Two years ago, NMB Bank introduced NMB Wakala services to reach out to both the banked and unbanked communities across the country.

It has since then become an exceptional platform, taking banking services closer to our customers. We had an opportunity to speak with the bank’s Business Head: Retail- Mr. Abdulmajid Nsekela who shared with us how the emergence of Agency banking – dubbed “NMB Wakala” by NMB is shaping the country’s financial inclusion agenda.

Q. What role does NMB Wakala play in transforming banking services in Tanzania?

Traditionally, banking services are attributed to ‘branches’ which NMB has successfully implemented- we are located in every district in the country. Branches have become the norm when people seek to access financial services however we have observed that there is a huge diverse of socio-economic activities beyond district level that we need to take banking services to. Also, the recent Fin scope report indicated that there are at least 7.9 million Tanzanians who do not have a bank account yet they are economically stable like the banked ones and they do conduct economic undertakings where the cash circulation are not in formal financial sector.

For this reason, we have our NMB Wakala network which complements our branch network by delivering banking services much closer to both our customers and non-NMB customers. There is also the matter of branch operating hours where most banks close at 5:00pm, most businesses do operations beyond that time. These businesses need security for their money and transactional services; NMB Wakala gives them access to financial services beyond these hours.

Q. How does NMB Wakala fit in the bank’s vision to be the preferred financial services partner in the country?

NMB Vision is to become the preferred financial service provider in the country. We have over the years evolved our banking services through our extensive branches and ATM networks- we have the largest presence (218 branches and over 800 ATMs) in the country. The bank has further invested in technology solutions to better address customer needs through innovative digital distribution channels such as NMB Mobile which gives access to banking services via mobile phones, Internet Banking, light KYC account (Instant Chap Chap Account).  As a bank we strongly believe, that we will be able to reach majority of Tanzanians in a more scalable and cost effective way through digital solutions. It is within this mission that NMB Wakala adds to the bank’s vision of consistently being the preferred financial services partner for every Tanzanian.

Q. Tell us which NMB Wakala services attract both NMB customers and non-NMB customers

All of our agents are easily visible and branded with NMB Wakala shop sign. The services provided include: Cash deposits, Cash withdrawals, Balance enquiry and mini-statements. Also through NMB Wakala, you can repay loans, pay School/College fees, purchase LUKU, Purchase Airtime for all telecom operators, Pay of TV Subscriptions, Water bills, Police Force fines, air-ticketing and many more.

We have also seen the valuable contribution NMB Wakala has in supporting the government in TAX collection efforts; both NMB customers and non-customers can pay for various taxes such as Local Government Taxes, Property Tax, Land rent, TPA etc. by simply presenting the payment reference number to the agents. NMB Wakala gives viable options for everyone to make hassle-free payments.

Q. What has NMB Wakala achieved since its launch two years ago?

Currently, we have over 6000 NMB Wakala agents countrywide which makes NMB the market leader in Agency Banking. This has simultaneously created jobs of 6000 individuals and as a result most of them have also extended employment in their businesses to have people who assist them in their daily operations. Secondly, at least half of the bank’s monthly transacting customers use NMB Wakala to meet their banking financial needs and more than 300,000 non NMB Customers, monthly, enjoy various payment services through our NMB Wakala located close to them and hence reduce their transaction costs and time. NMB Wakala has undoubtedly given access and extended service hours to business individuals who wish to deposit cash after branch operating hours (this is usually 8:00am to 5:00pm). This has led to a contribution of more than 30% of cash deposits done through this channel.

Q. What differentiates NMB Wakala from the agent of any other financial entity in Tanzania?

At NMB, we go an extra mile to ensure that our agents grow in business; we train them on how to grow their businesses; our incentive package is unmatched. We see our agents as our business partners therefore we also train them on how they can increase their foot-traffic to their core business, hence boosting their core business sales. Where necessary, we also attach our sales team to some NMB Wakala so they can be trained on how to conduct some key banking services like opening accounts, cash deposits and withdraws among others.

Q.  What lessons do we have to draw from other countries in as far as Agency Banking is concerned?

As it is well known, Agency banking is a few years old concept in Tanzania. We have learnt a lot from countries like Kenya and others in the region who have practiced Agency Banking for a longer time. In Tanzania, the concept still faces some challenges; for instance, there is fear of security however the good thing is a good number of Wakala are insuring their businesses.

Q. In your view, what is the future of NMB Wakala?  

The future is less brick and mortar and more focused on digital channels supported by Agency Banking. We expect to do exceedingly well in the market. We will continue to raise awareness so that anyone can confidently explore NMB’s innovative distribution channels, including NMB Wakala, NMB Mobile to do transactions much closer to their homes and anywhere at their convenience.

Q. What is your message to NMB clients and Tanzanians in general regarding NMB Wakala?

It is my hope that Tanzanians embrace NMB Wakala and realize it operates like a bank branch ‘closer’ to them. They can trust, feel safe and secure to transact and do business with their local NMB Wakala agent; every time a customer engages with a Wakala they should know that it is an NMB service point that is also recognized by the Bank of Tanzania. Also to encourage anyone interested to partner with NMB as a Wakala, please visit a nearest branch or call 0800 002 002 for more clarification.