While many take financial access for granted, quite a number of Batswana still do not have access due to issues such as their geographic location, financial literacy and unreliable telecommunications services.
Some citizens do not have registration documents and are therefore unable to be incorporated into mainstream banking activities.
For SmartSwitch, access to financial services is as simple as a fingerprint. One fingerprint gives the user access to a verified financial network through which the user can purchase groceries and perhaps in future, receive healthcare, buy fuel and others.
Established in 2006, SmartSwitch connects payers, payees and merchants, such as councils, social programme beneficiaries and shop owners, through a secure digital network.
The councils load payments into accounts and the SmartSwitch system credits the beneficiaries.The beneficiaries receive a biometric card, which stores their information and receives the credit, then they can swipe at shops with their fingerprints to receive goods.
Currently, all 32 councils use the SmartSwitch platform, which is linked to 1,300 merchants of whom 900 are active at any given time.
The system benefits thousands of orphans, destitutes, the disabled and home-based care beneficiaries, particularly those in remote areas where conventional banking services are unavailable.
Small business owners also benefit from the collective procurement provided by the social programmes.
“The system is biometric, instead of chip and PIN, meaning beneficiaries use their fingerprints at point of sale to purchase goods,” SmartSwitch Operations and Business Development manager, Vivian Nwako told Monitor Business.
“Our vision as a company is around financial inclusion and how Fintech can help provide every Motswana with access to financial systems and products.
“Because it is biometric, the system goes over issues of age, literacy or someone forgetting their PIN.
“We believe in a cashless future, even though many
Nwako explained that the platform is essentially a smart data warehouse, which can be tailormade for any use, including VISA connectivity. “You can use it to store someone’s biodata, Omang, their name and the like, which can be captured so that they only need to present the card and their fingerprint.
“That presents opportunities for census taking and healthcare systems and medical records. “Large transport groups can use the system so that their customers use the cards on buses, while companies who pay their workers fuel allowances could also load credits for them on the system.
“Farmers can load credit for their workers to purchase groceries and other items from local shops. “It’s all about partnering with the right people on using the card and its database,” she said.
While connectivity issues are an ever-present challenge for the SmartSwitch platform, the system uses interchangeable mobile network operators to ease transactions. In addition, transactions can be done online and updated when the telecoms systems returns. “In fact, financial inclusion is not the end goal,” Nwako said.
“People want access to goods, electricity, water, healthcare through financial services and the vision is to reduce inequality where some have access and others do not.” SmartSwitch currently has 19 employees, all of who are Batswana, with 90% of them youth under the age of 35.