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Ecobank Sees Huge Opportunities to Drive Digital Financial Inclusion in Nigeria

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Digital Financial Inclusion

By Modupe Gbadeyanka

New data on mobile phone ownership and internet access has shown huge opportunities to drive digital financial inclusion in Nigeria, the Head of Consumer Banking at Ecobank Nigeria, Mrs Olukorede Demola-Adeniyi, has said.

According to current statistics, about 84.6 million Nigerians, accounting for 47 per cent of the population, are unbanked, against mobile phone penetration which is up to 94.5 per cent.

In order to reduce the number of unbanked Nigerians, who are mostly in rural areas, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) came up with policies to digitise financial services.

Mrs Demola-Adeniyi, while speaking on a digital financial inclusion summit planned for October 21, 2020, stressed that the digitisation of payment and financial services has become an important economic development priority with the prospect of reaching far more people with a broad range of financial services they need to fight poverty and build resilience.

She reiterated that this was in line with Ecobank’s vision which is to consolidate a modern pan-African bank and to contribute to the economic development and financial integration of the continent.

The summit planned for next month is organised by Ecobank Nigeria in partnership with Vanguard Conferences and Economic Forum Series. The aim is to drive, promote and deepen financial inclusion amongst the unbanked and underbanked population in Nigeria.

The event will bring together trade groups and associations with large unbanked populations and individuals within the lower rung of the society who have not seen the need to be included in the financial sector or adopt financial services through digital platforms.

This is a direct response to encourage the adoption of innovative payment solutions and digital banking services in the post-COVID-19 era.

“There is no better time than now to harness the strength of our population and support people to embrace the financial system.

“Financial inclusion for us at Ecobank means taking banking to the people wherever they are. Our agency banking, that is the Ecobank Xpress Points, for instance, creates a consumer experience which is very good, as the customers can do simple deposit, payment and transfers in their own neighbourhood rather than travel for hours to a bank branch.

“The aim of the Xpress Point is to let every Nigerian and household have access to Ecobank services within their neighbourhood to provide easy banking services.

“This is the same objective for our mobile app and USSD platforms. We are desirous to put banking services at the fingertips of every citizen, no matter where they live,” Mrs Demola-Adeniyi.

“The upcoming digital financial Inclusion virtual summit speaks to the strong sense of confidence the bank has in us to help create content and context for the promotion and positioning of the brand given the strategic and thematic nature of the conversation, marketing power and prowess of our thought leadership programs in critical stakeholder audience engagements across different industry sectors and customer segments,” Mr Jude Ndu, the Director Vanguard Conferences and the Economic Forum Series, stated.

Modupe Gbadeyanka is a fast-rising journalist with Business Post Nigeria. Her passion for journalism is amazing. She is willing to learn more with a view to becoming one of the best pen-pushers in Nigeria. Her role models are the duo of CNN's Richard Quest and Christiane Amanpour.

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Banking

Heritage Bank in Debt Crisis, Reps May Order CBN Takeover

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Heritage Bank CEO Ifie Sekibo

By Aduragbemi Omiyale

The banking industry in Nigeria may be plunged into another crisis if urgent steps are not quickly taken to address the issue so as to douse the looming tension.

Business Post reports that a few years ago, precisely in 2018, depositors and shareholders of Skye Bank were in a panic mood after the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) nationalised the lender to Polaris Bank Limited because of debts and the House of Representatives on Thursday raised an alarm that another financial institution, Heritage Bank, is allegedly swimming in huge debts.

The lower chamber of the National Assembly had invited the bank and its Managing Director, Mr Ifie Sekibo, to explain why the amount the company owes the federal government is more than its share capital, but he has failed to honour the request.

This action has infuriated the parliament, which has threatened to direct the CBN to take over the ownership of Heritage Bank if Mr Sekibo and the bank ignore their latest invite next Wednesday.

Mr Adejoro Adeogun, Chairman of the Adhoc Committee on Assessment and Status of All Recovered Loots, Moveable and immovable Assets from 2002 to 2020 by agencies of the federal government for Effective and Efficient Management and Utilisation, issued this threat at the resumed hearing of the committee yesterday.

“I need to send this message to Heritage Bank that we are not comedians here and we are not joking here. If Heritage Bank owes Nigeria more than its share capital, we will not hesitate to ask the National Assembly to write to CBN to take over Heritage Bank.

“They cannot be owing more than their share capital and feel too big to respond to invitations from the National Assembly. Clerk, you have to write them, give them till Wednesday next week. That is the last time we are going to give them,” an angry Mr Adeogun barked.

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Banking

MFS Africa Expands into Nigeria With Baxi Acquisition

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Baxi

By Sodeinde Temidayo David

Nigerian fintech startup, Baxi, has been acquired by the Pan-African payments company, MFS Africa, giving way to its business expansion into Nigeria.

The acquisition of the Nigerian firm was sealed after MFS Africa signed an agreement with Capricorn Digital, Baxi’s parent business, for an undisclosed amount.

Founded in 2014, Baxi provides a cash-in or cash-out offering as well as value-added services like account opening, money transfer, bill payment and more, through its network of more than 90,000 agents.

These services are provided through the company’s retail network of agents and merchants in some of Nigeria’s most remote regions, through its BaxiBox POS, BaxiPay, Baxi MPoS Device, and BaxiRIMS products.

Recall that MFS Africa had earlier acquired East African payments management startup Beyonic, a Ugandan fintech startup and this time also, has plans to build Baxi into a key node on its digital payment network, allowing customers to make regional and global payments to and from Nigeria.

The deal, which is subject to approval from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), sees MFS Africa expand into Nigeria for the first time, having had a limited presence thus far due to the country’s small number of mobile wallets.

MFS Africa will also expand Baxi’s proposition for offline SMEs to select markets within MFS Africa’s footprint of 320 million mobile wallets across more than 35 African countries.

Speaking on the acquisition, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of  Capricorn, Mr Degbola Abudu, expressed that the future of the mobile payments landscape in Africa is a game of few, where consolidation is the way forward, and attempting to scale alone would require more capital expenditure and a longer time to execute.

“By teaming up with MFS Africa, and with the strong support of our local commercial banking partners, we can offer more value-added products and services, such as cross-border payments, to support Nigerian SMEs in their growth.”

“We believe that we’ve barely scratched the market’s potential. The deal brings many things that allow us to grow very quickly,” Mr Abudu noted.

MFS Africa intends to build Baxi into a key node on its digital payment network, allowing customers to make cross-border payments to and from Nigeria, similar to what it’s done with mobile money operators across Africa.

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Banking

Nigerian Digital Lender Brass Gets $1.7m to Support SMEs

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Brass

By Ashemiriogwa Emmanuel

Provider of premium banking services for African Small/Medium Enterprises (SMEs), Brass, has raised the sum of $1.7 million in a funding round to strengthen its financial services rendered to local entrepreneurs, traders, and fast-growing businesses across the continent.

Investors who participated in the round included the co-founder of Flutterwave, Mr Olugbenga Agboola, co-founder of Paystack, acquired by Stripe, Mr Ezra Olubi, Hustle Fund, Acuity Ventures, Uncovered Fund, and Ventures Platform.

Brass’ past investors have included Olumide Soyombo of Voltron Capital, Leonard Stiegler, Fola Olatunji-David, Yemi Lawani, and two senior executives from major Nigerian banks.

With the fresh funding, the Nigerian digital bank is set to launch a number of new product categories, which will lead to expanding its credit market presence.

Even as the startup is looking at broadening its customer base, the new financial capacity will facilitate its plans to accelerate its expansion into other African countries such as South Africa and Kenya.

Explaining further on the significance of the fundraising, the Co-Founder and CEO of Brass, Mr Sola Akindolu, who is a former Head of Product at Kudi Bank, noted that the contributions made by these investors, together with their expertise, will not only play a vital role ahead of Brass’s expansion into South Africa and Kenya, but also in the future ambitions outside of the continent.

“The basic needs of Africa’s SMEs are just as significant and unique as those of the customers they serve each day and now more than ever, we need innovative and world-class financial services solutions that meet their expectations.

“These local businesses have supported our economies for decades, forming the backbone of Africa’s success to date, and now is the time to bet on them.”

“At Brass, we’ve made some great strides over the last year in tackling one of Africa’s most critically underserved customer bases but with an estimated $5.1tn credit gap globally, our work is far from over,” he added.

Expressing excitement over the investment, Mrs Elizabeth Yin, General Partner at Hustle Fund, one of the investors, said “We believe Africa’s entrepreneurial ecosystem, and fintech sector is witnessing an unprecedented shift, and Brass is at the forefront of that, supporting local businesses and professionals with banking technology to supercharge their growth. We are excited by their vision, and honoured to be joining them on their journey.”

Founded in July 2020, Brass offers full-stack, commercial-grade banking solutions to SMEs cutting across different business classes, allowing them to gain greater clarity and control over their money operations.

Brass online platform provides a wide range of business banking needs, including credit and payment services, payroll and expense management, Application Programming Interface (API) support, and other essential business services.

Having disbursed over $2 million in credit to business since inception, Brass’s recent solution which is ‘Brass Capital’ helps thousands of businesses scale up with its cash-flow financing design.

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