Tayo Oviosu is the Chief Executive Officer of Paga, a mobile payments company that allows universal access to financial services for Nigerians, he spoke with our staff reporter, Seye Joseph on various issues in the fintech space in Nigeria
What does Paga mean?
Paga is a Spanish word that means to pay. When the company started, we did not originally intend that Paga will be the name of the company, it was only initiated as code name. When you are working on a project, you give it project name, so we decided to call the Project Paga. Before then, me and my friends have tried different names but could not settle for any of the name, so we were looking for a name that could become a verb. We later came up with Paga and it sounded brilliant.
When did the company start?
Paga started in April 2009, we have been in operation for about four years. The numbers of feats we have achieved has been on the numbers of different levels. The first fundamental is around the life we have helped. Directly, Paga has over 200 people working on Paga and indirectly, we have created about 16,000 jobs. This is through our network of agents, we have about 12, 600 agents in Nigeria and they are in all states of the country.
Why did you start Paga?
I started Paga from my own frustration; I was carrying cash all around with me. I had different banks accounts at that time and I said to myself that there is probably different ways of doing this thing and also realized that a lot of people are going through same challenge. So I said to myself that how can country like Nigeria achieve a long term goal if you don’t provide access to finance and if you don’t solved payment issues and that is how I got started. I said this is where I’m going to pour my life. My goal is to build a country that will grow over two hundred years. I said to my team that if Cocacola sells over 2 million Coke all around the world, even to the remote villages, Paga must be moved to all part of Nigeria and to the entire Africa. I’m glad that Paga’s story inspires other people.
What are the essential services Paga provide
You can go to the agents and withdraw money from the bank, send money, deposit money, buy airtime, pay for electricity. We have been making life possible for a lot of people, things that are ordinarily difficult for people to accomplish; people can use Paga to accomplish it. They can use Paga as agent or by themselves. They can use the USSD code which is *242# on all mobile phones or on Paga for android.
How many people have used Paga platform for transaction?
The impact is really around the jobs we have created in Nigeria, we are nearing about 7 million users on the platform and over a million active users within the 90 days period and I don’t think if any financial institution has such users in any of their platforms.
How is Paga deploying technology to achieve these milestones?
We are developing technology ourselves and using it to provide good services. When we launched, people could call Paga and do their transactions, but we took it out because people were not used to it, you could use Short Messages Services. Paga can work on any channel because of the way we build the system; it is an enterprise great system that has a front end that takes transactions from any type of channels and also allows us to easily add channels.
Over time, from the technology perspective, we expect to continue to scale the way to use Paga from the end user perspective without really impacting us from the back end. On the other side of the back end, we expect to be growing on doing things such as using block chain and taking on new technology that comes as well as the bank end.
What is your take on Mobile Money in Nigeria
Nigerians are too impatient, I tell people that it is only four years that this has been going on and in that four years, Paga cannot send SMS to the largest network in the country, the day we did it, it took us half a day. We have two years of different issues. We still have a long way to go and the progress from Paga show the potential.
In the survey we did recently, it shows that 42% of Nigerians know paga and what it does, it tells you that we have good opportunity in that and for people to build on. People talk about Kenya, mobile money has been in Kenya for many years, so people can’t compare four years with ten years. Kenya is like a size of Lagos. The size of Nigeria is what people don’t factor into consideration most times.
Are you satisfied with government’s regulations and policies in fintech space?
We have to commend the CBN, the banking and payment division under Mr. Fatokun and Jimoh Musa. They have gotten the regulatory framework right. I think mobile money should be something that is by banks and third party regulated, and fully regulated by central bank especially in country like Nigeria. The reason is because when we have regulatory overlapping in the country, things don’t work. There should be a firm clear regulator that regulates all the companies. Things can get right by opening up builder of agents network to every mobile operator and have opportunities to partner with financial institutions to achieve that.
They take time to understand what happen in the other markets; they allow people to use system such as this to earn interest. So if I have my money in my mobile money account, why can’t I earn interest from it? We have seen it worked in Ghana, Kenya, India and few other places across the world. We see mobile money as a way people can connect with financial ecosystem of Nigeria. Currently in Nigeria, we only about 26 million banked people out of the 180 million so we still have a long way to go.
Advice for Government
Technology is going to play in different value chains, government should first watch and see how things go before regulating but what they should do is to have regulation, they should enforce it because sitting as a company that is regulated, it is expensive to maintain and to comply to regulation, so the most frustrating thing is to be complying in regulation and see people are not and flouting the law, they should be punished for flouting the law because there is a reason why there is a law and regulation. Central banks and regulators should encourage innovations.
Sharing of API
Our API in Paga is free where people can leverage on Paga and we have interesting cases like that, we have competitors. It is good for collaboration in many ways to provide our services to other people. The idea that one person can do everything at a time will not be good. I really believe in focus. There is no reason why you have to do everything alone.
Paga and mentoring
I have a group of mentors that I spend time with on each idea, by the time I tell them that this is what I want to do, they look at it, examine it, for all of them it clicks. I have gone through with them on different ideas that I was thinking about. They are people that I respect their views, that give me a desire and responsibility to also give back. Irrespective of how busy I am, I make time for people as well. My own personal mission is to help change the face of the continent by starting in Nigeria. Not necessarily creating the ideas but helping people achieving their ideas.
Paga in 5 Years
That in the next five years, majority of Nigerians, when they want to send money to someone, they will just Paga it and we want to be the defactor money transfer service in Nigeria. We are going to provide financial service to the mass market in Nigeria.