What’s different about banking in South Africa? Absa is now apart of Barclays and I visited a branch to compare some major differences.
One significant difference between Kenya and South Africa banking is their (SA)recognition that banking is a necessary service which should be affordable. While Barclays is considered to be one of the more expensive banks to use in Kenya, Absa along with the other major SA banks have embraced mzansi which is a voluntary industry effort (financial services transfer charter) to offer accounts for the unbanked, poor, or low-income citizens. Kenya has an unregulated banking sector in which the only option for many such citizens is to seek a cheaper bank such as Co-operative or Equity banks.
Some uniquely Absa services unseen in Barclays Kenya include;
- Izokuphilisa or Absa micro loans of up to 8500 rand (about 85,000 shillings).
- Mzansi money transfers though which anyone (even non Absa customers) can use Absa to transfer up to 25,000 rand (250,000) shillings per month to anyone else
- Funeral savings plans
- Full Shari’ah banking including vehicle & asset financing as well as Absa Islamic will writing. (Barclays and KCB have both introduced Islamic banking in Kenya in the last year)
- SA banks sell insurance, something CFC and CBA would love to be able to do at their branches in order to maximise returns on their investments in the insurance industry. A sample Absa insurance plan guarantees additional payment of 50% if death occurs while one is a fare paying passenger on licensed public transport (i.e. matatu) . AIDS is also not a hindrance to obtaining an insurance policy.
- Absa internet access (AIA) for online account users and provides unlimited internet use at a monthly fee
- They have multilingual brochures – typical ½ brochure in English and the back half in Zulu, Afrikaans, or any of the other 11 official languages depending on the region of the country where the branch is located. In Kenya it’s rare to find brochures in any language other than English.
- On the other hand it is difficult to exchange foreign currency. Kenya has freed up exchange regulations allowing seamless transfers at forex bureaus and banks while in SA it requires one to show an ID (or passport) and answer a few questions.
- Security is less visible since there are no guards in the bank branches.