The coronavirus pandemic has, in no small way, affected many economies and industries across the world. It has also triggered a massive behavioural change amongst people, from how we interact with colleagues, friends, and family to how we function in general. The impact is also witnessed across the financial services industry, causing a necessary and rapid adjustment in the way we send and receive money.
Many experts predict that these changes will result in a new normal that will persist beyond the end of the pandemic and specifically, could mark the end of physical cash payments due to hygiene concerns. Studies have revealed that the materials that make up most banknotes provide the perfect environment for microbes to settle.
Further findings identified the presence of harmful bacteria on banknotes including two life-threatening bacteria that have been linked to superbugs resistant to antibiotics. Research conducted by the London Metropolitan University in the UK showed that pathogens would survive on banknotes for up to 17 days.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has suggested that people can get infected with the coronavirus through banknotes without observing proper hygiene, therefore it is widely agreed that at this time payments via digital money transfers are safer options.
Governments across the world have implemented different measures including restriction of movement, gatherings as well as encouraging citizens to adopt alternative money transfer channels. In an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), the Director of Corporate Communications at the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) advised Nigerians to adopt alternative payment channels such as electronic and digital money transfer methods while limiting the use of cash as much as possible.
To this effect, banks have begun to intensify digital operations in lieu of traditional channels, rapidly increasing their stake in FinTech while many businesses have begun to encourage customers to conduct transactions through available digital platforms. Elsewhere across the world, South Korea’s Central Bank took out of circulation all banknotes for two weeks to restrict the spread of the virus while deep cleaning banknotes at high temperatures and ultraviolet light. The British Retail Consortium announced that the contactless payment limits have increased from GBP 30 to GBP 45 and is now being implemented by its members.
Prior to the spread of the virus, governments in Africa had introduced measures and policies to increase the use of digital money transfer technology. In Nigeria, the CBN announced in September 2019 that its cashless policy will take effect on April 1 2020. This amongst other policies will only continue to encourage users to embrace digital transaction channels and increase the number of financially included adults in the country. Development partners including the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the African Development Bank (AFDB) have also been supporting electronic and digital financial inclusion across Nigeria and the rest of Africa. AFDB launched its Digital Financial Inclusion Facility last year with the intention of boosting digital financial inclusion across the continent.
Digital services are having a transformative impact on low-income households, as they provide a path to greater financial security and prosperity. We have continued to see an increase in digital transfers, as social distancing measures are encouraging people to use digital transfer methods – mobile money, bank transfer, and digital airtime top-ups. This method is cost-effective, saving money that can potentially be added to what the recipient receives, convenient for both sender and receiver, and provides a safe and hygienic alternative to carrying physical cash.
The GSM Association’s (GSMA) 2019 report indicates that mobile money use in Africa already showed strong growth indices. The continent’s mobile money accounts had exceeded $1 billion, with West Africa leading the charge. Deposit Money Banks (DMBs) also recorded a rise in e-payment earnings in Nigeria during the same period, which was also estimated to increase. These are all indicative of the substantial potential for growth in the industry even as COVID-19 causes people to explore digital payment channels.
No doubt, remittances have contributed significantly to Nigeria’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and has served as a source of income for many to support household, education and health bills amongst others. It is therefore important that this flow is not disrupted significantly. There is no better time than now to increase the awareness of these digital channels and encourage people to utilize them. Financial services and digital remittance organizations have continued to provide support to the digital transfer advocacy movement by offering different ways for friends and family to send money to loved ones across different borders.
Whilst the coronavirus pandemic has led to the era of social distancing, it has also increased awareness about the many advantages of digital technology. As ever, we encourage Nigerians to continue to follow government advice and guidelines from the World Health Organisation (WHO) whilst observing safety measures including keeping mobile devices clean.
Top Fintechs in Nigeria, what make them thick
Financial technology is one of the new waves of disruptions in the financial sector, that is fuelled by the internet of things and the increasing digitalisation of the world. In the last decade, the industry has grown by more than 100 times from $1.8billion in 2010 to $19billion in 2015. Recently, the size of the global FinTech industry has been valued at $127.66 billion and is expected to grow at an annual average of 24% to amount to $309.98 billion by 2022.
Fintech refers to the ecosystem where technology companies as well as financial institutions use the innovations in technology to foster financial services and increase access to finance in the market. It an umbrella term that refers to the innovations in technology that are challenging and changing the traditional approaches in the financial service industry.
Almost every corner of the world has been touched by FinTech in as little as 20-25 years of its existence with the likes of PayPal charging at the front by helping people make seamless money transfers across the world and facilitating online payments. In almost every mention of FinTech in Africa, the name m-Pesa is mentioned under the same breathe. Founded in 2007, M-Pesa helps Kenyans make all money transfers and payments online even allow for deposits and withdrawals with the ease of a mobile app.
The advent of FinTechs in Nigeria and regulations
In Nigeria, the presence of FinTech is equally notable, and like its ecosystem, there is a continuous rise in the number of FinTech startups looking to offer better services than pre-existing ones. FinTechs in Nigeria are looking to expand the tentacles of the financial sector to reach its un-banked population of 60 million people (more than a quarter of its estimated 200 million population) through mobile apps that make services.
Also, they are looking to make an array of financial services more available to the banked population by providing seamless services like promising interests on savings and investment more than traditional banking. It is estimated that there are about 210-250 FinTech operators/companies operating in the Nigerian space, and these players brought about the valuation of the industry to $153.1 million in 2017 and are projected to rise up to $543.3 million by 2022.
Regulation of FinTech in Nigeria is overseen by the Central bank. As a measure of risk management, the CBN places a financial barrier of a minimum of $275,000 on entry into the FinTech market to help secure funds and credibility of operators.
Categories of FinTech
As earlier noted, the term FinTech is an umbrella term. It is an ecosystem with many species of habitats. These species are the different sectors in the finance industry from insurance to banking to investment to money transfers and other emerging areas like cryptocurrencies and Agritech.
This paper focuses on five categories for the Nigerian market: Agritech, Savings, and Investments (financial instruments), Crowdfunding, Mobile Payments, and Cryptocurrencies. In ranking the top players in each category, this paper will base its ranking on google play store’s data.
Agritech: Farm Crowdy
In FinTech, agrotech is the use of internet technology to close the funding gap and infrastructural deficits plaguing the agricultural sector. They look to help farmers feed the world, cutting off middlemen and making farming more profitable. Most notably, it is a crowdfunding platform that allows investors to make short-term harvest cycle investments in agriculture and reap high interests.
As the first digital agriculture platform in Nigeria, Farm Crowdy has succeeded in keeping its first position in the industry by providing a platform that connects small-scale farmers with prospective investors who do not necessarily need to know about agriculture to invest. In allocated funds to small-scale farmers that helps them increase their output by adopting capital intensive/mechanised farming, providing them seedlings, training on crop yields, access to more farmlands, and providing insurance for agric products.
Since its launch in 2016, Farm Crowdy has helped 25,837 farmers, provided over 16,000 acres for farming, gained nearly 70,000 farm sponsorships from investors, reared more than 2.5 million chickens, and pays investors 13-25% returns on their investment. On google play store, Farm Crowdy has ranked 3.5 stars with 265 reviews and has over 50,000 downloads. Cumulatively, it has nearly a hundred thousand active users.
Other Agritech platforms that offer similar services include Thrive Agric, Growsel, Pork Money (which is crowdfunding for a pig farm), Requid, Agropack, Releaf, FarmNGA, Probity Farms, among many others.
Savings and Investment:
Fintechs in Nigeria offers investment platforms that tend to bridge the knowledge gap in investments in financial instruments, eliminating information asymmetry, and reducing the hassles associated with financial instruments. In the Nigerian space, the savings and investment subsector is one of the most populated by fintech firms, among which the most dominant factor in this section is the Piggyvest app.
Piggyvest offers users the financial freedom to not only save responsibly but put their savings into use by investing them. It launched in 2016 as a savings platform – Piggybank – and later rebranded to include investments – Piggyvest. It prides itself as the first online savings and investment platform in West Africa and boasts of 350,000 active users.
Piggyvest promises users 10-13% interest rates on their savings and up to 25% on investment in financial securities. At just two years into the business, Piggybank announced that it had raised $1.1 million in seed fund, and saw a growth in savings rate by up to 3000% between 2016 and 2017. On Google play store, it records more than 500,000 downloads which are about five times more than its two closer competing savings and investment platforms like Cowerywise and i-invest (100k+ each). It also ranked 4.7 stars with 20,000 reviews.
While the aforementioned fintech companies have gained ground in the demand for fintech services, Wealth.ng is introducing high-scale innovation into the market. Recently it entered into a partnership deed with Paga, one of the dominant names in the money transfer sector of the industry, to improve the quality and efficiency of service delivery. Among the industry, there are hardly any existing partnerships, instead, each company competes for customer acquisition and better service.
Wealth.ng sees business differently. A decade ago, many people would dismiss the thought of investing in financial securities for lack of adequate knowledge of how it works or understanding of the trends. Wealth.ng has completely bridged this gap by including consumer education as part of its services. With this, they walk potential investors through every step and provide an array of investment options for each person.
Other players in the savings and investment subsector include Afrinvest, Kudi, Investment one, Payday investor, and many others.
Mobile Payments: Interswitch
This is no doubt the busiest in the FinTech industry in Nigeria, and one of the top FinTech areas globally. According to the Central Bank, between January to December 2019, the volume of transactions via mobile monies stood at 377,265,208 which reflects a transaction value of N5 trillion. The FinTech company at the forefront of this charge is Interswitch. In 2019, it sold a 20% share of the company to Visa for $200 million which brought the company’s valuation to $1 billion (N360 billion) – a unicorn status. At this valuation, it surpasses giant financial houses like Access bank (N327 billion), and UBA (N227 billion).
Unlike savings and investment platforms that people use for savings from time to time – hence mobile apps, mobile payment apps are used for the likes of utility bills, cash transfers, deposits, and withdrawals. Businesses use mobile payment platforms for transaction purposes. However, on play store, Interswitch still boasts of more than 100,000 downloads in its quickteller app and over 50,000 downloads in its quickteller agent app, which top other of its complementary payment apps for Nigeria and other African countries.
Other major players in the payment platform in Nigeria include Flutterwave, Paystack, Remita, e-transact, Vogue Pay, among others.
To many people, cryptocurrencies are still a mirage. As such, investing in any form of cryptocurrency would be considered a wasteful investment. In the Nigerian fintech ecosystem for cryptocurrencies, Quidax is helping cryptocurrency spreading the knowledge and raising awareness for cryptocurrencies, and helping enthusiasts and investors make crypto investments.
Launched in 2018, Quidax has made its platform seamless for trading different cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, Ethereum, Ripple, Litecoin, and other cryptocurrencies using the naira. Its market approach of trading directly with naira and boycotting exchange rate variations is a major development in the crypto market. One year after it started, CEO Buchi Okoro said they saw a transaction volume of more than $110 million from users in 70 countries from 6 continents. On play store, it has over 10,000 downloads and rated a 4.1 star.
As an alternative to raising funds for personal and business projects like hospital bills, school fees, and the likes, crowdfunding platforms help users source funds from a sea of ‘strangers’ willing to spare some funds to help out. On the global scale, GoFundMe leads other crowdfunding platforms by ensuring a transparent system where people seeking for financial assistance could present their ordeals and receive solidarity.
Although GoFundMe shares a strong presence in almost every country, it doesn’t deter other industry players from participating. In Nigeria, NaijaFund presents itself as one of the foremost indigenous crowdfunding platforms. Although mainly present as a web app, it has since its 2016 launch helped Nigerians bridge the funding gap for personal and business projects, in which it claims 10% of the total funds raised.
Meet the people who decide your internet experience
Data is as essential as air, right? At least, that’s what these men will have you believe. Much more than call-credits, data now accounts for a regular percentage of the average Nigerian’s monthly, if not weekly budget. MTN alone generated as much as N74 billion from data sales in Q1 2020.
So, this week’s profiles will be focused on the men and women who control leading internet service companies in Nigeria.
Some of these companies are telcos but as we know, they also provide internet services for many Nigerians. The other internet service providers on the list were sourced from the NCC Q3 2019 report and selected using the number of active subscribers and presence.
Segun Ogunsanya – MD, Airtel Nigeria
Ogunsanya was appointed Chief Executive Officer of Airtel Nigeria operations in November 2012.
Prior to that, he had worked in other administrative positions for notable companies. Segun was the Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of Nigerian Bottling Company (NBC), the franchise bottler of the Coco-Cola Company Nigeria. He also worked as Managing Director and Head of Retail Banking Operations at Ecobank Transnational Inc. from 2008 to 2009.
Ogunsanya’s impressive administrative profile can hardly be separated from his solid educational background, as he is a graduate of Electrical & Electronics Engineering and also a Chartered Accountant.
In addition, he has attended several professional and management courses in and outside Nigeria and is accomplished in several sectors.
He is a member of the Business Support Group in Nigeria, a former Vice President of American Chambers of Commerce in Ghana, and a member of the Implementation and Technical Committee of Strategic Micro, Small and Medium Enterprise Policy, among others.
Funke Opeke – Founder, MD/CEO Mainone
Funke Opeke garnered 20 years of experience in the telecommunications sector in the United States of America before returning to Nigeria in 2005.
She started as Chief Technical Officer of MTN when she returned to Nigeria, and also served as the interim Chief Operating Officer of NITEL after advising Transcorp on the acquisition.
Chief Ms. Funke Opeke, is the founder and CEO of MainOne, formerly Main One Cable Company. MainOne services cuts across several countries in West Africa where it provides communications services and network solutions to major telecom operators, ISPs, government agencies, small to large enterprises, and even educational institutions.
Funke holds a first degree in Electrical Engineering from Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife Nigeria, and a Master’s degree in Electrical Engineering from Columbia University, New York.
Stephane Beuvelet – Acting MD, 9mobile
Stephane Beuvelet became both a board member and Acting Managing Director of 9mobile in 2018.
This telecom executive has about 20 years’ technical experience and expertise in management, financing and commercial, and business and organization development.
Before coming into 9mobile as Chief Technical Officer, he held a similar position in Celtel Brazzaville, MTN Cote D’Ivoire, and Telma Telecom, Madagascar, where he was also Deputy Group CEO.
Ferdinand Moolman – MD/CEO, MTN Nigeria
Ferdinand Moolman became MD/CEO of MTN Nigeria on December 1, 2015, when the operational structure of the company was reviewed after the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) slammed a $5.2 billion fine on the giant telco.
Their offense? They failed to meet a deadline to disconnect unregistered subscribers.
This became Moolman’s first task as CEO, and after long talks and negotiations between the company and the NCC, this fine was reduced to $1billion.
Part of the agreement, which had the fine reduced, mandated the group to publicly list the Nigerian unit shares on the NSE.
Through strategic and timely decisions over the last five years, the company has become the second most capitalized—after Dangote Cement—on the Nigerian bourse. Under Moolman’s leadership, the yearly revenue of this company continues to astound investors; this is in spite of other fines and settlements that the company has had to make.
Before becoming CEO, Moolman was the Chief Financial Officer of MTN Nigeria, a position he assumed immediately after he was transferred from MTN Iran cell where he was Chief Operating Officer (COO).
Moolman is a graduate of the University of Pretoria and University of South Africa.
Mike Adenuga – Chairman/CEO, Globacom
Nigerian billionaire Mike Adenuga is not only the founder of Globacom, but he is also its Board Chairman and Chief Executive Officer.
The long story of how he moved from being a Taxi-driver in New York to become a serial entrepreneur and billionaire can fill a book, but we can conclude that the major turn-around in his fortunes happened when he received a drilling license in 1990 and entered the business of oil exploration and exploitation.
Mike Adenuga has his degree in Business Administration from North Western Oklahoma State University, and also has an MBA from Pace University, New York.
Ajay Awasthi – CEO, Spectranet Nigeria
Awasthi was appointed CEO of Spectranet Nigeria in December 2017.
He has had over 17 years of experience in the telecoms industry, beginning in India which is known to be highly competitive. He has held several administrative and senior management positions, even in the solar energy and electrical products sector, and is experienced in setting up multi-channel distribution and optimising business operations.
He is an alumnus of the Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore
Mr. Charles Anudu – Founder, MD/CEO, Swift Networks Limited
Swift Networks is only the latest entrepreneurial venture for Charles Anudu, as he is known to have successfully launched other companies.
He founded Swift in 2002 after obtaining a Fixed Wireless Access (FWA) License from Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) to provide multi-service broadband connectivity services to businesses and residential subscribers.
His administrative experience started at Rhone-Poulenc Nigeria where he worked as General Manager, before leaving to found The Candel Company Limited where he was founding Managing Director and Chairman.
Charles has a Bachelor of Agriculture Degree in Crop Protection and Master of Science Degree in Plant Ecology from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, and the University of Ibadan. He also has a Diploma in Computer and Telecommunications Electronics and has several professional certifications including being a Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA).
An Alumnus of Harvard Business School and the Lagos Business School, where he has done multiple management programmes, Charles is a member of the Economic Intelligence Committee of the Nigerian Presidency.
Ejovi Aror – Group Managing Director, ipNX
Ejovi was appointed the Group Managing Director of ipNX in 2002.
Before this, he had spent 14 years at Telnet Group, with his last 6 years there as the Managing Director of iTECO, one of the group subsidiaries.
He holds a first-class degree in Electrical/Electronics Engineering from Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, and a Masters’ degree in Data Communications Engineering from Brunel University, UK. He also has an MBA from the Lagos Business School (1998).
Abiodun Omoniyi – Founder/MD, VDT communications
Abiodun Omoniyi founded and served as the pioneer Managing Director of Bitcom Systems Limited (a System integration company established in 1989), from where he moved to establish VDT Communications Limited in 2001, to focus mainly on providing Broadband Communications Service to the growing data-centric financial sector of the Nigerian economy.
He has since led the growth of VDT through his dynamic management style from the then one–branch office to the multi-branch entity it is today, providing broadband services to numerous customers in the banking and financial services sector, logistics, and manufacturing, public and government sectors, FMCG, etc.
Abiodun obtained his Bachelor of Electrical Engineering (B.Eng.) degree from the University of Ilorin and is an alumnus of the Lagos Business School. He has also attended several business and management pieces of training outside Nigeria.
Kendall Ananyi, Founder & CEO Tizetti Network Limited (wifi.com)
Wifi.com.ng is the internet service provided by Tizeti Network Limited, a company that Kendall Ananyi founded in 2012 to deliver high-speed unlimited Wi-Fi internet access to customers.
Before 2012, his work experience cut across noteworthy companies including PricewaterhouseCoopers, and Microsoft in Canada. He has over 15 years of experience in telecoms and software, project management, and software experience.
Ananyi has a Masters in Computer Engineering from the University of Victoria, Canada.
NITDA warns Nigerians of new ways cybercriminals defraud unsuspecting victims
The National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), has warned Nigerians on the nefarious actions of cybercriminals exploiting the COVID-19 Pandemic to mislead and defraud unsuspecting victims.
This was disclosed by the agency in a statement signed by its Head, Corporate Affairs and External Relations, Hadiza Umar.
It stated that one of the fake news tagged “Argentina Is Doing It”, being circulated over social media, particularly on WhatsApp, is aimed at causing panic and inducing terror in individuals.
It stated, “Recipient should not open a video file called ”Argentina Is Doing It” as it will hack their phone in 10 seconds. In order to lend credibility to the message, the message falsely claims that the Cable News Network (CNN) also reported it.”
Back story: Last month, NITDA unmasked some fake phishing websites in circulation misleading the public that the Federal Government has approved the disbursement of funds under a fictitious name called “Lockdown Funds.”
On its twitter handle, the agency noted that the phishers tried to direct unsuspecting Nigerians to the websites which would further direct them to fill in their details in order to benefit from the funds.
How ‘Argentina Is Doing It’ works
The statement read, “This message has been identified as fake as it exhibits some of the following characteristics of fake/hoax messages:
* The message content includes instructions to forward the message; The sender claims some kind of affiliation with a credible source or organization;
* The message aims to induce panic or shock the recipient, often making impossible claims or serious consequences about the effect of the virus or malicious software; and
* The messages contains alarming languages tending to emphasize the urgent nature of the threat.
“The general public is therefore urged to disregard this as there is no CNN article regarding this hoax. Furthermore, the message is a variant of a similar message in circulation since 2017.
“NITDA calls on all well-meaning Nigerians to support the Federal Government in its efforts at containing the spread of COVID-19 in the country by not spreading fake news.
“We are also encouraged to strictly adhere to recommendations given by health experts, and follow updates from verified sources of the relevant agencies handling this outbreak,” it added.
The National Information Technology Development Agency, which was established in April 2001, is a Federal Government Agency under the supervision of the Federal Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy.
Specifically, Section 6(a, b, c & m) of the Act mandates NITDA to create a framework for the planning, research, development, standardization, application, coordination, monitoring, evaluation and regulation of Information Technology practices, activities and systems in Nigeria.
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