Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Mobile Loans To Enhance FinanciaI Inclusion In Nigeria

Nigeria’s e-business landscape has evolved rapidly over the last few years and if the submissions at this year’s Committee ofe-Banking Heads (CeBIH) conference are anything to go by, the sector is certain to see even more financial inclusion and advancement in the coming years, driven chiefly by the concept of mobile loans.

Sponsored by Interswitch, this year’s CeBIH conference themed ‘Mobile Payments for Financial Inclusion’ held in Uyo on the 3rd and 4th of December 2015. New prospects and perspectives were brought to light regarding the concept of e-banking and financial inclusion as well as future possibilities and trends that are currently in the incubation process.

Central among the ideas exchanged was the concept of the ‘Mobile loans’ model that focuses on savings and loans and is carried out solely via mobile devices. Eric Muriuki Njagi, GM, New Business Ventures, Commercial Bank of Africa, Kenya, while facilitating a technical session, discussed Kenya’s evolution towards a digital financial ecosystem; using the ‘M-Shwari’, and ‘M-Pawa’ models; two mobile-centric banking solutions that offers both savings and loan products, with the objective of availing simple and affordable financial services closer to the customers, thereby supporting the financial inclusion agenda in Kenya, Tanzania and the wider East Africa.

He stated that both products have been hugely accepted in the East Africa market, and if replicated here, would be the most likely way of breaking into Nigeria’s large unbanked market.

In explaining the thought behind mobile loans, the chairman, CeBIH, Tunde Kuponiyi had this to say: “Because of the convergence onto mobile platforms now and because of the opportunities there may be for us in creating a new market in terms of inclusion, we decided to take a second look at mobile and in truth, we saw new perspectives. We all keep talking about mobile money, maybe that’s not all that will enhance the inclusion per say, maybe it is mobile loans.

The SME sector is one that’s not that much developed. So maybe it is savings and loans through the use of mobile that will actually enhance the inclusion we’ve been thinking about, that will also enhance and move the mobile platform in the direction that we want it”

Another high point of the conference was the presentation of Interswitch Financial Inclusions Services (IFIS), a brainchild of Africa’s fastest growing technology company, Interswitch, by its Divisional CEO, Mike Ogbalu.

Mike stated that “Interswitch Financial Inclusion Services is a platform created for the sole purpose of bringing banking services within the reach of Nigeria's considerable unbanked population estimated at 56 million, via a robust agent network”. He went further to add that “With IFIS, the agent is at the centre of our world and we understand that the would-be agents requires a compelling value proposition. Therefore we will first seek to empower the agent with knowledge, skills and tools to deliver financials services in a very unique way, stating that for IFIS, the long term perspective of our business model seeks to create value first, and thereafter comes the profit’’.

Speaking about Interswitch Financial Inclusion Services, Mr. Tunde Kuponiyi remarked, “I think what Interswitch is doing with ‘IFIS’ is very laudable because one of the major objectives of the platform is to get agents and these agents are meant to be mobile money operator agnostic. So we are also then looking at interoperability. I think it is wonderful also to the extent again that there is no successful mobile money story without a very good array of agencies or of agents “He went further to say: “Interswitch has consistently brought innovation into the market and personally I believe that the crop of individuals at Interswitch are quite focused and know what they’re doing. Interswitch has come a long way in its 13 years on existence and I’ll like to say a big thank you to them for always being one of the sponsors for this event, without which it won’t have taken place and we are quite appreciative of that.”


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