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.
Nigeria Lifts Suspension on New SIM Card Registration
By Adedapo Adesanya
The suspension earlier place on the activation/registration of new SIM card in the country has been lifted by the Nigerian government.
The lifting of the suspension was announced by the federal government on Thursday. However, it stressed that the registration must be in compliance with guidelines from Monday, April 19, 2021.
The central government suspended the activation of new SIM cards by GSM network providers in December 2020 as it embarked on an audit of the Subscriber Registration Database.
On Thursday, the Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy, which announced the lifting of the embargo in a statement signed by Mr Femi Ademiluyi, a technical aide to the Minister, Mr Isa Pantami, said the latest development was in line with the Nigerian Communications Act (NCA) 2003, Section 23(a), which specifies the role of the Minister to include the formulation, determination and monitoring of the general policy for the communications sector.
On the Subscriber Registration Database, Mr Pantami, on behalf of President Muhammadu Buhari, coordinated and led the development of a Revised National Digital Identity Policy for SIM Card Registration in collaboration with all other stakeholders.
An earlier policy was approved on February 4, 2020, while the Revised Policy was developed in early March 2021.
In the statement, Mr Adeluyi noted that final amendments to the revised policy based on the directives of Mr President to make the use of NIN mandatory for all SIM registration were completed On Tuesday, April 14, 2021.
Prior to that, the key aspects of the draft Policy were presented to the stakeholders at the 4th Review Meeting of the Ministerial Task Force (MTF) on the NIN-SIM registration which held on Friday, February 26, 2021.
Key stakeholders and members of the MTF who joined the Honourable Minister at the meeting included the EVC/CEO of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), DG/CEO of the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC), DG/CEO of the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), Comptroller-General of the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) and the Chairman of the Association of Licensed Telecommunications Operators of Nigeria (ALTON). Others included the NCC Executive Commissioners for Technical Services and Stakeholder Management, MD/CEOs of MTN, Airtel, EMTS (9Mobile), NTEL, Spectranet and SMILE, as well as the COO of Glo.
The statement also noted that Mr Pantami also presented the revised policy to Mr Buhari on Friday, March 26 2021.
“Mr President made further improvements and endorsed it for implementation. Mr President also commended the Honourable Minister for his commitment in carrying out the responsibility of developing the digital economy sector, including championing the NIN-SIM registration process.
“The policy includes guidelines on new sIM acquisition and activation, SIM replacement, new SIM activation for corporates and Internet-of-Things/Machine-to-Machine (IoT/M2M), amongst others. The possession of a national identity number will be a prerequisite for each of these categories.
“For the corporate registration, institutions will be required to appoint a Telecoms Master (at the minimum of an executive management level) to provide the operational primary NIN representation. The telecoms master will also be responsible for ensuring that the users provide their NINs to serve as a secondary NIN”, the statement read.
“For IoT/M2M activations, SIM security protocols would be implemented on the SIM profile to ensure that SIMs can only be used for point to point data services specific to the URL they are working with. All other services will be barred.
“In the event that a data-only service is particular to individual use (eg home car tracking, WiFi, MiFi services, etc), the standard NIN registration process will be followed. A telecoms master will also be required for Corporates requiring IoT/M2M activations. The full details of the requirements for each class of service will be made available in due course.
“Significant progress has been made in the NIN registration process across the country. Nonetheless, the federal government is committed to supporting all Nigerians and legal residents to obtain a NIN.
“The biometric verification process has been slower than anticipated, owing largely to the non-adherence of many previous SIM biometric capture processes to the NIMC standards. The revised policy will ensure that operators conform to the required standards for biometric capture.
“The guidelines in the policy have been painstakingly developed and while they are thorough, it should be noted that they have been developed that way in National interest since the SIM is essentially a national resource. Citizens and legal residents are encouraged to bear with the government as the process has been developed in the best interest of the country”, he said.
“The Minister has also directed NCC and NIMC to ensure that the provisions of the policy are strictly followed by all operators and subscribers.
“Dr Pantami wishes to thank Nigerians for their patience and compliance with the federal government’s directive on the NIN-SIM registration exercise”.
“He reiterated government’s commitment to continue taking decisions aimed at easing the pains of the citizens with regard to issues related to NIN and SIM registration”, the statement concluded.
Osinbajo to Flag-Off Digital Empowerment Scheme in Ogun
By Adedapo Adesanya
The Vice President of Nigeria, Mr Yemi Osinbajo, will on Thursday join the Ogun State Governor, Mr Dapo Abiodun, to flag off a digital empowerment scheme in Abeokuta, the state capital.
Tagged Ogun State Digital Economic Empowerment Project, it is a plan of the state government, being organized by the Bureau of Information Technology in conjunction with 21st Century Technologies.
In a press release signed by the Chief Press Secretary (CPS) to the Governor, Mr Kunle Somore, the Director of Information Technology in the Bureau, Mrs Olatundun Adekunte, was quoted as saying that the event will hold at the Ogun Tech-Hub on Kobape Road, Abeokuta at 11 a.m.
According to the release, the project is aimed at providing internet access to indigenes and residents of the state and its environs in order to enhance the lives and businesses of the people.
The release further stated that other special guests such as the Governor, Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Mr Godwin Emefiele; Ministers, Stakeholders, Royal Fathers will grace the occasion.
It added that the project would enable the people to meet up with the best global practices in the present digital era.
The President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration has reiterated its effort to drive technological growth across the country.
Twitter Snubs Nigeria, Opens First African Office in Ghana
By Adedapo Adesanya
Twitter has snubbed Africa’s largest economy, Nigeria, and has picked its West African neighbours, Ghana, as the preferred location for its first African office.
This was disclosed in a statement on Monday by the social media giant. The opening of its office in Ghana is part of efforts to make inroads in some of the world’s fastest-growing markets.
In the statement, the company noted, “We must be more immersed in the rich and vibrant communities that drive the conversations taking place every day across the African continent.”
The move has come as a surprise to many as they had pegged South Africa or Nigeria as the first choice but according to Twitter, the decision to kick off its African expansion with Ghana stems from the country’s dealings with the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) and its openness towards the internet.
“As a champion for democracy, Ghana is a supporter of free speech, online freedom, and the Open Internet, of which Twitter is also an advocate.
“Furthermore, Ghana’s recent appointment to host The Secretariat of the African Continental Free Trade Area aligns with our overarching goal to establish a presence in the region that will support our efforts to improve and tailor our service across Africa,” the statement read.
Twitter’s move was welcomed in Ghana by the country’s president, Mr Nana Akufo-Addo, who tweeted, “This is the start of a beautiful partnership between Twitter and Ghana,” adding that its presence was crucial for the development of Ghana’s tech sector.
Twitter trails its rival, Facebook Incorporated, which opened its first African office in Johannesburg in 2015 and plans to open a second in Lagos this year. The firm struck a deal with African telecom majors in 2020 to build one of the world’s largest subsea cable networks.
Africa is under-tapped terrain for technology firms, with internet use per population at around 39 per cent against a world average of 59 per cent according to web analytics firm StatCounter, but that number grows every year thanks to expanding mobile broadband networks and affordable phones.
StatCounter figures show that around 11.8 per cent have Twitter.
The news comes almost eighteen months after Twitter Chief Executive Officer, Mr Jack Dorsey with his Twitter team visited the continent for the first time in November 2019.
During his tour on the continent, he visited Ghana, Ethiopia, Nigeria, and South Africa, where he met with different industry leaders and tech stakeholders on matters concerning Twitter and bitcoin.
There are expectations that social media will grow on the continent in the next couple of years.
NITDA Begins Challenge to Drive Vibrant Digital Economy
By Adedapo Adesanya
The National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), as part of the United Nations’ World Creativity and Innovation Day 2021, has opened the application for an Innovation Challenge to support Nigeria’s plans to become a 21st-century digital economy.
Themed Inspiring Creativity and Innovation in the Nigerian Digital Economy, the competition hopes to harness innovative and impactful solutions for the development of a vibrant digital economy.
The World Creativity and Innovation Day is a global United Nations day celebrated to raise awareness around the importance of creativity and innovation in problem-solving with respect to advancing the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) also known as the “global goals”.
The agency is, therefore, calling on all Nigerians with innovative and impactful working solutions to make entries for the Innovation Challenge.
Solutions will be evaluated based on job and wealth creation potential, originality, marketability, scalability and inclusiveness. Successful entries will have an opportunity to present their solutions to the tech industry stakeholders.
The event is scheduled as follows:
Submission of entries via http://bit.ly/NITDA21WCID
The portal will be opened from April 12, 2021, till April 17, 2021.
Entries will be evaluated and assessed by April 19, 2021, and successful ones will be required to do a 5-minute live pitch on Wednesday, April 21, 2021.
National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) was created in April 2001 to implement the Nigerian Information Technology Policy and coordinate general IT development in the country.
The Act (National Information Technology Development Act (2007) mandate is 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.
The role of NITDA is to develop, regulate and advise on Information technology in the country through regulatory standards, guidelines, and policies. Additionally, NITDA is the clearinghouse for all IT projects and infrastructural development in the country.
It is the prime agency for e-government implementation, Internet governance and general IT development in Nigeria. NITDA is poised to actualize its mammoth mandate through strategic and inclusive stakeholder management, local and international partnership and efficient utilization of resources in the interest of Nigeria.
Sparkle Launches Service for Small Businesses
By Adedapo Adesanya
Sparkle, a mobile-first digital ecosystem providing financial, lifestyle and business support services to Nigerians across the globe, has launched Sparkle Business to help small and medium business enterprises access the much-needed products and services to grow their enterprises digitally.
Sparkle Business features include inventory and invoice Management which will help businesses maintain control over their payment requests and overall operations.
It also has a payment gateway service to manage single and bulk payments more seamlessly, while the tax advisory/calculations will help evaluate business turnover and calculate tax filings.
Payroll/Employee Management, on its part, will manage employee payments and benefits effectively without error or human interventions, and much more.
The platform has been designed with mobile-first, digital native entrepreneurs and companies in mind, who need to run all aspects of their enterprises, at the touch of a button.
Since its launch in 2020, Sparkle has grown a community built on trust and transparency, helping thousands to experience a new, easy, stress-free approach to organising their finances.
In Nigeria, SMEs contribute 48 per cent of national GDP, account for 96 per cent of businesses and 84 per cent of employment, however, they often face challenges with making strategic decisions due to a lack of data for key insights into important issues that affect their business.
Built by the Sparkle team to support Nigeria’s millions of SMEs as they scale, Sparkle Business will bring all essential business transactions onto one safe and simple to use platform.
Commenting on the launch, Mr Uzoma Dozie, founder and CEO of Sparkle, said, “SMEs are the largest employer of labour in Nigeria but are lacking access to basic services that will help their businesses.
“We have introduced Sparkle Business as a one-stop-shop, to help individuals to launch their businesses digitally, while meeting existing SMEs’ pain points, and allowing them to pivot to the next level of success.
“We have been afforded this opportunity due to our extensive research and access to data, which allows us to know what exactly SMEs are looking for. We are truly excited about the initial results from the beta test and are looking forward to impactful results for small businesses in the near future.”
Mr Uzoma, having worked in retail banking for over 20 years, has unrivalled experience when it comes to building banking products for businesses adds, “Sparkle was built to allow individuals to be free; Sparkle Business is an extension of this so that business owners can reduce friction when it comes to important administrative transactions.
“We are excited to roll out our new products and services, and to continue to grow an increasingly busy and entrepreneurial group of business owners who don’t want to accept that banking halls and physical paper trails are the only means of conducting business in Nigeria”.
Sparkle Business is live now and can be accessed by current Sparkle users who have registered businesses in Nigeria. To register, individuals will need to have a personal Sparkle account, Tax Identification Number (TIN) and an email address connected to their TIN.
MasterCard Enables SBI Card Pay Feature
By Modupe Gbadeyanka
Customers of MasterCard will now be able to use a payment feature based on Host Card Emulation (HCE) technology called SBI Card Pay.
This feature allows customers to create a virtual version of their physical SBI Credit Card on their mobile phones and then tap their phone at Near-Field-Communication (NFC) enabled Point of Sale (POS) terminals to make payments at merchants.
However, to use this service, customers with an Android smartphone (housing Android OS KitKat version 4.4 and above) have to register their SBI Credit Card on the SBI Card mobile application.
This creates a virtual card on their mobile phone for their physical credit card. Thereafter, customers can make payments at merchants simply by unlocking their mobile phone screen using fingerprints, the screen lock facility or an MPIN and tapping the phone at a Near-Field-Communication (NFC) POS.
It was explained that this simple ‘tap and pay’ contactless process makes the card payments swifter, hygienic and more seamless for customers.
Business Post reports that the SBI Card Pay is powered by Comviva’s HCE Module from its mobiquity® banking suite, which provides a comprehensive solution to banks and financial institutions to not only build, manage and control the omnichannel experiences, but also continuously iterate and engage the consumers, through instant configuration capability, marketing automation, personalization, and experimentation engine..
“Safety and security combined with quick and convenient payment experience is at the core of growing India’s digital economy.
“Mastercard is happy to partner with SBI Card and Comviva to bring the benefits of ‘Tap and Pay’ contactless payments to Indian consumers.
“These ‘tap and pay’ payments are secure, seamless, and more importantly are safe in time of COVID-19 pandemic.
“Mastercard is confident that the service will offer a better mobile payment experience for SBI Card cardholders. It will also encourage contactless payments, especially in a time when people prefer touch-free transactions in a safe and secure manner.
“With this new launch, Mastercard is strengthening the long-standing partnership with India’s largest pure-play credit card issuer,” the Chief Operating Officer, South Asia at Mastercard, Vikas Varma, commented on the launch.
On his part, the CEO of SBI Card, Mr Rama Mohan Rao Amara, stated that, “SBI Card Pay has redefined the payment experience for our customers.
“The ’Tap and Pay’ contactless experience is not just fast, secure and convenient, but also very relevant in COVID era from a safety perspective as customers simply need to tap their mobile phone on NFC enabled POS terminals to make payments.
“We are happy to extend SBI Card Pay feature on the Mastercard platform too. We believe that contactless payments will continue to play a key role in the country’s digital payments drive and as the supporting infrastructure increases countrywide, adoption is bound to accelerate significantly.”
The COO/EVP, Digital Financial Solutions at Comviva, Srinivas Nidugondi, stated that, “Globally, HCE and tokenization are making card payments frictionless and secure, and we believe that in India also they will redefine the card payment experience and bring it on par with the developed world.
“With the growing NFC POS infrastructure in India and mobile phones becoming de facto wallets for consumers, we expect ‘tap and pay’ services like SBI Card Pay are the future of card payments in India. The inclusion of SBI Cards on Mastercard platform will help to grow the usage of this service in the country.”
The blockchain brings new financing options to the business market. For example, Bitcoin Cash casino has adapted to only using cryptocurrency. This way, it makes it easier for their customers to deposit and withdraw in a BCH casino. Entrepreneurs have taken note of this and are looking to invest more in crypto than in fiat markets.
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