Proto’s AI Customer Experience (AICX) solution for consumer protection has been deployed across 591 financial institutions, from retail banks to microfinance, in partnership with the National Bank of Rwanda and the African Development Bank’s Africa Digital Financial Inclusion Facility (ADFI). This technology was also recently deployed across the financial ecosystems in Ghana, Zambia, Côte d’Ivoire, and Liberia — and follows an original deployment with the Central Bank of the Philippines.
Over the last decade, the National Bank of Rwanda (NBR) has overseen great strides in financial inclusion, with over 93% of Rwandans adults financially included and more first-time consumers accessing financial services than ever before.
However, access to financial consumer protection in the country is still limited, largely because financial service consumers are unaware of the complaints process and current manual complaint channels rely upon consumers’ ability to speak or write fluently in the dominant languages of the financial services industry — English and French. Additionally, consumer engagement primarily occurs via email and in-person kiosks, which favour wealthier urban consumers who do not face prevailing digital and physical infrastructure barriers.
To solve this problem, the National Bank of Rwanda — the financial regulator of the East African country — has deployed Proto’s automated consumer protection solution nationwide. This deployment is supported by the Africa Digital Financial Inclusion Facility (ADFI), with a grant of over USD 1 million to contribute to its mission to increase access and protection for vulnerable customers of financial services across the continent. Proto’s proposal was approved as part of a competitive process that received 340 bids of which 74 were shortlisted and 6 approved by ADFI over 2019-2020.
The solution from Proto is a multilingual chatbot that collects and categorizes consumer complaints across multiple channels and all financial institutions, with localized natural language understanding for Kinyarwanda, which is spoken by 90% of Rwandans. 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: “This chatbot is available via highly-accessible channels such as SMS and voice-commands, which is essential for including bottom-of-the-pyramid consumers without computers or literacy. In addition to the immediate benefit of improved consumer recourse options, this solution has the wider potential to increase overall trust in the fairness of the country’s financial sector.”
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. The chatbot has handled a 4x complaints surge during the pandemic and supported a legislative push for stronger consumer protection laws.
NBR 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.”
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 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 AICX solution to fit Rwanda’s unique financial sector conditions, and the baseline metrics will be compared to impact results in twelve months’ time.
With this deployment, financial consumers in Rwanda – especially those from historically marginalized groups – now have improved access to financial consumer recourse, and the National Bank of Rwanda has set a new standard for conversational banking service delivery in Africa.
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 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.
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.