SINGAPORE (Feb 10): Singapore’s family-run Tolaram Group made much of its US$1.8 billion ($2.5 billion) fortune in cereals, noodles and infrastructure in Africa. Now, it’s planning to use its global reach and local relationships to move into digital banking there.
The group has a blueprint of sorts from another business it owns -- PT Bank Amar Indonesia. Bank Amar is largely a digital institution, with loans and deposits for consumers handled over mobile phones. The publicly listed group has loaned almost US$300 million to around 300,000 customers and expects advances to increase more than 50% this year.
Africa shares some of the same characteristics. Non-traditional players without the legacy costs of established lenders are setting up digital banks to serve millions of smartphone-savvy customers. In 2018, the World Bank estimated as many as 95 million unbanked adults in Sub-Saharan Africa received cash payments for agricultural products, and about 65 million saved money using semi-formal methods.