What’s killing financial inclusion in Nigeria?

Financial inclusion in Nigeria falls short because products lack accessibility and affordability, ignoring basic needs like free transactions. Understanding the needs of the poor is key to an effective design.

No scholar worth his salt would denigrate his study in the first line, or on any other line for that matter. However, listen carefully, take what I’m going to say below with a pinch of salt as it’s based on armchair projections.

But then who cares?

We are quite a lot in Nigeria, or so says the official and derivative stats. I really don’t buy into the numbers but then nobody gives two flying horse legs about my opinions. With about 180 million hungry souls crammed within the national border, only about 30 million accounts are there in the 20+ odd banks.

Considering that nobody in Nigeria is faithful to anything, especially to their banks, I know finding unique bank customers could slash the numbers down to about 20M. Just a hunch, don’t quote this for your PhD!

The Central Bank of Nigeria, other NGOs and do-good money bags have tried all they could with financial inclusion but it ain’t just hitting that sweet spot. Banks were corralled into the deal, and we came up with Prepaid Cards and Mobile Wallets. Both had as much success as the Zepellin.

On a quiet Sunday morning, after the rain has done about 3 rounds, much more than middle-aged men can cope with these days, I thought about what could have made all the efforts, the bankers, the CBN, flounder like a pricked balloon.

It was just simple. Financial inclusion designed by rich bankers and their friends in Brioni suits just don’t work.

Why? Because financial inclusion products should be accessible and affordable. Unfortunately, they are not.

This is best underscored by a recent conversation I had with one of my banker friends designing a saving product where artisans and others can pay N100 a day to save about N1,000 using their phones. I was like, what the F? I wouldn’t even do that on a regular account!

Which brings us to why the fancy financial inclusion schemes never work. Most were designed with absolutely no idea of what poor people want. But then ain’t difficult to find out, they want basic and affordable financial products.

They want free cash in/cash out.

They want free balance inquiry.

They want free bill payments.

They really don’t give two rats’ legs about cost of transaction.

Oh my, they don’t keep money in balances because like we all know, you can only save when you can afford to. When you live off less than $1 a day, which 70% of us are anyway (who did the enumeration?) you can’t afford to save. When you earn less than N50K a month and you have mouths hungrier than young birds to feed, you can’t save.

So dear banker, if the poor can’t save, there isn’t going to be any float.

If you don’t get any of these above, you can’t design products for poor people, bottom of the pyramid or financial inclusion.

This isn’t Davos, so get off your high horse dude!

Short scalpel cut to immortality

I’m assured of immortality.

Ok, if you think my religious inclination has changed, maybe not that fast but then why die, hoping for heaven when I can simply stroll over to the General Hospital Ikeja and get a body swap?

And when I have used that up, I can come back for another as long as I don’t get a bullet in the head.

So says the mad doctor who is going to do a full head transplant in 2017. And not just him, he’s got about 100 assistants for the macabre project.
Hey, before you call him mad, think about how much furor was raised, especially by some religions aunties of mine, when test tube babes were first marinated (or how do you describe the process) in 1978? Today almost all my nieces and nephews are born that way. OK, that was a joke.
What Canavaro, the name of the evil doctor J, is doing is to help some random dude, with untreatable muscle wasting disease, get a new stab at life but the implications are far reaching.

I can’t imagine Mugabe hanging around for another 50 years. Or Putin? Or? Now things look scary doesn’t it?

Just a thought, if my body is old, along with my head and then I get a new body, how about the head? Some shriveled round thing with clammy leather hanging and bobbing perilously on top of a body with six packs? Or could Canavaro just improve his methods so only the brain is transplanted? How do I feel waking up the next morning in a body with tattoos?

If the brain alone is transplantable, would it be the whole stuff, or just my memories? What if some bits of the brain is already worn out from age – Alzheimer and other random gerontological malaises?

Wait, what makes me me? My thoughts? My memories? My one pack? Definitely not!

Could this get less invasive and just a thin slice of brain is transferred? If that’s it, what about if we developed a process to transfer my thoughts and sentience from my body to another? What if I could do a transcendence from my body into a thought machine?

I’m getting confused and it’s a Friday evening. Time I went home before my sanity is sold on OLX.

A Gangsta Approach to Cashless

I really don’t know any other trick left in CBN’s bag that hasn’t been used to cajole the rest of us into the nirvana of cashless life. But Nigerians love the hard ways or how would you describe hauling cash around, endangering lives and limbs when the price of prosthetics are at all-time high?

A good example? Don’t worry I have a bagful of that.

At the Lekki Toll (I hate that damned contraption) you could line up for years to pay cash or just zip through the electronic gate in seconds. The kicker? It’s cheaper; it’s faster; and free to install. But you find guys lined up day after day, wasting their precious little lives away inside the heat and getting their cars nicked, just to pay cash.

Sanusi pushed hard for the cashless revolution, got banks to throw in a lot of commitment but what do we have to show for it?
In fairness, the country has witnessed considerable success. Using cards abroad is now common place. Paying on the POS no longer looks scary but rumor still has it that more than N1 Trillion in hard cash is still hiding under someone’s mattress.

So here’s the thing – if we won’t do it easy, we will do it the hard way. Just change the Naira and everyone must come to the banks to change it. You have to deposit your money in a bank, any bank, and not get it back in cash again.
Sounds impossible? Soludo almost got away with it. Buhari did it in 1984 and the world didn’t end.
This is how to do it.

  • Change the notes and give everyone a year swap
  • You can only deposit the money into the bank and so you have a year to open an account, get your BVN and your debit cards
  • At the end of the year, if you don’t change your dirty notes, your Naira loses 50% of it’s value and at the end of another year, it becomes zero, zilch, nothing.

Haven’t I talked about this before? Some things need repeating!
It’s a Sunday but with nothing important to do and rain doing stuff on the roof, I may as well apply my time to annoying cash hoarders.

Legacy of marketing

It’s amazing how a new entrant into a market sector touts it’s freshness and new ideas and best ways of doing things while dodging the mistakes of the so called dinosaurs.

Fast forward few years, if the dude hasn’t died (mortality of startups is so high it makes Somalia a relatively decent country), it then starts to tout itself as having experience.

Rant maker, since 1978.

Woolly mammoth shaking a fluffy tail.