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Economy

Airtel Targets 36.8% Unbanked Nigerians With SmartCash

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SmartCash 36.8% unbanked Nigerians

By Adedapo Adesanya

The number of unbanked Nigerians may soon go down with the launch of SmartCash Payment Service Bank by Airtel Africa Plc in Lagos on Thursday.

According to reports, about 36.8 per cent of Nigerians who are adults do not have access to financial services. Nigeria boasts more than 200 million people. But with the introduction of SmartCash by Airtel, this is expected to reduce in the coming months and years.

At the unveiling of the product yesterday, the telecommunications firm said its financial services subsidiary will provide secure and reliable financial services across Nigeria.

Recall that in April 2022, Airtel Africa announced that it has been granted a license by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to operate a payment service bank in the country.

With the official rollout, SmartCash targets reaching the 36.8 per cent unbanked adult population in Nigeria as the new PSB will accept deposits from individuals and small businesses, carry out payment and remittance services within Nigeria, and issue debit and prepaid cards among other banking services.

SmartCash will also enable person-to-person payment and transfers from across the world, though the service is currently available at selected retail touchpoints across the country.

Airtel also announced that plans are underway to expand the innovative, technology-driven services to all parts of the country, including the furthest and most remote, in an effort to accelerate financial inclusion for all Nigerians.

“The launch of SmartCash Payment Service Bank gives us fresh impetus at Airtel Africa, to continue growing our footprint in the continent and delivering innovative solutions. In the bank, we have the best of both worlds – a hybrid of commercial bank and mobile financial services – offering last-mile connection to the financially excluded.

“Through it, we want to contribute towards driving financial inclusion in Nigeria, to empower Nigerians while transforming the payment landscape in Nigeria and the rest of Africa,” the group chief executive officer of Airtel Africa, Mr Segun Ogunsanya, said at the event on Thursday.

On his part, the MD/CEO of SmartCash PSB, Mr Muyiwa Ebitanmi, said: “Through SmartCash Payment Services Bank, we aim to bridge the financial divide by providing rural and urban Nigerians access to innovative, highly secured and reliable banking services that are powered by technology and are relevant to their needs.”

Airtel Africa is a leading provider of telecommunications and mobile money services with a presence in 14 countries across Africa. The telco has the third-largest market share in terms of customers in Nigeria.

Adedapo Adesanya is a journalist, polymath, and connoisseur of everything art. When he is not writing, he has his nose buried in one of the many books or articles he has bookmarked or simply listening to good music with a bottle of beer or wine. He supports the greatest club in the world, Manchester United F.C.

Economy

Nigeria’s Total Pension Fund Rises 1.14% to N14.59trn

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Nigeria's total pension fund

By Adedapo Adesanya

Nigeria’s total pension fund assets rose by 1.14 per cent to a record high of N14.59 trillion as of the end of October 2022 compared to the N14.42 trillion recorded in the previous month.

This was contained in the monthly pension fund industry report released by the National Pension Commission (PenCom) for January and October 2022.

While the fund gained N170 billion, it has increased by a whopping N1.16 trillion from the level it was in December last year.

The number of Retirement Savings Account (RSA) registrations jumped to 9.85 million in the review month, up from 9.79 million registrations recorded as of the end of the previous month.

A total of 30,973 RSA holders switched their pension fund administrators in the third quarter of 2022, representing an increase of 109 per cent compared to the 14,821 holders that switched in the previous quarter.

Investments in corporate debt securities by the PFAs rose by 2.64 per cent month-on-month to stand at N1.53 trillion from N1.49 trillion recorded in the previous month.

On the other hand, PFAs reduced their investments in real estate by 4.93 per cent to N218.1 billion as of October 2022 from N229.4 billion recorded as of the beginning of the month.

The RSA fund II still accounted for most of the fund contribution with N6.35 trillion, representing 43.5 per cent of the total pension funds, followed by RSA Fund III with N4.05 trillion, which represents 27.8 per cent of the total assets.

Meanwhile, existing schemes accounted for 9.9 per cent of the total funds, increasing by N2.41 billion in October 2022 to stand at N1.44 trillion, while the CPFAs accounted for 10.2 per cent of the total funds, standing at N1.48 trillion as of the review period.

Investments in the local stock market dropped by N40.41 billion to stand at N828.17 billion as of the end of October 2022. This happened amid a heavy inflation rate and a hike in interest rates.

On the other hand, investments in federal government debt securities continue to increase as the CBN raised the monetary policy rate to 16.5 per cent in its last MPC meeting, which translates to higher returns in the fixed-income market.

Specifically, total allocation in FGN securities by the pension industry stood at N9.23 trillion as of the review month, accounting for 63.2 per cent of the total funds. Further checks showed that a sum of N8.84 trillion is being invested in federal government bonds.

The number of registered PFAs reduced from 22 to 20 as a result of some mergers and acquisitions as the PFAs tried to meet the required minimum regulatory capital of N5 billion, which was increased from N1 billion by the Nigerian Pension Commission.

Additionally, the total pension fund gained N156.74 billion in Q3 2022, to stand at N14.42 trillion as of September 2022.

Meanwhile, First Guarantee Pension led the list of best-performing PFAs in Q3 2022 with an average ROI of 2.38 per cent, followed by Premium Pensions and Veritas Glanvills Pensions with 2.06 per cent and 2.01 per cent average returns, respectively.

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Economy

Naira Falls at Official Market, Gains at Unofficial FX Windows

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Official FX Market

By Adedapo Adesanya

The Naira continued its roller coaster ride at the foreign exchange (FX) segments in Nigeria on Thursday, depreciating at the Investors and Exporters (I&E) window and appreciating at the Peer-to-Peer (P2P) and parallel market windows.

In the official market, the Naira lost 53 Kobo or 0.12 per cent against the United States Dollar to settle at N445.83/$1 compared with the previous day’s value of N445.83/$1.

The local currency reported the fall despite the value of FX transactions going down during the session. Data showed that the turnover for the day stood at $99.50 million, 43.9 per cent or $77.94 million lower than the $177.44 million published on Wednesday.

In the interbank segment of the forex market, the domestic currency closed flat against the Pound Sterling and the Euro yesterday at N534.67/£1 and N461.79/€1, respectively.

However, in the P2P window, the Nigerian currency appreciated against its American counterpart by N4 to close at N762/$1, in contrast to the N766/$1 it was traded on Wednesday.

In the black market, which is an unofficial FX segment just like the P2P, the Nigerian Naira appreciated against the US Dollar yesterday by N5 to trade at N745/$1.

As for the digital currency market, there was a negative movement across the 10 tokens tracked by Business Post, with Dogecoin (DOGE) recording the heaviest fall, 4.1 per cent, to sell at $0.0990.

Solana (SOL) recorded a 2.9 per cent slump to trade at $13.56, Ripple (XRP) dipped by 2.6 per cent to quote at $0.3892, and Binance Coin (BNB) slid by 2.5 per cent to settle at $288.59.

Further, Bitcoin (BTC) fell by 0.9 per cent to close at $16,941.89, Cardano (ADA) depreciated by 0.7 per cent to finish at $0.3135, Ethereum (ETH) saw a 0.6 per cent depreciation to trade at $1,273.75, and Litecoin (LTC) went down by 0.4 per cent to close at $76.50.

However, the value of the US Dollar Tether (USDT) and the Binance USD (BUSD) remained unchanged during the session at $1.00 each.

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Economy

Oil Trades Mixed on Weaker Dollar, China COVID-19 Curbs

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Worsening Oil Demand

By Adedapo Adesanya

The crude oil market traded mixed on Thursday, retreating from an early rally built on weakness in the US Dollar and hopes for improved fuel demand in China after COVID-19 curbs were eased in two major Chinese cities.

Brent crude futures settled 9 cents lower at $86.88 a barrel, while the US West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures settled 67 cents higher at $81.22 a barrel.

The shift in China’s zero-COVID strategy raised optimism about a recovery in oil demand there. The cities of Guangzhou and Chongqing announced an easing of COVID curbs on Wednesday.

Demonstrations in the world’s largest oil importer, which spread over the weekend to Shanghai, Beijing and elsewhere, have become a show of public defiance unprecedented since President Xi Jinping came to power in 2012.

The southwestern city of Chongqing will allow close contact with people with COVID-19 who meet certain conditions to quarantine at home.

Guangzhou, near Hong Kong, also announced an easing of curbs, but with record numbers of cases nationwide, there seems little prospect of a major reversal in the zero-COVID policy.

Oil was however supported through most of Thursday’s session by a slump in the dollar index to its lowest since August after the US Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell said rate hikes could slow this month.

A weaker dollar makes oil cheaper for other currency holders.

The greenback dipped to 16-week lows against a basket of major currencies on Thursday after data showed that US consumer spending increased solidly in October while inflation moderated, adding to expectations that the Federal Reserve is closer to reaching a peak in interest rates.

Mr Powell said on Wednesday that it was time to slow rate hikes, noting that slowing down at this point is a good way to balance the risks.

The prospect of a lower price cap on Russian oil is also lending support, analysts said. European Union governments tentatively agreed on Thursday on a $60 cap on Russian sea-borne oil.

Meanwhile, the market will await what the meeting of the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and allies, OPEC+, will bring come December 4, although a policy change is seen as unlikely.

“OPEC+ would rather sit on the bench at this time and assess the outcome of what happens on Monday,” an unnamed source told the news agency, Reuters, this week.

OPEC also made a meeting of its ministers planned for Saturday a virtual gathering, and OPEC+ cancelled a meeting of oil market experts, the Joint Technical Committee, that had been scheduled for Friday.

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