Fixing the PTA Palaver with Technology

There was a collective sigh of relief when the Central Bank of Nigeria recently decided to clear the backlog of travel allowances pending with banks. Nevertheless, a lot of well-meaning Nigerians could also see the opportunities for arbitrage and abuse. Of course, bad boys being bad boys, it quickly turned into a bazaar.

The Personal Travel Allowance, PTA, is a carryover of the ancient Nigerian command and control FX policies where the government, acting as the national nanny via the CBN, hands over FX at a subsidized rate of $4K per quarter. Never enough to build a mansion, yet the margins are sufficiently fat enough for anyone to do a quick deal. For example, the difference between the CBN rates and the alternative markets is about N120; that’s about N480K per quarter and N1.9M per year. Even the angels would be tempted.

Meanwhile, that’s nine times the annual minimum wage specified by the Federal Government.

Instead of looking a gift horse in the mouth by blaming the CBN, who could have turned the other way and let everyone roast with the BDCs of this world, some friends and I thought we could come up with ideas on how this can be managed with technology. Our sole object is to help those who need the FX to get them easily while ensuring the opportunity for abuse was minimized. After all, why blame the government for a poor policy if we don’t have clear alternatives.

After bashing our heads against the wall for some hours, we came up with the following:

FX Nanny Online 😊

The interesting thing with the Nigerian traveler is virtually every one of them has a bank account, and with that comes the dreaded Bank Verification Number, BVN. The BVN is probably the best invention to tame financial recklessness in Nigeria, but we are not utilizing up to 5% of its capabilities. That’s a story for another day.

To get FX for travel, the intending traveler would apply online at some random web app to be put up by the CBN. Let’s say it will be at www.fxnanny.cbn.gov.ng.

Travelers will specify the usual details: travel dates, airline ticket reference, travel document details (scanned copy of their passport), bank details, BVN, etc.

At application time, the web app will indicate the likely rate at which the FX will be sold.

The processing team can then review the application and if approved, make FX available by debiting the traveler’s account using the cardholders’ bank process. The processing must be automated, if not, it creates an opportunity for tingodism.

To ensure that abuse is kept to the minimum, travelers’ passports will be automatically validated with the immigration system, tickets checked against airline APIs, and when the traveler returns to the country, the travel records will be automatically checked against immigrations airport database (does that even exist?).

And here comes the kicker. The FX will be available to a specific prepaid card which can only be used in the countries the travelers have specified and verified via their airline tickets. Additionally, the card or FX will only be active from the date of travel and cannot be used in Nigeria at all.

Travelers will need to buy the prepaid card from any bank, or their bank, and automatically, those cards will be tied to their BVN and be available for automatic loading. They won’t need to visit any bank branch.

Anyone found to have abused the system should be banned for half of eternity and made to spend two weeks with EFCC, washing plates and detention cells.

Service could cost about 1% shared between banks, the platform provider and CBN. Someone has to keep the lights on!

Benefits to the Central Bank

  • It can finally have peace of mind and stop chasing banks around, hustling them to provide data about FX usage. That sucks a great deal.
  • The majority of PTA abuse can now be curbed. Of course, someone will always find a loophole, but that can be addressed when CBN gets to that bridge. Hopefully, not River Niger Second Bridge.
  • CBN will be able to have a real-time overview of the PTA market. It will be easy to ferret out insights into which countries people love to traipse to, which airlines love PTA users, which banks are playing games, etc. without issues.

Benefits to Travelers

  • With the assurance of a level playing field and the demystification of the man-know-man Nigerian problem, the regular traveler can have hopes of a decent PTA without sucking up to a raggedy teller in a bank branch.

Benefits to Banks

  • Earn commissions from processing the debit of travelers’ accounts and crediting the travel card. Should 0.65% be a good incentive?
  • The only source of temptation which has killed many budding careers would be taken away. Trust me; bankers regularly get steamrolled for FX infraction. In fact, it’s an existential risk for branch managers.

Apparently, our solution has glossed over many key issues. For example, who is going to build the application and maintain it? Is the CBN going to be allowed by card associations to issue cards? Will it issue MasterCard and Visa cards only? What will it say to Verve, Freedom and Genesis cards?

If the site crashes or slows down, who is going to be held responsible?

What happens when a card is lost, stolen or blocked? What happens when a traveler needs to change his travel plans?

I don’t have answers to these questions, but hey, the world is full of smarties. Anyone can contribute opinions below.

 

Dreamers are losers. Ideas are worthless.

I grew up lacking so many essential things like Lego toys, common sense, understanding further math, etc. but I never lacked dreams or ideas. I had them by the dozens. After all, dreams and ideas are free and require no permission from hawkish parents or even from the government. I tucked into them and generated dreams and ideas like a real dream machine.

Unfortunately, dreams and ideas didn’t get me anywhere because everyone had them too. And the dreams were getting them nowhere. Dreams are free; ideas can be plucked from anywhere; both useless and worthless.

Sounds counterintuitive, isn’t it? Everyone says, follows your dreams! Guys with ideas are courted and loved. So why the gripe?

My rant isn’t to diminish dreaming or ideas but to put them in their proper perspectives. So before you start wondering who stepped on my toes this morning, hear me out.

Dreams and ideas aren’t constrained by physics or reality and would never be. If you ever watched Tom and Jerry, you will understand that.  Additionally, ideas and dreams are free, anyone with half a brain can conjure them up. I spent the majority of my childhood imagining myself as a superhero, and it was an excellent time – I can bet you spent yours with similar ideas.

But why are dreams and ideas so useless if we need them for innovation? Why am I valuing them down to nothing when to be called a man without a dream or ideas is worse than being called impotent? I mean, if you are not actually impotent.

There are also good and bad ideas – bad ideas being so many out there so why isn’t the good ideas worth something?

Let’s check out what happens in farming.

Send down the rain!

Rain and moisture are so important to agriculture that without it, a nation is imperiled. Just ask the Mayans, an ancient culture of South America, that was destroyed because of drought famine. But then, rain itself isn’t food! The fact that it rains doesn’t mean crop would suddenly appear in farms. For there to be food, farmers must till the ground, plant appropriate seeds and then let the rain do its job.

The value of rain to agriculture is so important that sometimes some fly planes to seed the sky with silver iodide, just like the way applying Robb or onions to your eyes let loose some crocodile tears. Gosh, I hate the kitchen!

Follow your dreams

In all the time I have spent mentoring others, I haven’t met a single mentee who doesn’t have dreams or ideas. We all have them by the dozens. What sets many back, however, is that they dream on and never wake up.

Many people find it hard to believe that dreaming itself means nothing and ideas are worthless if they are not put into use.

For example, I know gazillion friends who want to improve on their careers, yet they would never fix their CVs, network with potential employers or even take the time to understand the new roles they would love to play. That’s dreaming, and it wouldn’t amount to anything.

Not taking action to actualize dreams applies to me too – I have been talking about different side businesses that could bring little income each month. I have planned, discussed and ideated. Of course, if I don’t start it, risk my savings, it would never come to fruition and by January 2018, who am I going to blame for it?

Ideas are worthless

I recently asked a few friends who run their businesses what they could do to take their companies to the next level – I mean, who doesn’t want to achieve unicorn status. Even though I talked to them at different times, they all have the same ideas.

The sad part was, none was putting any of those ideas into action.

We complained about customer service in banks – for any banker reading this, do you know any bank who doesn’t tout customer service as a strategic imperative? Every bank does, but not every bank puts it into action. What a meaningless exercise.

The Conclusion

Dreams and ideas are only useful when combined with action and purpose. Do you want to be successful? Stop dreaming, start acting on the few nightmares you have had, and even the sky wouldn’t be able to contain you – just ask Elon Musk at SpaceX.

Those damned resolutions

I have talked about it before, you have heard it too many times, nobody cares about it again. Yes, new year resolutions. We all made a few and like the years before; we have probably forgotten them by now.

We made resolutions knowing we weren’t as good as we wanted to be. Careers are stalled, bad habits run rings around our sensibilities, some want to be better dads, wives, husbands, parents, whatever! So we made tons of good-intentioned resolutions and without malice, forgot them as quickly as Donald Trump could fire a tweet.

For me, I’ve decided that this year would be different. At least, even if I don’t get to achieve all the items on the short list, it won’t be because I forgot them. Some are proving to be hard enough because of the additional shots of vodka in my cocktail when I wrote the list.

Nevertheless, I honestly believe that resolution items can be achieved, and even surpassed. I don’t even think it requires so much apart from a set of few tricks.

The methods are simple – I’ve people and myself, holding me accountable for the items on those lists and I’m committed to reviewing my progress every month. Also, there are things I would do/or not do, as a means of self-flagellation, if I don’t achieve specific results.

 

What self-review does

For those who have been unfortunate to work in banking, you would know the circus bankers do each month where sales guys and gals are grilled or sometimes pulped. That excruciatingly painful experience is called Monthly Performance Review. Many at times, there would be carnage and people never make it to the office the next day. Bankers gave it a bad name but a regular review of performance is important for every organization, and if you run your life the way you run your job, it is something you must do if you want to succeed.

Commit, either to yourself or with someone you look up to, to review your 2017 resolutions each month. Maybe the first Saturday of the month? Be honest, assess your performance and ask tough questions about if you are getting nearer or not. If you are, give yourself a nice pat on the back. And if you aren’t, you have work to do. Do it.

 

Set Delivery Dates

By the way, I assume your resolutions have delivery dates. That you would repaint your living room without putting a specific time to do it is as good as not writing it down in the first instance.

We know that a pregnancy lasts for nine months and even without setting a delivery date or preparing for it, the baby would compulsory pop out, all things being equal. Your dreams are a special type of pregnancies, though, if you don’t set an EDD, they will die in your womb.

 

Goodbye Devialet Phantom Gold

I have been lusting after Phantom Gold for about few months, and I promised myself one this year. As much as I love to have that audiophile’s dream machine, I would never get one unless certain items on my resolution list are knocked off as done.

So for example, if you don’t fix your CV, making it look like Bill Gate wrote it, you shouldn’t allow yourself get any Coldstone ice cream or Shawarma from Ebeano. If you don’t start that small side business to augment your salary, you can’t travel for summer (in this economy?). If you don’t save 50% of your salary each month (assuming the economy hasn’t wiped you out), you shouldn’t allow yourself to visit Hard Rock Café.

It sounds pretty silly, but it works. After all, who are you helping if not yourself?

 

A Moment to Reflect

There isn’t a better time to review a year than just at the start. January is gone already and February is already on its way. Trust me, before you can say, Jack Robinson, the year is done. Success isn’t usually some dramatic thing that happens in a bang but a series of normal things that stack up down the line.

Wouldn’t it be extremely sad if you procrastinate through the whole of 2017, when the economy is bad, Donald Trump is president, students are joining gangs, etc. and then reach 2018 to regret 2017? Meanwhile, your boss would continue, every month, to harass you about meeting set performance threshold. You will work your sorry ass out to achieve your team or company’s targets, your boss would get a fantastic bonus, probably go to Harvard/Stanford/INSEAD for a random executive course (which probably looks good on her CV but does no one any good) while you have nothing to write about.

Think. Act. Be disciplined.

Kennedy Uzoka is Nigeria’s coolest bank CEO

Kennedy Uzoka, UBA’s Group Managing Director, is the savviest bank CEO in Nigeria, as far as social media is concerned. Or so says an informal study by me.

He loves social media and practically hangs out there. While he won’t be allowed into the YMCA, he probably knows a thing or two about where and how to appeal to banking’s emerging core customers, Millennials. Based on the outcome of my, perhaps, dubious analysis, I decided to crown him a social media kingpin. He won’t be getting any plaque or prize money or anything. I don’t even know if he’s going to brag about it.

Recently, Herbert Wigwe, CEO of Access Bank was crowned the Twitter Lord by Business Day but as a tree doesn’t make a Zambisa forest, so also Twitter isn’t enough to rule the social media world. But then, that may be wrong, after all, Trump will rule America and the rest of the free world using nothing but Twitter.

So here’s how the CEOs stack up.

Nigerian banks will forever jostle for the eyeballs and minds of Millennials. I mean, social media was hot, digital banking is even an inferno now. It doesn’t take a soothsayer to know why; Millennials are the next target market as baby boomers start to die off gradually. Millennials live in the social media world, so no better place to hang out with them, pander to their whims and hopefully, find a way to make some money off them.

In five years, Millennials, also known as Gen Y or those born in the 80’s and 90’s, will form the majority of the workforce. That means salaries, bonuses, shopping, car loans, mortgages, credit cards, DSTV, Netflix, chills, etc.

Unfortunately for banks in general and Nigerian banks, in particular, it has been mostly misses and few hits. At first glance, you wonder why because worldwide, 11 Nigerian banks are in the top 100 banks using social media. But we all know that you can’t run faster than the boss (let someone shout Hallelujah to that!).

So I wanted to know if the bosses are running in tandem with Millennials. After all, wouldn’t it be a strategic failure not to understand the life and time of the age cohort of those who would be banks’ greatest customers in the next few years?

Do the CEOs lead their banks by example? Do they even, on a personal level, understand social media, the platform on which the next generation of banking wars would be fought? If they lose out on Millennials, how do they plan to run their retail banking game?

Having little to do over the holidays, the devil in me played with some data and ranked Nigeria banking CEOs. Luckily, I’m out of banking else I could have found my sorry backside out of a job.

Methodology

  1. There are bajillion social media platforms out there and even the craziest of us all can’t keep up with the madness. So I look at the presence on just Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. Having a profile on each gives a score of 5 or 0.
  2. Anyone can be on social media, being active is the real deal. So engagement is critical. Having an activity within the last 1 month gets 5 marks, last 3 months gets 3 marks and nothing in 6 months gets 0
  3. Many CEOs got there in the last few years, but it doesn’t take minutes to update profiles. Having a current profile gets a score of 5 and none gets 0.

You can download the original data here.

Note

This report isn’t a real scientific study but a random ranting from an armchair boffin. So take whatever you’ve read with a pinch of salt. Don’t ever ever ever use it as a reference for your school assignment. Be warned!

Run your life like you run your job

I spent all of yesterday doing up my new year resolutions. Yeah, I know new year resolutions don’t work for most of us, and by the end of January, I probably wouldn’t remember where I wrote them down. Just like my resolutions, you probably have yours penned down, and year after year, nothing comes out of them.

While you are doing your resolutions, your evil boss (bosses are usually evil in January) is also writing up your deliverables for the year. Despite the daydream of sending a hit squad after her, by March, you have already fallen in love with the goals and all pumped up to achieve your corporate objectives. Guess what, come December 2017, you are probably done with 70% of the madness lined up for you at work. Unfortunately, you won’t be getting a bonus unless you do more than 100%. That itself is a big if!

Wait, hold up!

Come to think of it; you find it hard to do things that would make your life better and successful yet you can easily, even with your worst performance, hit a sizeable level of achievement of things that would make your boss richer at the end of the year? Ironic!

A question that keeps me awake at night – what if I can run my life just the way I do my deliverables at work?

After ruminating about this for a while, I figured out the reason why: immediate and delayed repercussions.

Immediate repercussions

We are all geared to respond to positive and negative stimuli like overworked Pavlovian dogs. If you touched a life wire, you get shocked. If you cross the road without checking properly, the Danfo driver who drank adulterated paraga would run you down. Everyone knows of the immediate consequences of bad behaviors, so we simply avoid them.

Same happens at work, if you don’t deliver on the targets or KPIs set by your boss, you probably going to get a one-way ticket to HR and your ass would be out of work. If you are consistently late to work, one day you would do it one more time too often; You will most likely be scouring LinkedIn for openings the week after. Don’t even think about getting drunk at work or slapping someone; that kills you faster than a speeding bullet. No wonder nobody fights in the office!

The average professional does reasonably well at work and a miserable job of his career.

Delayed repercussions

So what happens when you don’t do that certification you, the world and I know is going to give your career a boost? Because your punishment is chilling in the future and you probably can’t hear it whistling.

You promised yourself a change of job, but the efforts to tidy up your CV and start networking is proving too hard. Of course, a new job won’t come, and with the economy taking a tumble faster than a beached whale, you can be sure that your life would be more miserable by December 2017.

If you don’t quit smoking as you have promised your wife or girlfriend for the past five years, one more cigarette won’t have your lungs give up immediately. But like a nicely marinated croaker fish, it takes a while, but once your lungs are nicely roasted, nobody has been able to invent a means to un-roast it.

You find it hard to save for your mortgage down payment, but you could easily find extra cash to rock the clubs Friday nights and hit the Bahamas with your homies for the summer. You pay more than your EMI in rent. Nevertheless, you are the one who is driving a cost-cutting proposal for your company and saved $10M last year by canceling some office perks, downgrading everyone from 4 to 3-star hotels while on travel and discovered that nixing the free coffee and buns won’t kill employee morale. You didn’t get a dime in bonus for that; you were freaking doing your job! By the time you are fifty, your rented apartment would have appreciated in value, but none of that comes to you.

The Key

So I figured out that if an immediate repercussion could be tied to the fantastical new year resolutions, maybe there could be an impetus for one to achieve them.

Have achievable resolutions

Have goals that are reasonable and achievable. I mean you are smart; you know what I mean. If you try to swallow something too big, you are probably going choke and die. Same for goals too audacious for your good.

Don’t have too many resolutions

Too many cooks upturn the pot, scattering the evening dinner all over the kitchen floor. Too many resolutions mean you would be scared of the daunting tasks after the enthusiasm of January 1 has gone. At best, don’t have more than 5.

Be answerable to someone

Share your goals with someone you admire and respect. Not wanting to disappoint them is a strong incentive to achieve. I mean, who wants to look like a wimp to her boyfriend? Well, unless your boyfriend is also a wimp. If so, maybe your first resolution would be to get rid of him.

Move with the right crowd

Psychologists have studied peer pressure for as long as humanity. They weren’t called psychologists then, though. Most of the bad habits I have today I got from my friends (don’t ask me what they are but I can tell you who they are). Fortunately, my grades in school turned for the better when I started hanging out with the right crowd. If your friends are loafers, you would be one. If you want to have a superlative career, start being friends with those whose lives you admire. In trying to copy them, you could end up even better than them.

Run away from negative people who never see anything good in life, they are like a prick to your enthusiasm balloon. Instead of floating to the sky, they make you fall like a lead.

Bad habits can be good

Trust me, pure envy and jealousy can be a game changer if it drives you in the right direction. Have you ever gone to the mall and you see your old school buddy more successful than you, who tortured you by introducing his trophy wife and his Bentley Bentayga? You probably burned with jealousy but instead of having schadenfreude, why don’t you prove that you are better than him? Just drive yourself insane to achieve your resolutions, and you can have much more. Be careful of getting a trophy wife, though, you can lose all that money faster than you made them.

Time to go

I’m going to try all these methods on myself this year, and I hope they work. If they don’t, we can review other methods by 2018.

With all seriousness, you owe yourself a good life. Fortunately, you have all it takes to succeed, after all, you are a star at work. Apply the same skills you use to balance budgets, deliver projects, learn new skills, take care of customers, etc. to your life and you would see amazing results.

Happy New Year everyone!

Report on Perception of Digital Bank in Nigeria

The emergence of small and nimble digital banks, known as challenger banks in other climes, is disrupting the concept of banking and financial services. Interests from the average customer have been very strong, in particular among the millennials. However, most of these have been confined to Europe and North America save for two large digital banks in China; WeBank from TenCents and MyBank from Alibaba’s Ant Financials.

While nothing seems to be happening in Sub-Saharan Africa in general and Nigeria especially, does it mean the FinTech revolution would never reach us?

A study was done in November 2016 to gauge Nigerians’ perception of digital banks and if they are inclined to bank with one if it comes on the scene. A total of 2,000 recipients were surveyed out of which 326 responded. The target group was mostly middle-class professionals, the type typically targeted by challenger banks.

The result of the study has been condensed into the following easy to understand infographics.

Why are Nigerian brands not on Nairaland and other local social media platforms?

Nairaland was social media before social media became anything in Nigeria. While it has failed to match its potentials, at least when compared with what Facebook and others have become, it retains its potency. In fact, every time a top Nigerian brand gets slammed on the site, the Executives quake.

Despite the impressive page views, none of the major Nigerian brands have a presence or spends on Nairaland. And it’s not about Nairaland alone; same goes for most homegrown social media websites such as World Junction, Naija Pals, etc.

Is there something wrong with local social media websites that the average Joe like me doesn’t know?

Social media has become so critical to branding and marketing that companies that don’t do it are practically toying with death. Well, nobody is going to get shot for not going online, but it’s now an existential risk eschewing social media.

The significance of social media in Nigeria cannot be overemphasized. Nigerians are said to be the most mobilized country in the world where 76% of all internet traffic run through our mobile phones despite the crappy data service served by the Telcos. Nigeria also has the highest number of Facebook users in Africa. I don’t know if that counts for anything but at least, it got Zuckerberg to get on the plane and see what’s happening out here in Lagos. So a company that doesn’t reach out to eyeballs where they congregate is only wasting its time.

You only need to visit profile pages of major companies in Nigeria to see how important they take social media. Hardly do you find any of these companies without dedicated teams just creating content on Facebook, YouTube, etc. on a daily.

This is apparent because social media companies are no longer small boys. Check out the following facts: Facebook is worth a whopping $331.39B as of December 2, 2016, while Mark himself is now the 6th richest homo sapiens, worth $51.7B, just from sharing updates and videos of cats and naked girls. Snapchat, which was invented just like yesterday, has been valued at $20B. Microsoft just bought LinkedIn for $26.2B (Just give me the change on top, I swear, I will stop ranting forever!). Facebook bought Instagram and WhatsApp for a combined $20B.

The smallest of the major Social Media is larger than most countries; Facebook (1.79B) is bigger than China (1.4B).

Ok, we get it, social media is important!!

With all the money spent on social media, why are Nigerian social media sites not benefiting from the spends? Or why are Nigerian companies not spending on Nigerian websites?

So many arguments exist:

The Nigeria social media environment is not big enough.

Some argue that social media in Nigeria is not big or the local websites don’t attract viewers. The assertion is simply not true as there are metrics to show otherwise. Nairaland has more engagement in Nigeria than Facebook. It currently ranks as the 7th most visited website while Facebook comes in as 8th. Many major stories are broken on Linda Ikeji, Bella Naija, Nairaland, etc. Those who love tatafo know where they tune their antennas.

Nigerian social media is unstructured for structured brands

Home grown social media in Nigeria is like Oshodi market where area boys reign supreme. That is true, a trip through Nairaland is like walking in a Brazilian Favela. But Nairaland is tame compared to Reddit, where vitriol and porn rain down like typhoon. Top brands, such as Amazon, HTC, Red Bull, Ford, Nordstrom, etc. are making a kill on Reddit. Reddit has also hosted top names like Bill Gates, Obama (yes, Obama!) on a section called AMA (ask me anything).

Nigerian brands prefer foreign platforms

Colonial mentality or social media imperialism where nothing homegrown is good enough? However, when you figured out that Linda Ikeji bought her N600M mansion in Banana from money made online in Nigeria then the argument falls flat!

So the question is – why do companies in Nigeria shun local social media. I’m not talking about advertisement but creating a profile and reaching out.

Telcos, banks, and Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG – there is an acronym for everything) are the largest spenders on marketing in Nigeria. I don’t know the fraction of the global spend of $23.68B that came from Nigeria, but I know it should amount to something substantial, at least from the Nigerian perspective. What if a portion of what we spend is diverted to social media websites such as World Junction and Nairaland? If the world is expecting a 26.3% increase in spending on social media ads in 2017, shouldn’t Nigeria grow even much more?

Why I may not know the actual answers to this debacle, I know they have to do much more to become the platform of choice for brands and advertisers. They need to engage more, provide robust tools needed for targeting, curating and analytics. Going back to basic level, they even need business development executives to go after potential brands.

Who shall tell our stories?

I have spent the last few months reading, researching and discussing with many payments industry experts on what the new wave of FinTech and payment innovations mean for the world, Africa, you and most importantly me.

I’m sorry that I have to use the FinTech jargon. Just like big data, cloud, etc. FinTech as a buzzword is already annoying the heck out of me!

Opinions, just like the sands of the Eleko beach, are many, cheap and quickly forgettable. However, what is not disputable, is that a lot of innovative things are happening all over the world and it is likely that the financial world as we know it may be gone soon.

Meanwhile, if I ask the average Joe or Jane, as the case may be, about the companies leading these packs, you get fancy names like Atom, WeBank, Ant Financials, Stripe, N26, Monzo, etc. Everyone is talking about BlockChain, Open Banking, PSD2, Trump, etc. So where is Africa?

Before anything else, I need to say that Africa is not a country!

I’ve had the opportunity to talk to many companies doing fantastic things in different countries in Africa, but the average African doesn’t know about them. Yeah, you want to mention M-Pesa? Vodafone invented M-Pesa for Safaricom in Kenya and Vodacom in Tanzania and partly funded by DFID.

While the world is begging the USA to start doing instant interbank transfer, Nigeria and other countries like Zimbabwe have been doing it for centuries, but who knows? Outside of Africa, more people know about UK’s faster payments than Zimbabwe’s ZIPIT. Does ZIPIT means “to keep quiet”?

Tax collection is a mess in Nigeria, but the TSA platform from Remita is sufficiently more advanced than what can found in other countries, but who knows?

mCash, recently launched in Nigeria, promises to upend merchant payments but hardly did the story get beyond the border before it was rudely sent back home.

MyCash is a pure-play digital bank in Zimbabwe run out of a tiny office on a shared infrastructure, but I can bet that you are reading about it here for the first time.

Africans may not have achieved the level of development seen in western countries and Asia, but not everyone has been sitting around climbing iroko trees. However, while we may be furiously developing payment and other technology solutions, hardly do we get the word out.

If we think others will tell our stories, we may have to wait until chicken grow teeth. Letting the world know isn’t just about the beautiful 15 minutes of fame that everyone craves, but more importantly, to encourage our youth that good things are also possible in Africa.

Even though the technology behind M-Pesa may have come from Vodafone, the airtime it got spurred the rapid development of mobile money across Africa, and it is one of the good things exported by Africa to the world.

We need more beautiful stories to be told. But much more, we need storytellers.

mCash would change the future of payments in Nigeria

The Nigeria Inter-Bank Settlement System (NIBSS), along with numerous banks, have launched mCash as an alternative payment system in the populous country in Africa.

mCash rides on USSD and anyone can easily use the code to make payments at large stores, corner shops, etc. The mCash payment system, which is automatically available to over 28 million account holders in Nigeria, can be used with any smart or feature phone.

The Central Bank of Nigeria has been pushing electronic payments in Nigeria for years. The elaborate program, dubbed Cash-less Nigeria, was driven massively in partnership with banks, switches, schemes and other stakeholders. The results have been fantastic as electronic payments in Nigeria is on a tear.

Despite the massive success of the Cash-less Nigeria program, merchant payments using Point of Sales (POS) terminals have not been as successful. Payments at POS terminals have been bedeviled with a lot of issues: High cost of terminals, which has been exacerbated by the devalued Naira. Poor telco data/GPRS infrastructure. Overregulation of participation and fees, which has made the business to be highly unprofitable. The list of issues goes on.

It was no surprise that banks started pulling back. Many at times, merchants desirous of having terminals are not given because they may not have enough transactions to allow the banks breakeven.

Not deterred by these, NIBSS and some banks rallied around to design a new payment system which would latch on to the recent success of the USSD banking in Nigeria.

Rising from the ashes of mobile money in Nigeria, another failed experiment in the quest for a cashless society, banks quickly repurposed their USSD codes to connect directly to bank accounts instead of mobile wallets. As the average Nigerian is already used to using USSD codes to load airtime or select call back tunes, there was an immediate affinity. USSD banking in Nigeria now has more users than all other channels apart from payment cards.

The mCash payment system allows account holders to dial their bank codes or a special general purpose code and then pay any merchant. The paying customers and merchants do not need to be with the same bank. The transactions ride on the existing NIBSS Instant Payment infrastructure. Merchants get settled instantly instead of waiting until the next day as it would be for POS transactions. Banks do not need to create additional back office processes as the payment transactions are treated like regular NIP transfer payments.

Even the merchants love the new system as they would not need to pay interchange or MSC.

This is a new payment system and the jury is still out on how transformational it could be. It has all the potentials of a successful platform: reach, ease of use and cost to merchants.

Understanding the MMM Absurdity

My recent post on MMM Ponzi drew divergent responses. On Bella Naija, my backside was practically roasted with the vitriolic comments from those who feel that MMM is a divine intervention. After all, why is it my problem if someone wants to start a bonfire with his money?

On LinkedIn, the responses are direct opposite. Almost everyone agreed that MMM is a scam and only a stupid person would do it. Of course, there are few guys on LinkedIn who share the opinion that it isn’t my problem.

Truth be told, it is really not my problem.

But then, the troublemaker in me wouldn’t just roll over and die. How else can I describe the absurdity of MMM but to do a simulation of the investment with hyper-return?

So let’s say James, a friend of mine, decides to “invest” N1,000,000 in MMM by January 2017. If he doesn’t touch the money and keeps re-investing capital and interest, this is what he gets by January 1, 2018. A stratospheric 2,230% return!

Initial Seed 1,000,000
January 1,300,000
February 1,690,000
March 2,197,000
April 2,856,100
May 3,712,930
June 4,826,809
July 6,274,852
August 8,157,307
September 10,604,499
October 13,785,849
November 17,921,604
December 23,298,085
2,230%

My birthday is January, and considering I would be hitting a major milestone in 2018, I should expect a fantastic gift from James, right? Wrong! I can bet that James would be dead-ass broke by then.

Trust me, if such a guarantee return exists, all we need Buhari to do is ask Aunty Kemi, the Minister of Finance, to put in about N100B and he can use the N2.3 trillion Nigeria would get by January 2018 to fix Lagos-Ibadan Express road, fund the outstanding salaries of the APC governors’ states, build 3 more refineries and drop in about N200B for 2018 investment. Come 2019, we will have N4.6B to spend. It’s election year and we will return Buhari with all happiness.

For me, I can put in N10M and just chill for a year; a year’s wait doesn’t kill anyone. With N232M, I can make a foray into real estate and live the rest of my pipe dream life in luxury.

It doesn’t make sense right? Yes, it doesn’t!