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Seeking sustainable change in Africa’s financial systems

Driving change in banks’ financial inclusion strategies for sub-Saharan Africa


Sub-Saharan African economies are witnessing a rapid pace of innovation and growth, creating new avenues for financial inclusion. This inclusivity requires a harmonious collaboration of development sector organizations, financial institutions and professional services providers to develop new business models to benefit a wider population and foster sustainable development in the financial sector.

This report summarizes research conducted by Accenture Development Partnerships (ADP) and commissioned by Financial Sector Development (FSD) Africa, a non-profit organization that promotes financial sector development across sub-Saharan Africa. ADP performed the research across several countries in the region by conducting interviews with industry specialists and executives within financial, professional services and telecommunications organizations.

The research aim is to help the development sector understand the dynamics of financial institutions to improve partnerships in attaining sustainable development and growth in the financial sector, and to help industry practitioners improve their modalities for collaborating with NGOs and donors. These partnerships would help improve the financial sector's responsiveness toward disruptive challenges, while pursuing the large market opportunity in serving the unbanked population.

"By 2020, the low-income banking consumer market in sub-Saharan Africa will be 13 billion."


Using Accenture’s change framework, the following key findings affect the ability to drive change:

Strategic planning

  • Large institutions are tentative toward challenging existing processes. They tend to adopt a “bottom up” process, while their corporate social responsibility (CSR) strategies usually supplement their core business.

  • Mid-tier institutions often plan a “top-down” strategy, and follow market trends while diversifying into new segments.

Project lifecycle

  • Large institutions follow a product-driven operating model and focus on immediate and high-value results, making it difficult to pursue new business models. They prefer retaining existing customers rather than venturing into new customer segments.

  • Mid-tier institutions' approach is often top-down with limited internal process design and over-reliance on existing operating models while venturing into new segments.

Change enablement and integration

  • Large institutions have sufficient change enablement capabilities, but face difficulties due to project complexities. They face several challenges to sustain new business models due to performance or incentive structures, cost allocation and legacy issues including systems and culture.

  • Mid-tier institutions are small and transparent, giving their management a bird's eye view of the entire business operations and strategies. Also, scope of their projects are narrow, making them less accountable to change and stakeholder enablement.


  • Owing to cost pressures, large institutions prefer leaders capable of operational excellence and execution. This limits their possibilities in new market segments.

  • Mid-tier institutions prefer visionary leaders who can guide them toward rapid growth. This may reduce focus on sustainable change and operation excellence.


Key recommendations for driving sustainable change:

  • Support ideas that bring innovative perspectives and appropriate prioritization.

  • Develop sustainable models through stakeholder engagement, performance measurement alignment, analytics, research and piloting.

  • Coordinate training, HR plans and other staffing impacts across projects.

  • Offer C-level support for new ventures, giving realistic delivery targets.

  • Seek help of professional services to explore new ideas, develop business cases and design structures to sustain change.

  • Ensure change management focuses on long-term objectives, change enablement and stakeholder management.

  • Understand the perspectives of different development organizations and the services they provide.

To learn more, download "Seeking sustainable change in Africa’s financial systems."