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#FinclusiveWeek 2019: Top 10 Financial Inclusion Drivers and How They are Making Dreams Possible  

SARAH BOLAJI

The Enhancing Financial Innovation & Access (EFInA) has identified fintech as the solution to resolve the financial inclusion gap in Nigeria.

As such, fintech drivers are tasked to provide the unbanked population access to financial inclusive products in order to resolve the difficulty in carrying out financial transactions.

To do this, people are involved. People drive innovation. To realise the goal of the CBN, the following personalities have made hugely impactful contribution to extend the boundaries of the financial inclusion tactic.

These people and the organisations they represent have touched the lives of millions of people at the bottom of the pyramid – the actual people that are excluded from the formal financial sector.

In celebration of the Financial Inclusion Week, we have profiled 10 of the top fintech drivers in the ecosystem.

Iniabasi Akpan, Country Manager, OPay

Filling Yawning Gap

Akpan is not new to the terrain. He has over 23 years of experience in Software and Systems Engineering with a particular interest in IT business solutions, security and payment systems.

He was responsible for the first large-scale deployment of two-factor authentication and public key infrastructure in Nigeria for the Central Bank (CBN) and the Nigerian Interbank Settlement System (NIBSS).

Akpan manages the incubation and operation of PayCom between 2011 and 2017 when it was acquired by Opera and morphed into OPay. With over 600 motorcyclists in the pool of OPay, Akpan said in a report that the riders are insured against accident or death.

Mobile payment is the core backbone of Opay but Akpan said the bike hailing service has taken over its operations since it was launched in Lagos in May 2019. This service has since expanded into other key cities in Nigeria.

Akpan is positive that ORide will help to reduce Nigeria’s spiking unemployment rate, deepen entrepreneurship and boost small businesses. There are more than 40,000 OPay agents spread across Nigeria.

Some of these agents can connect with their local communities and provide hands-on support services to registered users.

There is a segment the banks have not connected. That is where Opay plays. It connects with the informal sector. It provides opportunities for the informal sector. Its core target are the less formal and informal sector. The informal army is given access to tools, training, skills and finance “they need for a better life”.

The company rides on the use of mobile phones and technology to fill “the yawning gap”.

Oba Emmanuel King, Founder/CEO, Adron

Providing Housing to the Low-end of the Market

Adron came on the scene in 2012. It has a drive to make housing affordable for all Nigerians. Oba said in a media report that there is housing deficit within the low end and middle class.

He reiterated that the affordability concept he pushes “is not about housing being cheap”.

He posited that it is not about houses itself. It is the totality of the environment including schools, roads, bridges, hospitals etc.

Therefore, the affordability concept is that if a house goes for N10 million, he explained, one is able to pay for that over a period of like 20 years.

That is what Oba has done for millions of Nigerians through his affordable housing project. He provides a flexible payment plan between five to 10 years. “This is paid daily, weekly or monthly basis”.

This is where the teeming population of the informal sector has benefited. The daily payment suits most Nigerians, especially those in the lower rung of the ladder.  So, he has been working with the informal sector through his company.

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His goal is to reduce the housing deficit in Nigeria by 10% within the first 10 years.

If you calculate it, that translates to 1.8 million new homes. Meanwhile, in the first five years, he has covered over 100,000 subscribers.

Emmanuel Agha, MD/CEO, Innovectives

Connecting the Unconnected to the Formal Financial System 

He has increased the number of financial institutions that are connected to his agency banking platform. He works with almost all the banks including MFBs, Jaiz Bank, NIPOST IFS, Angaza, Masterpass, mVisa, Quickteller, Nigeria Inter Bank Settlement Systems [NIBSS] and Remita platforms.

He said that the disproportionately higher number of financially excluded, economically active adults and non-existent access to credit to the productive segment of our society, were indicators that his company needs to raise its game.

These gaps, he said, are not new but the scale and impact on the micro economy calls for intentional and systematic interventions.

To work around this, he affirmed the agility of his integrated and aggregative strategy for agency banking business through his participation in the Shared Agent Network Expansion Facility (SANEF), a project powered by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), the Bankers Committee and NIBSS.

He has recruited over 32,000 agents in 36 states. 10,000 of the agents are connected and actively carrying out financial transactions for customers.

The Kesh Express agents have operated over 750,000 bank accounts for various banks. The target is five million accounts and to recruit over 50,000 new merchants.

His platform has doled out over N30 million loans with zero default. The next plan is to support the agents with N1.5 billion flexible interest loans.

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In 2018, over 1.2 million transactions were recorded on the platform while the agents achieved over N800, 000, 000 on the agency banking platform. He said the target for 2019 is to record 10 million transactions worth N10 billion.

Bunmi Lawson, MD/CEO, EdFin MFB

Closing the Gap in the Access to Financial Services

Lawson was the Managing Director and CEO of Accion Microfinance Bank in Nigeria. Under her direction, the institution metamorphosed from one branch to nearly 50. She closed the gap in the access to financial services in Nigeria.

She contributed to the growth of financial inclusion in the country. For instance, her tenor created significant changes in the number and types of financial services and channels available to those previously financially underserved or excluded.

Under her jurisdiction, Accion offered loans, savings, insurance, and payment channels both face-to-face and through digital channels.

In Lagos and the south west, it achieved the targets of the government, reducing the number of those financially underserved to less than 20 percent.

Chijioke Dozie, CEO, Carbon

Offering New Era of Business Growth and Transformation

Under Dozie’s responsibility, Carbon empowers individuals and businesses to get access to credit, simple payment solutions, high-yield investment opportunities and easy-to-use tools for personal financial management.

The company has over 90 employees. It operates in Nigeria, England, and Kenya.

Since launch in 2016, Carbon has connected over 1 million users. It has distributed over $35.6 million in loans. With agency banking and traditional e-payments, businesses regularly face challenges with liquidity, access to cash flow over weekends and long settlement cycles.

Dozie said as part of his goal of connecting businesses with funds and services that will enable them to thrive and expand, Carbon aims to provide robust infrastructure and a suite of services that will transform their processes

In a report, he said in Nigeria, Rwanda, Kenya, and Tanzania, the share of SME lending in the overall loan portfolios of banks varies between 5 to 20 percent with 45 percent of businesses in emerging markets lacking access to the right technology partners.

He said that Carbon for Business represents a “new era of business growth and transformation, especially for businesses that have been overwhelmed by complexities and rigidity of mundane financial services technologies and traditional sources of financing.

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His platform offers businesses the opportunity to access APIs and services such as SME business loans of up to ₦20 million uncollateralized flexible repayment loans.

Prof Olayinka David-West, Director, LBS and Enterprise Development Centre (EDC)

Profiling Consumers for Digital Financial Services and Mobile Money

Most financial institutions would like to take banking to the unbanked who reside at the bottom of the pyramid. But the cost is a challenge. Technology, too, is a challenge.

However, when Lagos Business School (LBS) and Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation collaborated on how best to provide financial services to the poor through multiple channels and technology, the result has been beneficial to Nigerians.

Prof David-West, an information system expert, is interested in roles that technology plays in business and society. That prompted her to find out how technology could be deployed to enhance financial services and banking.

“What we are trying do there is looking at the consumers and suppliers and asking ourselves: Are they producing the right products and services for the consumers?

“Because one thing we want is to have 80 per cent target on financial inclusion by 2020. However, we are lagging behind in achieving those goals.

“So, in that first part of the project, we decided to do an in-depth consumer analysis to profile the consumers for digital financial services and mobile money”. According to her, the purpose of the research was to unravel who the customer is.

“We, therefore, took data from all the financial inclusion data that have been done previously. We looked at researches by Enhancing Financial Innovation & Access (EFInA) and the World Bank Global Index study that we ran in 2011 and 2013.

So, when she and her team examined the data, they ask the same questions on what the data say about the Nigerian consumer.

The researchers, she said, looked at locations, geopolitical zones, regions and types of households, economic status, gender, marital status and education.

“Knowing who the people are, is as important as understanding their financial services they need”, she said. 

Dr Godwin Ehiguamose, Founder and CEO, LAPO

Empowering the poor through Sustainable Loan Disbursement  

Dr. Ehigiamusoe has declared that microfinance indeed empowers and liberates the poor if properly delivered on a sustainable basis. Under his watch, LAPO has provided an average loan value of N250 billion annually.

Lift Above Poverty or LAPO Microfinance Bank alone disbursed N113 billion in 2015. It targets N152 billion in 2019.

He has over four million Nigerians who are accessing loans on the platform he created. Through LAPO, many Nigerians have improved their social status.

Others have stabilized their businesses. He has offered 7,000 direct employment opportunities.

As the pioneer in the microfinance bank in Nigeria about 20 years, he has over 7,124 tentacles in 34 states. In 2018, he supervises the disbursement of N137 billion loans to Nigerians at the bottom of the pyramid.

Aside the loan disbursement, he has also championed the clean energy lending, affordable housing and sustainable finance.

“LAPO for me is not a business”, he said. “It is a commitment. Lending can only be successful at the micro level if you combine the heart and the head. Heart is that you feel for the people.

“You give scholarship scheme. But you also need to calculate that this thing needs to be sustainable. It is only a sustainable microfinance bank that can continue to help the poor”.

Tayo Oviosu, Co-founder/CEO, Paga

Creating Alternative Banking Solutions for Nigerians

Oviosu founded the first mobile money company. He has created an alternative banking solution that has successfully delivered over 31 million transactions; totaling N412 billion, served 6,000 businesses and 16,000 banking agents and more.

Within less than a year of launching its service to Nigerians, Paga accumulated over 32,000 active users on its platform and processed over US $1.6 million in volume.

Oviosu’s Paga is not trying to replace the bank.

His goal, he said, is to help make it easier for people to get paid.

“We are building a payments and digital bank, and our vision is Pan-African, but Nigeria is the first point. We want to bank the unbanked in Nigeria.”

He has done that since 2009. Paga is a money transfer service that leverages the ubiquity of the mobile phone to bring great value to Nigerians at the bottom of the pyramid and those in the remote area where banks do not exist.

Oviosu isn’t content to stop there. He is determined to reach the unbanked and provide financial inclusion for everyone. With more than 11,000 “bank branches of the future” or agents, Paga is providing alternative banking solutions for Nigerians.

Through these mom-and-pop shops and grocery stores, Oviosu’s Paga acts as payment facilitators by allowing anyone, with or without a bank account, to send money to loved ones or make other financial transactions.

Traditional banks charge an average of N70 to N300 for everything from transfers to maintenance fees, but Oviosu’s Paga’s cost structure is manageable for the people at that level.

He said that “whoever is able to educate and acquire more of the people at the bottom of the pyramid will most likely dictate the pace of future innovation.”

Ronke Kuye, CEO, SANEF

Accelerating Financial Inclusion in Nigeria

Kuye was appointed by the Bankers’ Committee as the first CEO of Shared Agent Network Expansion Facility (SANEF), an initiative of the CBN to accelerate financial inclusion in Nigeria.

She resumed office on February 1, 2019.

The CBN plans to have about 500,000 registered agents network across Nigeria on or before the year 2020. Under Kuye’s watch, SANEF has recorded more than 70,000 registered agents.

SANEF involves remote enrollment via Bank Verification Number (BVN) to an estimated 50 million Nigerians that are unbanked.

Powered by the CBN, SANEF is supported by the deposit money banks, Nigeria Inter-Bank Settlement Systems [NIBSS], licensed mobile money operators and shared agents with the primary objective of accelerating financial inclusion in Nigeria.

Until June 2014, Kuye was the GM in GTB as head of the transaction services division. Prior to this, she was responsible for the e-business and card services where she set up a successful card business and alternative channels of payment.

Kuye founded Payment Card Advisory Services after having recently retired from a successful banking career. She has over 25 years’ experience in operations, institutional banking, retail banking and cards and electronic payment.

Salami Abolore, Founder/CEO, Riby Finance

Working with the Neglected Market

Abolore is helping trade groups and cooperatives in the formal and informal sectors to digitise their operations and get access to loans, savings and other financial services through its digital online and offline platforms.

Through his ‘Riby 1.5 Million Campaign”, he has provided support for cooperatives, communities and trade groups, enabling them to save money and get interest over time.

He is focused on working with a segment of the market that has been neglected for a long time. And yet, this market has immense potential.

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Abolore’s goal is to enhance the users’ ability to generate livable income, support them in securing a lifetime savings system and help them in the future to secure a home.

“We consider these three things as the foundation of financial stability”, he said in a report.

With over 83 million Nigerians reportedly living in poverty, there is a pressing need for intervention at several levels.

Abolore said his company is strategically positioned to deliver services that will reduce the poverty level in Nigeria.

He said “cooperatives have been used to solve housing and feeding challenges in developed countries. We can do better.”