We don’t want to go back to the office again!

We do realize that this statement may be a bit too dramatic but stay with us as we try to explain why we made such an unequivocal statement.

Work-from-home and it’s an almost not-safe-for-work acronym, WFH, is the new normal. WFH has been a great addition to everyone’s vocabularies but the application and implementation of this phrase into our day-to-day has seen varying degrees of either ease or difficulty.

Trium being a cloud-first company, we found it easy to navigate the WFH conundrum. As some point, we started questioning why we had an office in the first space and if we could use the rent to fund some posh party. However, it isn’t all black and white; there were varying shades of silver and grey.

We started with the physical phase of the changes, we decided to optimize the cost that we were incurring as an organization, we engaged with our landlord and facility manager on how to get rebates on facility management fees since we were not using the facilities. We also engaged with our internet service provider and reduced the bandwidth on our internet connectivity since we’ve all gone remote.

Next was the work efficiencies. We reiterated the need to be cyber-security conscious, so we provided additional security layers. We inculcated more work tools in our workflows — Slack, Confluence, Jira, DocuSign (all documents are signed electronically, no exceptions). We encouraged and now fully implement real-time collaboration on documents using Microsoft Office 365. We relied heavily on Zoom and sparingly on Teams — the choice of use was a result of ease and adaptability. It made us; we didn’t make it. We also provided weekly data stipend for every member of the team.

Surprisingly, we found out that we’re still humans. The hard truth is some of us may not need to work while we were remote (like our office assistants) so we made adequate arrangements for them. We continued with our morning standup meetings with the whole team on the status of work, blockers, and overall progress.

Our daily virtual water-cooler; tatafo has its usefulness.

Every evening at 4:45 pm, we dragged our ragged selves to Zoom for a video water-cooler. The rule is that in those golden 15 minutes, we will talk about everything and anything but work. We’ve had conversations that have ranged from treatment of afro hair to growing out a beard/moustache to semi-cooking competitions to spelling bees and word games. We’ve also shared in personal joys, victories and even losses.

This evening events may have proven to be the most strengthening part of our WFH adventure. Let’s explain a bit more. While we were working physically in the office, we worked in an open plan office and shared lunch every day with each other so there were lots of bants, candid conversation, honest and open talks with each other; long story short we created memories. This allowed us better to understand each other, foster a familial, open and honest culture which invariably allowed us better to complement each other while working effectively as a team. These evening sessions, even though they may not compare to these physical interactions, gave us some of it back.

August 15, 2020 is 5 clear months since we went remote and it has individually and as a group shown us how best we worked (having sampled both work options) and taught us a couple of lessons. At this 5 months’ mark review, we can see that:

– Performance on the job has increased as we’ve now harnessed the efficiencies that come with a properly managed remote team.

– Most people detest routine — when the evening meetings started getting boring, we had to switch it up a bit and add things that made it more exciting. We’re now committed to continue doing this to ensure that everyone stays engaged and connected.

– Connection is important and mental health is inviolable. We noticed that the way people feel about each other and themselves has a direct effect on how they work. We’ve included one-on-one sessions with management and have actively encouraged boundaries, personal fun times, and most importantly adequate rest.

– No one is superhuman, whether working from home or physically, mistakes are part of the learning process. Having understandable, albeit unrealistic, expectations because one is working from home does more harm than good. When these mistakes, which are bound to happen, do happen, we acknowledge how they happened and work towards ensuring they don’t happen again.

– Remote hiring is here to stay, and one has to be skilled in this fine art. Before now, we de-emphasized the commute time to the office and remote work requests were denied; now, the ability to work remotely is sacrosanct. We’ve gone through several hiring since March and we learned a lot during that process.

Do we miss the office? Yes and no. For most of us, the flexibility of work, the disappearance of the blues of commuting, and cost savings have made us start asking that question, do we ever want to go back to the office? While for a few of us, the ability to pop our heads into another’s desk/door and crack that joke, give that jab, affirm work done in real-time, share that smile that can only come from an inside joke, eat off another’s plate at lunchtime and share those random but sure to happen vent sessions (blink if you can relate) has sure been missed.

Nonetheless, we know that for the next few months, we will keep working fully remote. A hybrid option may very well be considered in the future. In the spirit of human connection and keeping the vibe alive, we’ve a virtual party planned for the last day of this month. Yes, there will be booze, and no, you aren’t invited!

Simple ways to prevent banks from taking your money

Hardly a day goes by without someone screaming on Twitter about their bank taking their money even while doing little or no transactions. Trust me, Nigerian banks are optimized for money making but hey, who said you can’t beat them at their games?

Here are simple steps you can take to take control of your money and minimize how nicely you get shaved by our Sashe bankers.

Get yourself a savings account because current accounts are for dummies

Banks can charge an account maintenance fee of up to N1 for every N1,000 that danced across your accounts. If you are the type doing well on your Instagram side hustle, banks will quickly strip you bare.

On the flip side, the ordinary savings account with any Nigerian bank is so optimized that it can do practically everything a current account will do save for getting an overdraft and being able to write cheques. Even then, these two features ain’t that important because banks don’t give loans that easy to start with; and nobody writes cheques again.

It really makes no sense to keep a current account except you are some form of dinosaur.

Cancel your debit cards 💳

Yes, you heard me. Debit cards are so yesterday. But hold up, I assume you are a typical Nigerian that has bank accounts with three different banks. So, cancel all your debit cards everywhere save the most reliable of them all (I wish you good luck deciding which that is). This saves you from the bank digging holes every other month to take card maintenance charges. And on top of that, they could charge you for the SMS sent to inform you that they just charged your sorry ass. Savage people!

Interestingly, card maintenance is free for current accounts, but the account maintenance will/could wipe you out.

Cancel your SMS alert

Yes, again, you can cancel your SMS alert. Any banker who said you must have an SMS is either dumb or lying. Either way, they ain’t supposed to be a banker. The Central Bank said if you are the type that hates the ding-dong of SMS notifications, you can cancel it if you have an email alert and sign an indemnity (Section 10.10 of The Guide to Charges by Banks, Other Financial and Non-Bank Financial Institutions, January 1, 2020). It’s right there in the regulation but hey, this is Nigeria, who reads when you can spread rumors?

Is there a downside to this? Not that I know of. Are emails very secure? F* nope! But then SMS messages are worse than emails. Why? Because they sit unencrypted and open all the telcos that they passed through. So that fancy OTP of yours is waiting and begging to be read.

One last thing on SMS, beware of banks that send you multiple SMS for a single transaction. The scam works this way; you want to transfer N50,000 to some random dude; you get an SMS for the amount you have sent, and another SMS for the N52.5 transfer charge as well.

Stamp duties

Too bad, nobody can help you out with this; every account gets charged once the transaction is over N10,000. At least, turn the SMS off so that they don’t make potholes in your bank accounts.

Open another savings account

Are you aware that your dead-ass savings account pays about a 3.75% interest rate? Never seen it before, I guess because you rock your account like a Twitter DM. And when banks are now offering 1.8% on fixed deposits, it’s mad not to rock this baby.

By a quirk of Nigerian banking regulation, bankers must give you 30% of the MPR, which is 12.5% as of May 28, 2020. But but but, if you make more than four withdrawals on your savings account within a month, irrespective of your balance, just kiss the interest on it goodbye (Section 1.2 of The Guide to Charges by Banks, Other Financial and Non-Bank Financial Institutions, January 1, 2020).

A simple way around it, open another savings account, which your bank would gladly oblige, put your excess funds in there, and spend the tashere in the main one. And don’t let the devil tempt you to go there more four times in a month.

Disclosures 🙊🙊

I still have three current accounts with Access, UBA, and Fidelity banks. I’m nowhere practicing what I just preached. But then I didn’t complain of banks taking charges off me because the money they make gets paid as bonus to my friends, and I force them to take me out for drinks where I ruin them by drinking more than all the charges they have taken from me for the year. Sweet revenge.

I used to be a banker where I made a truckload of cash from these same charges I just complained about for the banks I worked for; they paid my bonuses, and my friends who paid for SMS alerts, dragged me to different clubs to ruin me. Karma goes round.

Why QR code payment would never succeed in Africa

Paying with QR code is so cool. All you need to do is bring out your smartphone, take a snapshot, and voila, payment is made. The simplicity and versatility are simply unparalleled. QR code payments have been adapted from in-store shopping; to online payments; to even paying for cable subscription on TV.

As much as you would love QR code, it’s not really a global phenomenon. While QR code is in use almost everywhere in the world, it’s more prevalent in China. It’s so popular in China that is regarded as a currency — it’s practically the only way to pay for anything. This is even more evident in that kids as young as four years may never have seen cash. Remember, if you carry cash around in China, people will probably think you have lost your mind.

QR, which means Quick Response, code has a fascinating background. It was invented by a Japanese company called Denso Wave in 1994 as a means of tracking vehicles during manufacturing. Just imagine robots bringing out their smartphones to snap pictures of cars. That may not have been how it worked, but you get the drift. After a while, people figured that if QR codes could be used to identify car parts then it could also be used to identify things to be paid for. Before long, it was adapted to various situations. Considering that QR code is similar to a fancy barcode, it could now be put or printed on practically any surface with a display.

However, Tencent popularized the use of QR code for payments when it started embedding it into its WeChat platform. The accessibility and ease of use made for a viral adoption and the rest, as they say, is history.

So, if QR code is versatile, cheap, and cheerful, why hasn’t it been used to transform payments in Africa? I guess it’s easier said than done.

Seeing how successful QR code has been in Asia, many attempts have been made to bring this magic to Africa. But practically each of these has failed woefully. I recall a meeting I had with one of the global payments giants in Tanzania in 2016; they wanted to use QR code to make payments in the country but failed to read the tea leaves; the Telco they were pitching put them on the next plane out of Darussalam.

It’s not rocket science to figure out why QR codes schemes never work in Africa. Some are obvious while others require seeing beyond technology into the realities of the African space.

The lack of network effect is one of the major killers of payment schemes in Africa, QR code included. Quite a number of supposedly smart fintechs naively believe their innovative products can be scaled without leveraging on others; instead of establishing a common standard, they go at it alone. And usually, watch the product die alone as well. Companies like Tencent and Alibaba who can define new ecosystems are a rarity. Majority of successful companies rely on common standards and collaborate actively with others to thrive. By the way, there is now an EMV standard for QR code, it’s too little too late.

While the sale and adoption of smartphones have been impressive for years, the reality is that Africa is still an impoverished continent where 41% of us live below the poverty line. Being poor means only 33% of Africans can afford a smartphone even if they barely made it through getting a feature phone. QR code payments depend 100% on smartphones, and where the majority can’t afford smartphones, the chance of QR scaling is zero.

The beauty and elegance of QR code payments come alive when you use it, but needs a working Internet. Unfortunately, telecoms services in Africa are shitty because of many reasons; poor investment, dilapidated infrastructure, fibre cables getting sabotaged, sometimes thieves making away with batteries and other telecoms equipment. With a patchy network, payments get stalled, and after a few failed attempts that must have taken many minutes into completing a transaction, little wonder QR codes get abandoned

And even for the few that have smartphones, they hardly leave the mobile data on. Also, though most Africans get their internet from their mobile phones, data is still costly in most parts of the continent. Consequently, savvy users turn off their data; the chore of turning it on for just payment is significant friction that has made QR code payments not habit-forming.

Lastly, payments apps in Africa have poor usability, which doesn’t exclude even the largest pan-African banks. In fact, you could almost say that app usability is inversely proportional to the size of the bank; the smaller fintechs have snazzier designs and more responsive interfaces. Poor customer experience means it takes just a little too long to bring out a smartphone, unlock it, spend minute logging in, finding the QR menu, and getting payments done. Imagine a scenario at a retail checkout where a paying customer is spending minutes fumbling with her phone when cash and cards are faster. Here comes the death of QR.

While QR has stumbled across Sub-Saharan Africa, other payment methods, which are aware of the African realities, such as USSD and STK, have made significant progress. M-Pesa processes billions of transactions each year over STK. 35% of the over 700 million interbank transfers in Nigeria in 2018 were made on USSD.

Would QR code ever catch on in Africa as the infrastructure gets better and smartphones cheaper? Maybe. Maybe not. But for the time being, it has been certified dead on arrival, needing no post-mortem inquiry

Originally written for Trium Networks in August 2019

Core banking software in Nigeria as of 2020

Core Banking Application, or CBA, is that monstrous piece of system that powers every bank, big or small. I have been tracking what each Nigerian bank uses for a few years now. As invisible as it is for most bank customers and humans, it’s a major determinant for fintechs and those who integrate with banks in one form of the other.

A few things have happened since I last wrote about the core banking applications used in Nigerian banks in April 2011 and March 2016. 

So, if you are an aspiring payment services provider or a new switch, here’s your list as of 2020. Wishing you a mighty those of good luck.

CBNTemenos T24
Coronation Merchant BankFinacle
FBNQuest Merchant BankFinacle
Fidelity BankFinacleFinacle
First Bank of NigeriaFinacleFinacle
First City Monument BankFinacleFinacle
Globus BankFinacle
Guaranty Trust BankBasis/BanksBasis/Banks
Heritage BankFinacleFinacle
Jaiz BankiMAL
Keystone BankTemenos T24Temenos T24
Nova Merchant BankIntellect Design Arena
Polaris Bank (previously Skye Bank)FLEXCUBEFLEXCUBE
Providus BankBasis/Banks
Rand Merchant BankTCS Bancs
Stanbic IBTCFinacleFinacle
Standard Chartered BankeBBSeBBS
Sterling BankBasis/BanksTemenos T24
Suntrust BankBasis/Banks
TAJBank LimitedSOPRA (Amplitude)
Titan Trust BankFLEXCUBE
United Bank for AfricaFinacleFinacle
Unity BankBasis/BanksBasis/Banks
Wema BankFinacleFinacle
Zenith BankPhoenixFinastra (Phoenix)

How has the software faired and now stack up?

In 2016Now 2020
Finacle – 7 (37%)Finacle – 10 (32.26%)
FLEXCUBE – 6 (32%)FLEXCUBE – 8 (25.81%))
Basis/Banks – 3 (16%)Basis/Banks – 4 (12.90%)
Temenos T24 – 1 (5%)Temenos T24 – 3 (9.68%)
eBBS 1 (5%)Finastra – 1 (3.23%)
Phoenix – 1 (5%)eBBS – 1 (3.23%)
iMAL – 1 (3.23%)
Intellect – 1 (3.23%)
TCS Bancs – 1 (3.23%)
SOPRA (Amplitude) – 1 (3.23%)

Additional Notes

  • I have updated the list to include merchant banks and the country’s Central Banking Authority (CBN). 
  • Basis/Banks lost a site when Sterling Bank moved to Temenos T24 in November 2016. The bank was also considering Finacle from Infosys at the time.

More About The Core Banking Software

Finacle is a complete suite of banking applications from Infosys, one of the largest technology companies in India.

FLEXCUBE is from Oracle Financial Services. FLEXCUBE was initially i-Flex software but the company was bought by Oracle in 2005 during one of its famous spending sprees. A bit of history: FLEXCUBE was originally developed by Citibank and was spurned off as Citicorp Information Technologies Industries Limited, an independent company. FLEXCUBE is highly regarded globally with about 700 installations in 125 countries and has won Core Banking Solution of the Year and Application of the Year from The Banker.

Basis and Banks are from ICS Financial Services, a midsize Jordanian/UK software company with about 45 installations worldwide.

Despite the fact that the Nigerian market is dominated by 2 major software from India, the core banking software business is rich and varied worldwide. To read more about other banking systems, head over to http://www.inntron.co.th/corebank.html.

Addressing Nigeria’s Overlooked Lending Opportunities


Improving access to credit has been high on the agenda of several international organizations and policymakers for many years. This is mostly because a large part of the world lives in poverty, with individuals and businesses lacking access to credit [1]. Nigeria has a high poverty rate, with about 86 million people living in extreme poverty and about 146 million people living below the upper-middle-income line [2]. These contribute to why a lot of individuals require access to credit to meet short, medium- and long-term financial needs.

Access to credit and financial inclusion are closely related [1], and they both play an essential role in improving the structure and quality of a country’s financial system, which drives economic growth [4]. According to CBN’s National Financial Inclusion Strategy (NFIS), credit has been identified as a key product to increase the country’s financial inclusion [4]. CBN has set a 2020 target of the Nigerian adult population having access to credit at 40%, which means that about 42 million Nigerians should have access to loans. We are, however, far from this, as only about 2% of the Nigerian adult population have been able to access loans from banks and other financial institutions [3], leaving a variance of about 38%.

This huge variance presents a tremendous opportunity for lenders (commercial banks, microfinance banks, Fintechs, and other lending companies). This article explores the potential credit gap in Nigeria that lenders can address, as well as the extent of value which stakeholders within the lending ecosystem can create. The article also focuses on significant challenges being faced by lenders today and ways these challenges can be addressed to effectively meet the country’s credit deficit and financial inclusion targets.

A quick look at Nigeria’s Credit Conditions

Before arriving at an estimated credit gap for Nigeria, it would be vital to consider the different types of credit and the various segments of borrowers. It would also be important to explore lending trends and conditions within the country. Regarding loan types, loans to customers are either secured or unsecured. Secured loans (e.g., mortgage, car loan, etc.) are connected to tangible collaterals and typically come with lower interest rates because of the lower financial risk attached. Unsecured loans (e.g., personal loans, payday loans, credit cards, etc.) are not protected by any collateral, and they typically have higher interest rates due to the financial risk involved. While unsecured, there should be legal frameworks and policies in place to protect lenders especially in situations where borrowers default on their loan payments.

According to CBN’s Credit Conditions Report (Q4, 2019), the availability of secured credit to households increased over the year and is expected to keep increasing in the next quarter. This expected growth in the supply of secured credit is met with a corresponding expected increase in demand for secured credit by borrowers [17], which is complemented by CBN’s directive to increase loans to individuals and businesses [8]. A growth trend is also the case for unsecured credit, as lenders expect the availability and demand of unsecured loans to increase in the next quarter [17]. This expected increase in unsecured loans to Nigerian households is complemented by a forecasted general growth of unsecured lending in Nigeria, which is mostly driven by the proliferation of digital lenders that are using data and technology to grow consumer and SME financing in the country.

Loan default rate, which represents the percentage of outstanding loans written off by lenders due to the inability or unwillingness of borrowers to pay back, or after an extended period of missed payments, has also improved in recent times and is expected to keep growing in the next quarter [17]. Lenders are, however, forecasting that loan pricing and interest rates will remain unchanged in the coming quarter. This means that a lot of lending organizations in Nigeria have not leveraged data and analytics to improve the risk management process, which can create opportunities for lower interest rates. There is the opportunity for lenders to adopt open banking, which creates an opportunity to share data using standard Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) and has the potential to reduce delinquency and make loans cheaper and more accessible.

NGN 51.8 Trillion and counting – Estimated credit gap in Nigeria

Improving access to credit to Nigerian individuals and businesses has been high on CBN’s agenda in recent times, with the apex bank unfolding measures to increase lending to consumer, mortgage, micro, and SME sectors. One of these measures is the increase in the Loan-to-Deposit ratio from 60% to 65% [8], which has led banks to give out more loans to comply with CBN’s directive. According to CBN, Nigeria’s credit gap is about NGN 1.7 trillion [9,10]. This has been estimated as the difference between loans currently being given out by financial institutions and the loan amount that financial institutions will be required to give out to maintain LDR of 65% (assuming current deposit figures). Based on 2019 figures, Nigerian banks gave out about NGN 13.6 trillion loans [8], which were about NGN 1.7 trillion short of the loan amount required to maintain LDR of 65% (NGN 15.3 trillion).

This approach to estimating the credit gap in Nigeria might not be holistic as it solely leverages LDR as an instrument to ascertain what the credit needs of individuals and businesses are. The approach has a limited view of consumer credit need, especially with how this can be mirrored to Nigeria’s working population. Also, the approach focuses on only commercial banks as lenders. It does not consider other lending institutions (Fintechs, microfinance banks, Credit associations, etc.). It is, therefore, important to make other key considerations while estimating the available credit deficit, which can be addressed by lenders in Nigeria. This credit gap estimation will focus on only consumer, micro and SME lending, as 95% of loans currently provided in Nigeria have a value of above NGN 50 million [11], meaning most of the loans are already being provided to large corporates.

According to lending data from a large commercial bank and leading FinTech, the average working adult in Nigeria takes a loan of about NGN 23,000, seven (7) times in a year], which amounts to an annual figure of NGN 161,000. World Bank has estimated the number of working adults in Nigeria to be at 62.4 million in 2019 [12]. This means that the estimated market size for consumer loans is about NGN 10.1 trillion. To ascertain what portion of the market size represents a ‘credit gap’ that needs to be addressed, we can apply the credit variance of 38%, as only 2% of the targeted 40% of the Nigerian adult population currently have access to loans [3]. This brings the estimated consumer credit gap to about NGN 3.8 trillion.

Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises generally experience greater financial obstacles compared to large corporates. MSMEs enjoy less access to credit and other forms of external finance and face higher transaction costs and higher risk premiums [13]. This is mostly because financial institutions are often reluctant to lend money or provide financing to companies with limited or no credit history [14]. This has resulted in an MSME credit gap that lenders can address. According to CBN, the existing financing gap for MSMEs is about NGN 48 trillion, with more than 17.5 million MSMEs seeking credit and other forms of financing [15].

Combining the credit gap for consumer and MSME segments, lenders can address a credit gap of NGN 51.8 trillion through secured and unsecured loan products that will help to boost financial inclusion and economic growth. However, it is also vital to note that very excessive credit growth, coupled with high inflation and default rates, can lead to a financial crisis [6]. Strong growth in credit has preceded many episodes of financial instability in the past, resulting in the materialization of systemic banking crisis [7]. Hence, it is important to not get carried away while implementing measures to address Nigeria’s credit gap and drive credit growth. There should be a focus on ensuring credit growth is not too excessive that it leads to a national financial crisis. Further studies and statistical analysis can be carried out to measure excessive credit provision in the economy and identify optimal interactions between Nigeria’s credit demand and supply factors, towards ensuring credit growth is not too excessive that it leads to financial instability.

Impact of the estimated NGN 51.8 Trillion Credit Gap

The credit gap, which is characterized by limited access to credit for individuals and SMEs, has led to hampered growth in financial inclusion and, consequently, stunted economic growth. Limited access to consumer credit also hinders consumer spending and consumption [1]. This directly impacts the ability of consumers to meet their immediate, medium-term, and long-term financial needs. Some of the practical issues being faced by Nigerians include limited ability to conduct an upfront purchase of assets (cars, houses, phones, etc.) and make upfront payments for experiences and services (travel, education, rent, etc.). This had led to Nigerians mostly having to save to meet financial targets, which can be very difficult.

Furthermore, limited access to credit has led to limited growth for MSMEs, as a lot of these companies do not have the required financing to scale the business and invest in appropriate resources and capabilities (people, technology, processes, etc.) [18]. MSMEs are vital to the development of any economy as they provide opportunities for employment generation, the advancement of local technology capabilities, economic diversification, development of local entrepreneurship skills, and forward integration with large-scale industries [16]. Hence, it is very crucial for participants of the lending ecosystem to develop the right capabilities to improve access to credit for individuals and MSMEs.

Other benefits to be derived if the credit gap is addressed include improvement in the country’s manufacturing and agricultural industries [19], increased opportunities to improve health, education and innovation, and general improvement in the quality of living [20].

Major challenges faced by lenders and other participants of the lending ecosystem

  • Poor credit reporting – One of the key processes within lending is the management of credit risk. Nigerian lenders currently combine customer information with credit reports from Credit Bureaus to ascertain customers’ risk and determine creditworthiness. This is not holistic, and it may leave out key information about a customer’s financial health, which could be crucial to determining what the customer’s risk profile should be. This also limits the extent to which lending organizations understand potential borrowers, as well as keeping loan prices and interest rates high.

Also, the traditional credit scoring process does not serve MSMEs well [14]. Often, one single piece of unavailable information about the MSME can prevent the assessment and consideration of the organization. Due to this limited access to rich customer data, lending organizations mostly provide loans to individuals and organizations that have adequate credit information history, thus leaving out potential borrowers with ‘thin-credit-files’ (potential borrowers with limited or no credit history).

If we consider a real-life scenario, a Credit Bureau API check costs between NGN 200 – NGN 500 and obtaining a transaction statement for a loan applicant from NIBSS’ mybankstatement service costs NGN 400 for a JSON file and NGN 250 for a pdf. If we assume a lender assesses 1,000 potential borrowers, that’s already a cost of about NGN 500,000 on just conducting credit checks, and there is no guarantee that all the loan applications will be approved. If the loan amounts are small, the lender will only be able to pass on a maximum of 1% of the loan disbursed to the borrower which would not be enough to cover the cost of processing.

  • Limited collaboration between participants of the lending ecosystem – Participants of the lending ecosystem (commercial banks, Fintechs, microfinance banks, credit associations, other non-bank lenders, credit bureaus, regulators, etc.) play different roles across the lending value chain. There currently is no standard framework (such as open banking) that drives collaboration within the ecosystem. Data currently exist in silos, with each participant having a fragmented understanding of each customer, as opposed to a holistic and detailed understanding, which would be the case if participants adopt full collaboration and standardized data sharing.
  • Inadequate technology infrastructure – Some lending organizations in the country have invested in technology capabilities (applications, infrastructure, network, etc.) to automate the lending process and ensure efficiency and speed. Interactions with multiple lending organizations in Nigeria have, however, shown that there is limited reliance on relevant digital and emerging technologies to support the end-to-end lending process (loan origination, credit risk management, loan disbursement, loan performance monitoring and loan collections). Also, these technology capabilities are not nimble enough to cater to the growing availability and demand for secured and unsecured lending. Many financial institutions also lack robust technology platforms that seamlessly integrate risk modeling with reporting [22].

Lenders will need to invest in digital and technology capabilities (core lending applications, predictive analytics, omnichannel experience, etc.) to remain agile in the provision of tailored loan products and services to Nigeria’s credit market.

  • High default rates – According to the CBN’s credit conditions report, loan default rates are expected to reduce in the coming years [17]. However, due to limited access to customer information across the financial ecosystem, lenders currently don’t have a full view of customers’ financial health. Hence, it is difficult to accurately identify and separate potential borrowers that will have difficulty in paying back their loans from those that won’t. This has led to an automatic reduction of the potential credit market size and has also kept loan prices high, as lenders tend to price loans high enough to cover the risk of loan defaults.
  • Inadequate legal infrastructure – The legal infrastructure in place to protect lenders, borrowers and other participants of the legal ecosystem is not adequate to drive credit growth. There are a lot of cases where borrowers are easily cheated or have to pay very high risk premiums to access credit. There are also cases where lenders are exposed to financial loss when borrowers are unable or unwilling to repay loans. In cases like this, the cost of debt recovery can be very high and most times, lenders have to let go of these defaulted loans. An adequate legal structure should provide the relevant protection to ensure lenders and borrowers are not hesitant with providing and accessing credit.

Initiatives to address Nigeria’s Credit Gap

  • Improve credit risk management and reporting. Borrowers shouldn’t know more about their financial situation than lenders do [22]. Lenders should have sufficient information about potential borrowers and have the right tools to conduct a detailed risk assessment to understand customers’ financial health and risk profiles, even more than the borrowers understand themselves. Lenders should integrate alternative sources of data, leveraging concepts such as open APIs, blacklists, etc. to improve credit reporting.
  • Explore new and innovative loan products to address the needs of Nigerians. In essence, Nigerian lenders need to be creative to develop loan products and services that are tailored to the needs of Nigerians. Due to the availability of data, lenders can fully understand their prospective and existing customers and develop custom offerings that will meet their needs. An example is how Flipkart, an Indian ecommerce company, commenced the provision of loan products to consumers and sellers on its platform to increase consumer credit growth. Another example is Branch, a Fintech organization, providing loan products to merchants based on their sales history and financial projections, which are available online. Other examples include how lenders can price loans differently for customers based on the result of their credit assessment and risk profiling.
  • Increase lending to underserved borrower segments. While addressing Nigeria’s credit gap, lenders should also focus on underserved borrower segments, such as thin-credit-filed customers and potential borrowers from the untapped informal sector of the country. For these segments of customers, lenders can build risk models that consider other forms of data (social networking data, telecommunication usage data, sales data, etc.) in other to gain a detailed understanding of each customer and ascertain if they’re creditworthy. Lenders can also implement channels (mobile, online, agents, USSD) to provide accessibility and convenience to these customers.
  • Governments and Regulators should create an enabling environment and policies to drive credit growth. While the CBN has taken some measures (such as the LDR directive) to improve access to credit, additional steps should be taken to ensure that both lenders and borrowers are protected. Governments have also made some steps to increase access to credit (TraderMoni, MarketMoni, FarmerMoni, National Collateral Registry, etc.). Governments should continue to contribute to developing and implementing policies that will create an enabling environment for credit growth.
  • Transformation of lending operations – Traditional lenders, need to undergo digital transformation to transition into agile lenders. Lenders will have to deploy a robust technology platform with seamlessly integrated capabilities to support risk modeling, reporting, loan origination, loan performance management, API management, etc. Lenders will also need to provide an omnichannel experience to individuals and MSMEs to ensure that they have access to loans, at any time, and on any channel of their choice.


Nigeria has an estimated consumer and MSME credit gap of about NGN 51.8 trillion. This presents a very huge opportunity for lenders, but closing the credit gap will require significant effort from private institutions, governments, and regulators. Lenders will need to develop key capabilities that will make them more agile and positioned to meet the needs of customers. They will need to implement sound business models that will adequately serve the different segments of individual and MSME borrowers. Governments and regulators will need to create the enabling environments that will improve access to credit, while also contributing significantly to economic development and job creation.


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