A growing African population – forecast to be 2,49-billion by 2050 – coupled with spectacular increases in the number of devices such as smartphones and tablets (mobile phones now account for 75% of Web traffic in Africa) is the perfect recipe for an explosion in digital banking on the continent, according to The African Banking Digital Transformation Report.

The report, a collaboration between pan-African publication African Banker and Backbase, says the benefits of digital banking include speed, convenience, and enhanced user data – meaning that banks can much more readily tailor solutions for their clients. In 2021 – the last year for which full figures are available – 55,07% of the African population owned a bank or mobile money account, compared to 23,33% in 2011.

The 2024 edition of the report reveals that 76% of banks rank digital transformation as either their top priority or among the top three, while the remaining 24% also view it as important. With almost half of the continent unable to access any form of bank account – including approximately 60% of women – this result reflects the opportunity for banks to grow their customer base through an inclusive digital offering.

This year, cloud computing was the most cited technology being incorporated into digitisation strategies. This overtakes artificial intelligence (AI) and cybersecurity and resilience as the primary driver since the 2023 survey. The result can be explained through the growing sophistication of AI solutions which sees it spill over into other technology areas – including cybersecurity.

“I really see AI as a game-changer, both internally and externally because AI-powered tools help overcome language barriers for engaging customers in different countries,” says Ecobank Group chief digital officer, Nvalaye Kourouma. “We now have the capability to build local natural languages into our AI interactions so that language and writing are no longer barriers. Speech and image can be used to communicate more effectively. AI opens the door for a different level of engagement with our customers, so it’s encouraging.”

The 2024 edition of the report draws on comprehensive survey data from more than 150 banks spanning 35 countries, providing an in-depth analysis of current digital banking trends, key innovations, and digital transformation progress.