. Smaller loans are becoming increasingly popular as consumers look to cover the cost of recurring expenses like utility bills, various taxes, and everyday living expenses and services.
Credit awareness, education and access allows consumers to build and improve their credit profiles and remain actively engaged in the credit system.
The key to enabling financial inclusion for underserved consumers across developed and developing markets alike lies in a better understanding of their specific behaviours and needs. Until recently, there was little available alternative, non-credit-based data though that could be used as a verifiable source of insight into the historic and predictive financial behaviours of the underserved and underbanked.
Alternative data is the key to unlocking several of the challenges facing the multitude of financial sectors across the African continent. By accessing a larger pool of consumer data, institutions will be able to bring underserved people into the financial mainstream, grow their books, and reduce non-performing loans through better risk management and predictions.
Data-driven lending and decision-making is essential to the success of any modern financial institution. It is vital that the credit market starts considering these alternative sources of data to make more informed risk decisions.
Consumers are leaving clues to their behaviour all over, and lenders must find, and use, that data, which is the foundation of future consumer credit – but the financial services sector must seize the opportunities it offers now.