Skip to content
Log InGet Started
Fraud Prevention AML14 Jan 2024

Digital Due Diligence: The Future of CDD in Africa

Peace Itimi

Director of Marketing

In Africa's rapidly evolving business landscape, staying ahead in compliance and due diligence is more critical than ever. With financial transactions growing in complexity and regulatory demands tightening, African businesses face the dual challenge of ensuring robust compliance while maintaining efficiency and agility. This is where technology steps in as a game-changer.

Gone are the days when Customer Due Diligence (CDD) was a cumbersome, manual process fraught with inefficiencies and vulnerabilities. Today, innovative digital solutions are revolutionising the way African businesses approach CDD. From biometric verification to AI-powered risk assessment tools, technology is not just simplifying compliance—it's transforming it into a strategic advantage.

This article delves into what CDD is and how to use technology tools to meet stringent anti-money laundering (AML) requirements with unprecedented ease and precision.


What is customer due diligence (CDD)?

Customer Due Diligence (CDD) is like getting to know your customers as individuals—their identity, financial activities, and risk profile. Think of it as the financial world's equivalent of dating before entering a long-term partnership.

Just as you wouldn't invest time and resources in a personal relationship without understanding the other person, CDD helps you know who you deal with in the business world. It ensures that you're doing business with trustworthy individuals or entities, reducing the chances of financial loss or legal troubles.


What’s the difference between customer due diligence (CDD) and know your customer (KYC)?

Think of KYC as the introduction phase. KYC is the process of collecting basic customer information to verify their identity. This includes their name, address, date of birth, and official ID details. KYC is a prerequisite for CDD.

On top of the foundation that KYC laid, CDD builds. Once you've made acquaintances, CDD involves understanding more about the customer's financial activities and/or the nature of their business dealings.

This is where you ask questions about the source of your users' funds and the purpose of their transactions and evaluate the potential risks involved.

KYC: Imagine opening a bank account. The bank will ask for your ID, proof of address, etc. That's KYC—verifying your identity.

CDD: Now, let's say you're a business owner doing frequent large transactions. The bank might ask more detailed questions about your business, where your money comes from, and why you're moving large amounts. That's CDD—understanding your financial behaviour.


The 5 steps to an effective CDD process

1. Customer Identification

Obtain clear and accurate identification documents from customers. This is a CDD requirement in most countries. The Central Bank of Nigeria regulation stipulates that “CDD measures shall include customer identification and verification of identity.”

This could be a passport, driver's license, or other government-issued ID for individuals. For businesses, you might use corporate documents, such as articles of incorporation, business licenses, or shareholder agreements.

Utilise digital identity verification platforms to authenticate customer documents quickly and accurately. These platforms can scan and validate passports, driver's licenses, and other IDs using optical character recognition (OCR) and biometric verification. The goal is to establish a clear understanding of who the customer is.

2. Risk assessment

After identifying the customer, the next step is to assess the risk associated with that customer. This involves evaluating factors such as the nature of the customer's business, the geographic location, transaction patterns, and the overall risk profile.

This risk assessment helps determine the level of due diligence required for a particular customer. You can use machine learning algorithms to refine risk assessment over time, learning from patterns and trends in customer data to enhance accuracy.

3. Understand the nature of the customer’s activities: 

This involves understanding the purpose and intended nature of the business relationship. What is the customer's business or occupation? What type of transactions do they intend to carry out? This step helps in assessing the risk they might pose.

Deploy software that integrates data from various sources to comprehensively understand the customer's business activities. This can include linking transaction data, social media profiles, and public records.


4. Transaction monitoring:

Regularly monitor customer transactions for suspicious activity. This involves checking transactions against the customer's profile and expected behaviour. Any anomalies or unusual transactions should be investigated further.

5. Ongoing monitoring

CDD is not a one-time process; it requires continuous monitoring of customer activities. Ongoing monitoring involves keeping track of transactions, identifying any unusual or suspicious behaviour, and updating customer information regularly.

This stage is crucial for detecting and responding to customer risk profile changes.

You can employ dashboards and alert systems to notify compliance officers of any changes in customer behaviour or risk profile, ensuring timely and effective responses.


What is enhanced due diligence (EDD)? 

Based on the risk assessment, enhanced due diligence is necessary for higher-risk customers. This involves a more in-depth investigation into the customer's background, source of funds, and business relationships.

EDD measures are typically applied to customers with higher risk factors, such as politically exposed persons (PEPs) or customers involved in high-risk industries.


Embracing digital solutions in CDD as an African business

Technology plays a pivotal role in streamlining and enhancing the effectiveness of CDD processes. Digital solutions simplify the identification and verification of customers, help identify patterns, and keep on top of ongoing monitoring and risk assessment. Here's how African businesses can leverage technology in their CDD efforts:

Digital identity verification: With SmileID’s government-checked KYC and document verification, you can perform a digital KYC in seconds. We give you access to Africa's largest government ID information network through a single API connection.

Automated risk assessment tools: Automated risk detection tools, like AML check, can comb through thousands of watchlists and media sources to determine customer risk levels. Automation in risk assessment speeds up the process and brings in a level of consistency and accuracy that manual processes may lack.

Transaction monitoring systems: Employ AI-powered transaction monitoring systems that continuously analyse customer transactions. These systems can detect unusual patterns, flagging potential risks for further investigation. This ongoing monitoring is crucial for detecting and mitigating real-time financial crimes like money laundering.

By incorporating tech tools into your CDD processes, you can achieve a more efficient, secure, and compliant operation. This not only aids in fulfilling regulatory obligations but also plays a significant role in building trust with customers and partners in Africa's increasingly digital financial ecosystem.

Ready to get started?

We are equipped to help you level up your KYC/AML compliance stack. Our team is ready to understand your needs, answer questions, and set up your account.