As local and international banks roll out technology to provide efficient and remote banking services in Africa, South Africa's First National Bank (FNB) has managed to dominate the Southern African region.
Outside of South Africa itself, First National Bank (FNB) has expanded the eWallet mobile banking service to Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, Swaziland and Zambia, with plans under way to expand the service to more countries in the region.
Many banks in the region are rolling out mobile banking services but FNB has become the only bank in Southern Africa to expand its mobile banking services to five countries in the region.
The bank said that over 1 billion South African rand (about $127 million) has been transferred in South Africa alone via the eWallet system, which allows for money to be sent to anyone who has a South African mobile number, since the launch of the service in 2009. Customers can send money to another recipient and even buy prepaid airtime and electricity.
FNB customers can send money via cellphone banking, online banking and FNB Automated Teller Machines (ATMs), with cellphone banking being the most popular channel.
FNB's banking technology is similar to that of East Africa mobile operator Safaricom's popular money transfer service, M-pesa. M-pesa is quickly spreading across Africa and has already entered the Southern African market through South Africa.
Mobile banking services in the region are provided through the Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD) protocol, which allows customers to connect to the service providers' servers and access banking functions in real time.
Encouraged by the success of eWallet in South Africa, FNB has also made the solution available in Botswana, Swaziland and Lesotho, in keeping with its strategy of expanding its products and services into the rest of the African region, according to eWallet Solutions CEO Yolande Van Wyk, in a statement.
In July this year, the bank said its processes more than 13.5 million transactions every month, to a value of 1.7 billion South African rand. Outside South Africa, the bank said Botswana has the highest number of mobile phone customers, followed by Namibia and Zambia.
However, there is growing fear that traditional banking is being overtaken by mobile banking and may scare away new investors who want to invest in the region's banking sector.
More Africans are now using mobile financial services to buy good, pay utility services as well as receive funds from abroad.
"Mobile banking is surely overtaking traditional banking and our fear is that many small banks that are less innovative may end up closing due to loss of business," said Edith Mwale, telecom analyst from Africa Agency for ICT Development via phone.
Mobile phone banking has attracted low-income populations in rural areas, people who may not be able to afford a traditional bank account due to maintenance fees charged by banks.
Africa's mobile banking sector on the other hand, is heavily becoming contested with major international banks including Standard Chartered Bank, United Bank of Africa and Ecobank entering the market.
The mobile phone boom being experienced in the region has laid down a strong base for these low cost banking services, and the growth of mobile phones use in rural areas shows that mobile phone banking services are still attracting additional customers.