Tuesday, December 5, 2023
  • Nedbank has a footprint across Africa, operating in 6 countries, including eSwatini, Namibia, Lesotho and Zimbabwe
  • Web3africa.news holds a conversation with Stelios Vakis, Digital Executive for Retail and Business banking at Nedbank to get a better understanding of the pan-African banking groups’ foray into the digital landscape
  • Nedbank has a significant strategy beyond banking. The bank will launch new experiences to reinforce the brand campaign of “Nedbank like you’ve never seen before”

The Metaverse will be one of the most popular topics in the world in 2022. We’ve seen Africarare, the African metaverse growing with the entry of recognizable businesses such as MTN, Primedia and Pan African banking group Nedbank. Nedbank’s entry into the African metaverse is perhaps the most interesting of these.

The well-established traditional finance (trad-fi) player is wading its way into a web 3.0 world. They intend to create a synonymous of decentralized finance (de-fi). What plans does the banking group have for the African metaverse?

Metaverse and Nedbank

Nedbank is an established financial services provider that has operated in South Africa for 134 years. The bank has a footprint across Africa, operating in 6 countries, including eSwatini, Namibia, Lesotho and Zimbabwe. Nedbank has provided commercial banking, merchant banking and other financial services. It recently unbundled from Old Mutual group to stand on its own in South Africa. With such a track record in trad-fi, Nedbank has become one of the early movers in the African Metaverse.

Africarare, the African metaverse

Africarare is the grand idea that Africa deserves its own metaverse with African representation. The initial virtual land available in the African metaverse is 1096 plots of land. Nedbank purchased 144 of these or 12 by 12 plots. The plan is for Africarare to be a fully immersive 3D virtual reality land built inside Ubuntuland. In this virtual reality or metaverse, individuals and businesses will be able to interact. It presents many opportunities for virtual interactivity. It will offer opportunities for gaming, socialising and commerce.

Thanks to Stelios Vakis, Digital Executive for Retail and Business banking at Nedbank, we got answers to a few questions posed about the pan-African banking groups’ foray into the digital landscape.

What services does Nedbank intend to offer in the metaverse?

Stelois: At this point, our early exploration into the rapidly evolving metaverse is simply about learning. Nedbank wants to understand how clients engage, what they expect and want from the metaverse and explore its future potential. At this stage, our offers in the metaverse will be limited to creative ways of extending our investments into our sponsorship assets and blending these experiences with real-world experiences.  I do want to emphasise that these offers will continue to be re-shaped as the metaverse, clients and the financial and regulatory industry as a whole evolve.

Nedbank is from the world of traditional finance, which is held as being juxtaposed to what web 3.0 technologies are about. Why has Nedbank taken this bold leap?

Nedbank has had “leading in digital” at its core for many years, with many proof points in market reinforcing this commitment. Nedbank is equally a client-led business and wants to be in touch and is readying itself for the future client base, who will grow up and spend many hours in the web 3.0 construct.

From the genesis of the web, let’s call it web 1.0, to where we are now, the improvements in technology as well as the adoption rate have been at warp scale. The scary thing is that is that it’s still getting faster with every cycle. As Nedbank, we want to ensure we stay in touch with our client base’s needs (present and future clients) and simultaneously prepare for them in advance, so that as Nedbank we evolve to where our clients want and will need us.

We know there will be a gaming lounge for e-sports, what else will Nedbank be facilitating that is non banking?

Users will be able to navigate Nedbank Metaverse and visit the sports bar and gallery where there will be NGC content, some of it exclusive to the metaverse. The event will stream online, but for those who only want the highlights, we’ll have that too. There will also be quiz nights, treasure hunts and other exciting experiences available.

Nedbank has a significant strategy “beyond banking” and over the next few months some new experiences will be launched really reinforcing the new Nedbank brand campaign of “Nedbank like you’ve never seen it before”.

SARB recently encouraged banks to find ways to work with new technologies like crypto. Does Nedbank have any plans to help with the crypto element of the metaverse which may be a considerable challenge for many South Africans to enjoy the metaverse?

Nedbank is subject to and a core partner to all the financial services regulatory bodies, and is working closely with them in this regard.

In a nutshell, Nedbank intends to first learn from the metaverse. To see what the transition opens up new opportunities and possibilities to the web 3.0 world. This is consistent with the thrust of Nedbank’s upcoming campaign, which has the tagline “beyond banking”. Fittingly as web 3.0 offers new ways to engage with the products and brands we have come to know and love.

South Africa regulatory framework

South Africa’s regulatory stance has heavily contributed to the thrust coming out of the Southern African nation into the new arena. Big Brands MTN, Nedbank and Primedia have bought into the metaverse already. Retail giant Pick n Pay is further rolling out Bitcoin payments in their stores to the public in 39 stores. South Africa has greenlit cryptocurrency usage in the country by recognising them as digital assets in the country’s laws.

Our eyes will closely trace the exploits of Nedbank and other big brands in the Africarare metaverse. Cryptocurrency adoption in Africa is growing though it is severely hamstrung by the regulatory stance in many African countries. South Africa’s stance also provides us with a rare opportunity to see how cryptocurrency and web 3.0 technologies would fair under more inclusive regulatory conditions.

It is somewhat ironic, perhaps even poetic, that the last African country to gain independence and majority rule is the first African country to effectively open up to the new frontier of web3.0 technology through cryptocurrency. Authorities and citizens of other African countries alike will watch and learn from the developments in South Africa. What opportunities do you think an organisation like Nedbank should look to exploit in web 3 technology and the metaverse?

Read: Blockchain and the metaverse: A symbiotic relationship with unending possibilities

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