By Adedapo Adesanya
The Nigerian financial technology space, like the sky, is wide enough to accommodate many players as the ways of doing financial transactions have been disrupted by digital innovations.
Contrary to what many might believe, the Nigerian government saw the possibility of this and in 2007, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) launched the Payment Systems Vision 2020 (PSV 2020). This singular vision from the apex bank can be viewed as the catalyst that spurred the need for fintech companies to start multiplying over the years.
This CBN’s activity of 2007 can be considered as the birth of another era. The PSV 2020 was the first time the CBN set forward a reasonable policy for a future cashless society.
Prior to this, there were technology companies in existence but then, they were not able to sit at the table with traditional banks, who had the largest share of the buffet. But within the space of 15 years, rapid growth has changed the narrative.
Now, the fintech space in Nigeria is very competitive as there are countless numbers of fintech startups/companies competing for market share. This means even the traditional banks are being forced to innovate to guarantee their survival amidst the spread of fintech startups or digital banks.
As at the past decade, the fintech industry was somewhat a $20 billion market but the estimated size as at now is $128 billion and this is expected to rapidly expand with an annual average of 24 per cent and could top $310 million in 2022.
In Nigeria, there are an estimated 250 fintech companies with their skin in the game, all jousting for offer services from agriculture technology to savings and investments to crowdfunding to mobile payments to cryptocurrencies.
The diversification of these offerings is making it possible to align with places where traditional banks may not be located and are pushing to achieve the CBN’s goal of financial inclusion. The CBN has said that Nigeria will attain 95 per cent financial inclusion by 2024 and one cannot but wonder the role which fintechs will play to ensure this.
Business Post has streamlined the long list of players to 10 game-changers who are driving digital transactions and offering solutions that will not only close the gap in banking but are revolutionising how Nigerians pay for services, save and borrow money, make international payments, and even improve financial relationships among companies and even countries.
Interswitch is one of the early players. It burst into the scene in 2002 and was founded by Mitchell Elegbe as a transaction switching and electronic payments processing company. Today, Interswitch’s technology processes over 500 million transactions a month while its Verve payment card is the largest domestic debit card scheme in the country and has expanded outside of Africa.
Interswitch created the first electronic switch whereby Nigerian financial institutions could communicate and thereby operate ATMs and point of sales operations. The company now provides much of the transaction systems for Nigeria’s online banking system.
In 2019, Interswitch confirmed a $1 billion evaluation after Visa, an American multinational financial services corporation invested $200 million for 20 per cent of its stake.
As an umbrella fintech, Flutterwave founded by Iyin Aboyeji in 2014, completes payment services from more than 68 online payment gateways in Nigeria. It allows clients to tap into its application programming interface (API) and work with Flutterwave developers to customize payments applications.
The company majorly offers business to business (B2B) payments services for companies operating in Africa to pay other companies on the continent and abroad. Some of its customers include Uber, Booking.com and Jumia.
In 2019, Flutterwave processed 107 million transactions worth $5.4 billion, according to data on its website.
Founded by Tayo Oviosu and Jay Alabraba, the mobile payment company enables people to digitally send and receive money and creating simple financial access for everyone. In Nigeria, Paga has over 9 million customers and 17,000 agents.
It was initially launched in Nigeria to profit from the buildup of cash money in the financial industry and to execute financial services for all residents in Africa. However, it was one of the early birds to tap into mobile banking with customers able to access it multitudes of service offerings by dialling *242#.
PiggyVest is an online savings platform that empowers savers to put away funds that they would prefer not to withdraw effectively. Founded by Somto Ifezue, Odunayo Eweniyi, and Joshua Chibueze, the fintech as at 2019 has over one million users and has saved up to $80 million.
PiggyVest doesn’t just allow users to save, it also allows them to invest their money while offering a return within a period. It offers between 10 – 15.5 per cent on savings. Investments can get up to 22 per cent returns in one year.
One key feature that has found home with users is the SafeLock feature which was modelled after treasury bill transactions, where a buyer is paid a fixed percentage of their capital depending on how long you permit the government to hold your money.
Business Post understands that the average amount in a Piggyvest SafeLock is about N500,000 and is typically locked for between 4 and 6 months.
Founded by Ezra Olubi and Shola Akinlade, Paystack offers payment solutions to businesses in Nigeria. They are one of the leading online payment gateways in the county. The fintech company, which was founded in 2015, has quickly become one of the favourite payment solutions for tech startups in the country.
Its last round of funding came in August 2018 when they raised $10.2 million in Series A funding led by Stripe and had previously recorded four previous fundings in seeds and non-equity assurance.
Also, one of the early players, it was launched in 2003 as a multi-application, multi-network and multi-channel electronic payment platform that supports every significant network; including AMEX, VISA and MasterCard.
eTranzact is one of the Fintech companies in Nigeria designed as a credible option in contrast to all transaction which is either cash or cheque based. The platform capacity is with the end goal that any arrangement driven by customer payment can be automated on the platform.
eTranzact as a Switch processes payment requests from various channels – Web, ATM, POS, mobile-utilizing automated procedures.
The switching platform validates transaction requests subsequent to running security checks on the payment cards.
Nigerians use it to pay at cinemas, event shows, and for other payments. The company has tech solutions for players in various sectors of the economy including banking, education, the financial market, travel and transportation, telecommunications, and public administrations.
Paylater (Now known as Carbon)
Carbon is a mobile-only digital bank founded by Chijioke and Ngozi Dozie. It provides innovative financial services to the financially underserved. It was formerly known as Paylater. Carbon offers bill payments, fund transfer, and savings products, in addition to loans.
They offer instant loans to Nigerians without collateral. With a very competitive interest rate, they have dominated the fintech sector. The app is used by over 1 million people to secure loans and other financial solutions.
In 2019, they secured $5m debt investment from New York and Nairobi-based debt platform Lendable. Mostly known for giving instant loan, they have since diversified into many areas such as mobile top-ups, investment and digital banking.
Business Post reported earlier this year that as at last year, the fintech had disbursed over 975,000 loans. This boosted its revenue as it recorded over 25,000 loans top-up, bring about a N6.3 billion in revenue.
Remita made the cut because of its affiliations to small and medium scale enterprises, multinationals, state governments, government agencies, NGOs, schools and educational institutions alongside Individuals to receive and make payments electronically.
Developed by SystemSpecs, Remita processes over two million salaries per month for Nigerian companies. In 2016, Remita processed N1.36 trillion for the Nigerian government when it consolidated all federal ministry and agency accounts under the Treasury Single Account (TSA) scheme.
The company started out as a developer and reseller of human resources and accounting tools. It eventually developed HumanManager, an HR and payroll system for corporate environments. Its payroll system has since expanded to Ghana, Benin Republic, Equatorial Guinea, Sierra Leone, Zimbabwe and South Sudan.
Kuda is the first digital-only bank in Nigeria with a standalone license. Unlike others, it is not fintech that has a mobile wallet or a mobile app affiliated with an existing bank, it is a bank on its own.
Based in Lagos and London, following its banking license from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), this gives it a status different from other fintech startups.
Part of its offerings includes: checking accounts with no monthly fees, a free debit card, savings and peer-to-peer (P2P) payments options on its platform.
Customers can open an account within five minutes and will get an account number and can request a physical debit card afterwards.
Considered the direct rival of PiggyVest, it was founded by Edward Popoola and Razak Ahmed. The fintech allows users to save for long-term goals including home, vacation, family, emergency, education, business, retirement, among others.
A user can invest in Nigeria’s money market via mutual funds. The platforms list funds like Afrivest Plutus Fund, United Capital Money Market Fund, Meristem Money Market Fund and more. Users can access Dollar mutual funds.
Cowrywise also offers between 10 – 15 per cent on savings while Mutual funds on its platform can get up to 20 per cent per annum.
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