Since its launch in 2018, Mansa, the African Export-Import Bank’s (Afreximbank) customer due diligence (CDD) platform, has onboarded nearly 200 African financial institutions (FIs) and corporates. Meanwhile, as barely a handful of international FIs have signed up to use the solution, the bank is now looking to trial the platform with a small selection of banks.

The platform aims to create a single source of primary data required for the conduct of customer due diligence on African entities engaged in trade, both FIs and companies.

By storing all the information necessary for know your customer (KYC), anti-money laundering (AML) and counter-terrorism evaluations in one place, the aim is to make it cheaper and easier for international FIs to onboard African banks and businesses of all sizes, and so reverse a trend of global banks leaving the continent’s trade finance space.

Afreximbank’s director for compliance, Maureen Mba, tells GTR that the onboarding process started in May and is ongoing, and that, to date, Mansa has seen around 190 African FIs and corporates signed up as ‘contributors’ on the platform.

These contributors are non-fee paying entities that voluntarily upload information on various aspects of their organisation using standardised KYC/AML templates, which is then published after going through an independent corroboration process. Contributors are likely to be African entities, such as banks, as well as companies, both large and small.

Afreximbank is now also pushing to populate the platform with ‘users’, the other entity on the platform, which pays a subscription fee and is able to see information uploaded by all contributors. These entities are likely to be international FIs in need of information on African banks or companies for their KYC processes.

To date, Mba says there are “one or two” such institutions making use of the platform, but that the bank is hoping to boost these numbers by launching a free trial involving a handful of global banks this week.

Mansa has been years in the making, and had been slated to get going towards the end of 2019.

Having officially launched the platform in July 2018, Afreximbank’s president Benedict Oramah said at a press conference last year that the launch marked the conclusion of the technology build, and that the bank was still working to populate the platform with due diligence information.

“Last year [2018] we produced the product called Mansa. But beyond creating the product we needed to have it populated with data. We expect that by the end of the year we will open Mansa up for people to start using it,” Oramah said.

While Mba says the project is now up and running, Duarte Pedreira, head of emerging and frontier markets at Crown Agents Bank, says that the “uptake in terms of international banks isn’t quite there yet”.

He tells GTR that Mansa is a “great idea” but there are still reservations in the market about the standard of information available on the platform, which may not meet the “extremely strict” requirements of banks like his own when it comes to collecting KYC, AML and anti-financial crime (AF) information from clients.

“I think Mansa and any KYC/AML/AFC information repositories are welcome. But as a repository for information, they will always be insufficient if the standards of the information and the data collection are not agreed at the outset between the prospective users,” he says.

Speaking about Mansa at the 2019 GTR Africa conference, Afreximbank’s manager for financial crime compliance, Fungai Nyamahowa, said that the bank was partnering with regulators and key industry players to validate the information that is being contributed by the various financial institutions and corporates.

Mba said in an African Union webinar, hosted last month, that the “bank has ensured that it involved all stakeholders, including African central banks, African financial institutions, African corporate entities, the private and public sectors, to ensure that we all work together to develop this important tool”.

Mba added that an advisory board has been set up with input from FIs, African central banks and the private sector, as well as the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, which “sits as an observer on the Mansa platform’s advisory board”.

The platform is named after Mansa Musa, the ruler of the West African Malian empire in the 1300s, who was responsible for opening up trade across Africa by establishing Timbuktu as a commercial, cultural and religious centre.