a box to broaden access to financial services across Africa
An innovative ‘bank in a box’ developed by G4S Africa is set to help provide agricultural workers in isolated, rural communities with a range of financial services.
A number of large towns across Africa, with populations of up to 100,000, accommodate the workforces of local plantations, providing crops such as sugar, tea and pineapples – and most lack even a working hole-in-the-wall machine.
With the vast majority of these workers not holding bank accounts and being paid cash-in-hand each week, the plantation admin centres, where wages are stored, are increasingly targeted by thieves.
Now the G4S Technology team in Africa has developed a portable bank the size of a shipping container that can be delivered globally via road, sea or air to such areas allowing workers to withdraw their wages securely while protecting plantation staff from robbers.
The ‘bank in a box’ can be tailored to an individual customer’s needs, and among the
available devices are a secure external ATM and a G4S product called a Depositer, which allows local shopkeepers to deposit their cash and have it automatically transferred to their account. The standard product also comes with a device that allows people to print their payslips.
The 20-foot units – which have been specifically designed to the same dimensions as a standard shipping container to allow easy transportation to anywhere in the world – open up on installation to almost three times the size.
They come equipped with eight CCTV cameras, technology that can link to a local G4S
control centre and are also manned by two bank employees, who are on-hand to assist with any questions and provide additional security.
“We’ve spoken to a number of banks, and they’ve all told us they would love to have
a facility in these communities, which currently lack even basic banking services,” said Mike Perry, Business Development Director, Technology, G4S Africa.
“But the cost of installing even a functional ATM in these far-flung, remote locations is prohibitive, when you factor in transporting the cash, replenishing the machines and maintenance.
“This product addresses that need perfectly. Potentially, it’s a huge market for banks – many of the people in these communities have never owned a bank card or held an account, and this is an opportunity to reach hundreds of thousands of prospective bank customers for the first time.”
The mobile banking solution was launched in December and Mike revealed: “All the banks we’ve spoken to have expressed massive interest.
“We’re able to fit the units out however they want, pre-installing the technology and standard bank furniture, externally we also provide the banks branding. On the service side, we can deliver the cash as and when needed, maintain the units and provide security officers to secure it. We’re very proud of the product."
We're very excited by the potential opportunities this new product provides, which we've only just begun to explore.
While the ‘bank in a box’ was originally developed to serve remote communities in Africa, Mike Perry, Business Development Director, Technology, G4S Africa, believes the product has a range of uses virtually anywhere in the world.
“Because it’s such a versatile product, and because it’s been developed in such a way that we can transport it to any location, there are other interesting applications that we can already see,” he said.
One such use could be aiding relief efforts in areas affected by natural disasters.
“I know in the UK this winter a number of areas were severely flooded, with people forced to evacuate their homes,” Mike said.
“At such times, people are still going to need cash, so our mobile banking solution could be set up in a safe spot in one of those communities, where the high street is inaccessible, and they could still have full access to their bank accounts.
“University campuses is another potential application, giving students a convenient way to draw out or deposit cash, or even speak to an advisor.
“It’s a valuable market for banks, as customers tend to remain quite loyal to the first bank they open an account with.
“The pay-slip machine also opens up other opportunities. There are lots of countries where giving employees in remote locations the facility to enter their ID number and receive a paper copy of their pay-slip would be valuable.”
He added: “We’re very excited by the potential opportunities this new product provides, which we’ve only begun to explore.”