African FinTechs are poised to fast-forward adoption of the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) on the continent, facilitate financial inclusion and formalise the informal business sector, while spearheading the growth of SMMEs and employment opportunities, writes Yinka Adewale, CEO, Nomba.
While it may be Africa’s largest economy (valued at US$500 billion) and the most populous nation on the continent, Nigeria’s business sector remains largely informal. Last year, the country’s informal business sector accounted for around 65% of Nigeria’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
What’s more, around half of Nigeria’s 41 million Small, Medium and Micro Enterprises (SMMEs) still solely rely on cash payments – even though digital payments are faster, more reliable and affordable, while decreasing potential risk.
Digitising Nigeria’s – and indeed Africa’s – economy still has a long way to go, especially in rural areas where the country’s underbanked and unbanked mostly reside and operate.
Africa’s growing internet penetration makes it well-equipped to harness the power of instant point of sale (POS) transactions, while solving real, everyday problems. And the maturation of exponential technologies and their decreasing cost is helping to democratise the business sector while promoting financial inclusion. In this way, FinTechs across the continent are the gateway into the digital economy.
Across the continent, there are on average five bank branches per 100 000 people, in comparison to 13 elsewhere in the world, according to the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa. Yet a single mobile money agent has seven times the reach of an ATM, and 20 times the reach of a brick-and-mortar bank.
FinTechs help to leapfrog incumbent ways of banking and doing business, while enabling entrepreneurs to optimise their operations seamlessly and affordably. Much like the other 140-odd FinTechs in Nigeria at last count in 2021, our driving passion at Nomba is to create omnichannel payment solutions that welcome everyone to the digital economy of the future – regardless of their tech adoption or digital literacy.
One of the reasons we founded Nomba (formerly known as Kudi) in 2017 was to democratise access to banking products and services for every Nigerian, while helping to alleviate long queues for simple banking procedures, such as cash withdrawals, deposits and transfers, as well as bill payments and wallet top-ups.
Through its POS technology, Nomba partners with traditional banks and licensed financial institutions to offer entrepreneurs a unified platform to seamlessly manage their business across multiple touch-points and locations. Nomba’s full-service integrated terminal and dashboard are designed to manage omnichannel payments, whether in cash, cards, transfers, USSD or QR codes.
Today, our fast-growing network of over 150 000 merchants (mobile money agents) process over US$6 billion in payments annually. Our research has found that 20 million Nigerian retailers – whether they be in the formal or informal business sector – are already equipped to process POS transactions. The virtue is that, unlike traditional banking, they can onboard themselves within a matter of minutes via the website or smartphone application without the need for a middle man.
As developing economies are dusting themselves off after the economic repercussions of the Covid-19 pandemic, imagine the potential this has to empower individuals and businesses by providing them instant liquidity and access to their money – anytime and anywhere.
This kind of one-stop-shop for financial services and easy-to-use, business-growth tools have the potential to create positive socio-economic impact and spearhead the continent into the Fourth Industrial Revolution without the need to rely too heavily on traditional financial services providers.
There are, without a doubt, various challenges that have already – and still will – come to the fore. A non-exhaustive list includes the need for funding, infrastructure development, and stable telecommunication connections to increase the speed and reliability of payments – all of which cultivate consumer trust.
However, this is the first step in the race towards paving the way for online payments to become the preferred form of payment by 2030.
Our end game is to enable Africans to become digital natives so as to overcome the digital divide. And with this will come a growth in intra-African trade, cross-border transfers, the development of technological infrastructure and the strengthening of local and regional regulatory policies. And to think that all of these goals can fit into your pocket.