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aicx

African central banks to deploy Proto's AI-enabled consumer protection solution

5

min

Accra, Ghana

Proto’s AI Customer Experience (AICX) chatbot solution for consumer protection is being deployed across over 1000 financial institutions, from retail banks to microfinance, in Africa. This deployment is in partnership with the Bank of Ghana (BOG), National Bank of Rwanda (NBR), Bank of Zambia (BOZ), and the African Development Bank’s Africa Digital Financial Inclusion Facility (ADFI). This technology is also applied in the financial ecosystems in Côte d’Ivoire and Liberia — and follows an original deployment with the Central Bank of the Philippines

Since 2014, African countries have experienced a surge in usage of digital financial services. For example, Ghana is targeting an increase to at least 85% of the bankable population within the next two years. In Zambia, the national financial inclusion strategy saw an increase from 4% to over 40%.

However, with more first-time financial users than ever before, access to consumer protection across the continent is still limited. The current process for consumer complaints relies upon consumers’ ability to speak or write fluently in the dominant language of the financial services industry — English. Furthermore, complaints channels are limited to email and in-person kiosks, which favour urban consumers who do not face digital and physical infrastructure barriers.

To solve this problem, the financial regulators of Ghana, Rwanda, and Zambia — representing Africa's east, south, and west regions — sought to apply Proto’s automated consumer protection solution across their countries' financial sectors. This deployment was supported by the Africa Digital Financial Inclusion Facility (ADFI), with over USD $1 million per its mission to increase access and protection for vulnerable financial service consumers across the continent. Proto’s AICX solution was selected as part of a competitive process that received 340 bids of which 74 were shortlisted and 6 approved by ADFI. 

The solution from Proto is a multilingual chatbot that collects and categorizes consumer complaints across multiple channels and all financial institutions, with localized understanding for the common local languages of Bemba, Kinyarwanda, Kiswahili, Nyanja, and Twi, among others. The fundamental natural language processing (NLP) development is undertaken by Proto’s NLP team, recruited in part from the African Institute of Mathematical Sciences.

Proto CEO Curtis Matlock said: “These chatbots are available via highly-accessible channels such as SMS and voice-commands, which is essential for including bottom-of-the-pyramid consumers that contend with the digital divide and illiteracy. In addition to the immediate benefit of improved consumer recourse, this solution has the wider potential to increase overall trust in the fairness of the financial sector in Africa.”

This solution was initially deployed at the Central Bank of the Philippines (BSP) to automate handling of a consumer complaint volume growing at an average 87% year-on-year across 776 financial institutions. The solution developed by Proto for BSP includes a Facebook Messenger, website, and SMS chatbot capable of understanding Tagalog and the mixed-language of Taglish. This chatbot handled a 4x complaints surge during the pandemic and supported a legislative push for stronger consumer protection laws.

National Bank of Rwanda Director of Market Conduct Supervision Gérard Nsabimana said: "The National Bank of Rwanda is pleased to deploy the complaints handling and customer engagement system in partnership with ADFI, Proto and BFA. This partnership comes at the right time as the law relating to financial service consumer protection was enacted on March 3, 2021. The system will facilitate financial service consumers to raise their complaints and get feedback via different virtual channels. Our expectation is that the system will be beneficial for both financial service consumers and financial service providers."
Bank of Zambia Consumer Protection and Market Supervision Manager Moses Musantu said: “The Proto AICX solution is in line with the Bank of Zambia’s strategic focus on financial inclusion as it is designed to accelerate financial inclusion by effectively tracking the resolution of consumer complaints to enhance confidence in financial services, and subsequently enhance usage. The solution enables the Bank of Zambia to capture and categorize complaints, track progress on dispute resolution in real time, mine complaints data for signs of financial stress, and identify market misconduct as well as applications of appropriate supervisory measures."
ADFI Coordinator Sheila Okiro said: “Facilitation of sound policies and regulations, including those that enhance consumer protection and catalyze financial inclusion, is a key mandate for the African Digital Financial Inclusion Facility (ADFI). With the proliferation of digital financial services, the financial industry needs innovative mechanisms for consumer recourse and tracking for regulators."

To ensure success, Proto’s supervisory technology (SupTech) advisory partner, BFA Global, conducted a market-wide human-centric design phase earlier in the year to collect baseline impact metrics. This phase was instrumental in customizing the Proto AICX solution to fit unique financial sector conditions, and the baseline metrics will be compared to impact results in twelve months’ time.

With these deployments, financial consumers in Ghana, Rwanda, and Zambia – especially those from historically marginalized groups – will have improved access to financial consumer recourse and a new standard for conversational banking service delivery in Africa. 

About ADFI

Africa Digital Financial Inclusion Facility (ADFI) is a pan-African initiative designed to catalyse digital financial inclusion throughout Africa with the goal of ensuring that 332 million more Africans, 60% of them women, gain access to the formal economy by 2030. Established in 2019, ADFI works to the African Development Bank’s High 5 to Improve the quality of life for the people of Africa, by catalysing inclusive digital financial services through the gender-intentional development of infrastructure, policies and regulations and product innovation. Current ADFI partners are the Agence française de developpement (AFD); the Ministry for the Economy & Finance, France; the Ministry of Finance, Luxembourg; the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the African Development Bank, who host and manage the facility. More information at: www.adfi.org

About Bank of Ghana

The Bank of Ghana oversees financial policies in the country, working to ensure stability while boosting financial inclusion and growth. They work extensively to expand access to finance to underserved segments of society. 

About Bank of Zambia

The Bank of Zambia is the Central Bank of the Republic of Zambia and derives its functions and powers from the Bank of Zambia Act, no,43 of 1996 and the Banking and Financial Services Act, Chapter 387 of the Laws of Zambia. The mission of the bank is to achieve and maintain price and financial system stability to foster sustainable economic development. 

About BFA Global

BFA Global is a research, advisory, data analytics and product innovation firm focused on the intersection of finance, data and technology. The team works with the world’s leading tech innovators, development organizations, policymakers, financial service providers (FSPs) and more to help build solutions that can contribute to more sustainable and inclusive economies. Founded in 2006 by David Porteous, BFA Global is headquartered in Boston and Nairobi, with additional offices in Medellín and New Delhi and a presence in Johannesburg, Lagos, Accra, Madrid, Mexico City and Paris. Today our flagship projects include Catalyst Fund and Finnsalud. Learn more at bfaglobal.com

About National Bank of Rwanda

The National Bank of Rwanda is committed to ensuring the stability of Rwanda’s financial system while pushing for growth and financial inclusion. In doing this, they focus greatly on delivering services efficiently and effectively and consistently looking for ways to facilitate continuous improvement.

About Proto

Proto is the leader for inclusive chatbots and multilingual contact centre automation in emerging markets. Proto’s AI Customer Experience (AICX) platform is powered by proprietary natural language processing (NLP) for under-resourced and rare languages. Proto's novel deep-learning techniques and regulatory partnerships maximize customer experience, protection, and lifetime value.

Vanessa is the Head of Client Experience at Proto. She specializes in digital transformation for emerging markets and multinational project management. To reach Vanessa, please write to her at vanessa@proto.cx.

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