Serving all of Africa

Arnold Ekpe EcobankInterestingly, Arnold Ekpe, the former chief executive of Ecobank who retired from the bank late last year, has agreed to chair CSI’s board of directors. He told African Review that much of the ethos of Wari reminded him of the formative years he spent building Ecobank into a titan of African banking, strongly aligned to Africa’s development trajectory.

Ekpe added that he agreed to be the chairman of CSI because the company brings to the continent something that is missing with the traditional banking models in Africa.

It was also evident from spending some time with the company that it enjoys a hugely positive corporate culture. Wari has a team of 41 engineers and over 94 employees.

Mbodje told me that he ensures employees are encouraged to become shareholders and share his vision of building a company that can offer the financial services to underpin Africa’s growth and improve people’s lives.

You might have thought that with more than $2.5bn in annual cash flow, and being the market leader in Senegal and one of the leading pan-African money transfer operations, Mbodje would have considered his company a real success. But when I put that to him, he expressed his surprise that I should think that way, and told me, “I do not know what you call success, but I do not look at what we have done in that way. I just do things because I feel they need to be done.

“I think I will call my business a success when I am able to serve all of Africa as one entity, giving everybody, everywhere access to regular financial services. I want to make sure that everybody has access to pensions, life insurance, medical insurance, health care, these kinds of things, and I believe Wari can eventually do that.”

It might have been at that point that our meeting would have ended, I would have thanked him warmly and gone on my way to write this story. But Mbodje took me to his computer screen and explained his next project for Wari. It is a new innovation that would see a thousand transport containers converted into mobile Wari branches.

Offering a variety of services and powered by solar panels, these units will be located in remote areas, with GMS connectivity, to serve an even greater proportion of the population. Each of these new mobile branches will provide additional employment opportunities, and will bind society ever closer to further the economic development process.

As Mbodje says, “What is currently lacking in Africa is the organisation of markets and this is what Wari intends to bring to Africa. By building networks and linking people, the company provides services that consumers need to do business.

“Importantly, Wari looks at the impact of its business model in developing Africa. Wari’s business model decreases the cost of financial transactions for its users, facilitates the mobilisation of services, inculcates a much-needed savings culture in Africa and also develops the emerging and fast-growing consumer market.”

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