The Transformative Benefits of Nigeria Going Cardless

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By Uzoma Dozie

Thanks to changing lifestyles and the ubiquity of mobile phones, the number of people across Nigeria using mobile banking is rising exponentially. This is creating the opportunity to turn my vision of a cardless Nigeria into a reality.

By 2020 there will be 200 million smartphone connections in Africa (Guardian). In Nigeria, there are more mobile phone lines than adults, 16 smartphones are sold every minute and 24% of people already have access to mobile broadband (GSMA).

Mobile technology, mobile payments, and therefore cardless payments are already becoming a way of life for millions of people. Digital banking technology is moving beyond payments, as it is now possible to open a bank account, create savings plans and conduct other transactions using a mobile device.

Traditionally, the progression is as follows: cash-using customers become cashless as they switch to using cards, and then become cardless as they switch to using their mobile for all financial transactions. However, technological developments – in particular the growing use of mobile – have presented Nigeria with a unique opportunity to leapfrog straight from cash to cardless.

There are however great challenges to overcome. In Nigeria, 80% of payments are still made in cash. Diamond Bank is at the forefront of modernising payments with 89% of our transactions now cashless – up from 67% in July 2016. Steps are being taken in the right direction, and technological innovation can really propel this transformation forward.

Going cardless is well suited to the realities of Nigeria’s economy and geography, with over 50% of the population living in rural communities (World Bank) where infrastructure is often minimal. Customers are more likely to have access to a mobile phone than proximity to a physical branch, meaning electronic payments are better suited to the population.

The leap to a cardless society will have life-changing ramifications for rural Nigerians. For example, in Diamond Bank’s partnership with MTN, over nine million customers have opened a bank account on their mobile phone simply by dialling a shortcode. Opening an account no longer requires a branch – it only needs a phone signal, which covers 99% of Nigeria.

Cardless banking will also enable these communities to become more economically active. With access to finance at their fingertips, mobile banking will allow individuals and SMEs to unlock their full financial potential. It will promote financial inclusion of a population that are typically under-banked or completely unbanked. It will also act as a springboard for them undertaking further financial transactions, boosting financial literacy.

Using cardlesss technology to reach remote communities should be a key priority for Nigeria’s banks. Doing so is a win-win situation; not only does it ensure more people are banked, it ensures more people are part of the formal economy. This will create jobs and revenue – necessary for the development of healthcare, education and some other key national infrastructure.

Going cardless will also give people access to financial products on-the-go. This improves the customer experience, as in a cardless economy people can make a range of payments anywhere and on a 24/7 basis, spending less time at ATMs and branches and more time generating commerce or with families.

Further down the line, you might ask: what comes after Nigeria goes cardless? We see the future of financial services as increasingly digitalised. Touch fingerprint recognition, as used on the Diamond Mobile app, and developments with retina technology have the potential to make banking easier for customers. Fraud could even be pre-empted, as the technology and service becomes more personalised to the individual or business. We are even exploring the potential role of virtual reality in our branches.

Nigeria is becoming more mobile and digital. It is now up to the financial services sector to respond to this technological revolution and challenge the norms to make way for a truly cardless future. Banks, supported by the Fintech industry, have the capacity to drive this enormous change.

I believe a cardless economy can transform Nigeria from the bottom up.

Uzoma Dozie is the CEO of Diamond Bank Plc

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