Technology is changing the way we do business. And it’s doing this so quickly, we hardly have the time to step back and watch it disrupt industries and ways of living in real time. It’s carrying us with it; but we’re all too happy to let it sweep us into the future.
Finance has been especially affected by this movement.
Fintech, the relatively new space created by the application of digital technology to financial transactions, is erasing centuries’ old ways of collecting and receiving payments for products and services.
The vibrant startups pushing this revolution are creating platforms that facilitate cashless bill payments, loan disbursement and collection. Thanks to them, we can forego the long waiting lines at bank halls, avoid rowdy price haggling sessions with customers, and skip all the other troubles associated with in-person and physical cash transactions.
But the fruits of fintech can be found beyond the habitations of the world’s tech savvy urbanites. It’s also helping developing countries like Nigeria leapfrog stages in the typical growth models of financial inclusion. According to a 2016 report by the Enhancing Financial Inclusion and Access (EFInA) group, only 39.6 million Nigerians- about 38% of the adult population -have access to a bank account. Over 40 million adults in the country, predominantly rural dwellers, have no access to any form of financial service. However, fintech companies are beginning to reach these unbanked people in innovative ways, including mobile payments systems and mobile wallets.
The drivers of Nigeria’s fintech revolution
After a rather quiet start in Nigeria, fintech has become quite bubbly in the past half a decade. Global trends in e-payments, growing customer demand for better services and big money investments from international profit seekers have played their part in firing off what is now the most attractive part of the country’s startup boom for investors.
The space is swarming with numerous players, from online lending platforms to payments systems providers and more. Here, in no particular order, are seven of the biggest amongst them.
Launched in 2003, e-Tranzact was one of a number of firms that really kicked off the digitization of payments in Nigeria. Since then, they’ve spread their tentacles beyond their birthplace, and now operate in Cote d’Ivore, Ghana, Kenya, South Africa, Zimbabwe and the United Kingdom.
They’re a major provider of epayments solutions for financial institutions (including ATM and internet payments services), and mobile services for individuals as well.
Interswitch is one of Nigeria’s oldest and well known financial technology companies. Its longevity on the scene certainly helps its cause, as does its relationship with the banks. It provides and maintains ATM services for financial institutions, and enables online payments for individuals and merchants too. Quickteller, an Interswitch payments solution, facilitates the online purchase of mobile recharge, movie tickets, hotel bookings, bill payments and the transfer and collection of money.
Remita’s electronic platform is used to pay salaries, power bills, taxes and even school examination fees. Besides these, it lets its users view all their bank accounts from any bank on a single screen, and makes it possible for them to switch from personal to business accounts with ease.
Remita’s clients range from individuals and monopreneurs to large corporations and government agencies.
Tayo Oviosu set up Paga in 2009 in response to what he felt was the vastness of Nigeria’s financial inclusion problem at the time. Several million customers later, it’s making a dent in the numbers of the unbanked, as its agents begin to set up access points in semi-urban and rural areas.
Paga does pretty much the sort of things you would expect of a typical online payments firm- bills, airtime, transfer payments. But it does have a model of its own, fit for the terrain. It has thousands of agents working across Nigeria, attending to the platforms’ users and operating quasi-banking services.
Although it’s the newest of all the companies on this list, Flutterwave has earned its place on it. Founded in 2016 by a team of entrepreneurs, former bankers and engineers, this startup runs with a mission to “power a new wave of prosperity across Africa.”
Flutterwave’s services include Barter, which makes it easy for startups to pay for cloud storage; Rave, a hassles-free way to collect payments from customers anywhere in the world; and Thrivesend, a secure means of making transfer payments.
Flutterwave does appear to be laying down strong markers of its forward looking intentions: in less than two years, it’s fixed up offices in Los Angeles, Lagos, Accra, Nairobi and Johannesburg; it has processed over $1.2 billion across 10 million transactions; and it’s sliding into the frontrow of fintech class.
This is actually an arm of Konga, one of Nigeria’s biggest ecommerce companies.
KongaPay manages the digital systems that undergird and support subscription services and recurring payments for many enterprises. Users can receive money on their mobile phone through it, even if they don’t have a bank account; they can also pay for airtime, data service and cable TV, and purchase things faster with QR Codes.
Renmoney is a licensed tech-driven microfinance bank with a strong online presence. It began operations in Lagos 2012, and presently has a number of other offices across the city.
This institution’s services mirrors its status as something of a cross between a traditional bank and a full blown web based fintech applications system. It offers its customers collateral free loans of up to ₦4 million; it also gives school fees loans, helps customers with target savings, provides smartphone purchase finance, and other financial services. All of these can be accessed at the Renmoney website.