Retailers are a critical part of the Nigerian economy. According to the National Bureau of Statistics [NBS], retailers contribute 33 per cent to the total Gross Domestic Product [GDP] of the country. They make up 45 per cent of total employment in Nigeria. With this figure, retailers cannot be ignored. But they are not getting a fair treatment.
The services available to small businesses have not been best suited. Retailers face a major challenge that can cripple any business. Retailers lack adequate funding. Retailers have poor access to the market. Retailers do not have business training.
These challenges are well documented by the founder and CEO of Sparkle Bank, Uzoma Dozie, as he had spent the last 20 years building the retail arm of the defunct Diamond Bank. From his experience, Dozie has a clear understanding of the retail space. He knows what the retailers need. He knows how to feed that need.
For four years, from 2014 to 2018, while at Diamond Bank, Dozie focused on increasing the app adoption rates of that bank from 206,000 to 3.3 million. Simultaneously, he concentrated on growing the bank’s retail business and he did attract 18 million customers who are mainly in the micro, small and medium enterprise [MSME] category.
Armed with this experience, therefore, Sparkle has identified inadequate funding, poor access to market and network as well as lack of business training as the primary challenges facing the retail sector. That is why the new banking platform will also provide access to mentorship and development for the retailers.
According to Dozie, there “is a significant gap in the market to incubate and roll out a new approach to service the retailers”. He said the retailers need to scale. “They need a financial and business service partner, not another finance platform. This is where we stand out from all others”.
He would not stop at this level. He would pioneer diversity and financial inclusion and, to achieve this, the Sparkle team has identified women as a key demographic that need keen attention. Sparkle will collaborate with women in that regard.
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Because Dozie and his team understand that women have subtle influence and that women play a key role in the new economy with high adoption of technology to leverage the flexibility of driving new businesses. “Women are also essential in staying in touch and connecting with their millennial families”, he said.
Dozie will implement technology adopt to ensure that the retail sector scale in Nigeria. “We are in a new, digital economy. Retailers, individuals and businesses need the space and bandwidth to be creative and to build their business”.
That is why Dozie is building Sparkle Bank as a wrap-around for what they are already doing and it is levelling the playing field for all Nigerians by democratizing access and helping small and medium enterprises [SMEs] to create their own luck. “Sparkle is for the many, not for the few and as we continue to build out the platform,” he announced.
As Dozie continues to build the platform, he would be working with big technology and data giants, Microsoft, PwC and Network International. For PwC, Sparkle offers an opportunity to showcase the thinking around the future of financial services and ways that technology can be “innovatively deployed to make a clear difference for businesses” in our clime.
While Microsoft will provide Sparkle with a spark to access unprecedented storage and computing power that will enable “Sparkle to provide data and real-time analytics” in a manner that is easy to digest and process for users”. As an established leader in the provision of end-to-end payment solutions across Africa, Network International has become Sparkle’s strategic payment processing partner.
Obviously, while Dozie builds the next phase of his banking career, he will not walk alone. He will bank on giving the retailers multi-million-dollar-services because the retailers are a critical part of the economy.