10 Predictions for Digital Payments in 2020

2019 was an interesting year for payments globally, and our dear Nigeria wasn’t left out of the parte. But 2020 would be even much more exciting as many of the payments food that got on the fire last year would be served piping hot at the start of the new decade. 2020 would be lit!

As usual, I would be trying out my hands in seeing the future even if I desperately need a pair of glasses to see the tip of my pointy nose in the real world.

So, here’s the third annual prediction of the payments ecosystem in Nigeria. My predictions are always on point: most of them would never happen, and I’m no better than a new age Babalawo. But then who cares?

Let’s dive right in!

#1 Despite CBN’s push, commercial banks won’t crack retail credit
If you didn’t skip Economics 101, you would know that retail credit drives consumption within an economy. Our Nigerian bankers know as well, but maybe they just don’t give two flying horse legs. The CBN has been pushing them with stringent regulatory measures but you can’t give what you don’t have. Our bankers are mostly of the Shashe type and there isn’t a shred of retail DNA in their body. Come December 2020, the drive for retail credit would only have been marginal with banks turning their backside to collect the cane that the CBN would be using to whoop them for not expanding credits

#2 Account-based payments explode. Rapidly overtakes card payments online
Card payments suck in Nigeria, and it isn’t a secret and using accounts to make payments for services have been the mainstay of Instagram and Whatsapp commerce in Nigeria for almost 5 years. But automating and wrapping this around with some beautiful APIs would go mainstream this year. It would touch at least 50% of all card payments. How we will confirm if this prediction is accurate or not is anyone’s guess.

#3 MTN gets a PSB license. Trouble ensure for bankers
MTN has been dancing around financial services for as long as chicken lacked teeth. Last year they got the super agents license and they are already doing something with it but it seems their PSB license application has more dust on it than all the sands at Eleko Beach. But give it to MTN, they don’t give up easily, so expect that somewhere and somehow, they would meet the requirements and get their PSB license. Then trouble ensures for all bankers.

#4 Monthly interbank transfer hits 300m/month and it would be fueled by cheap low-value transfers
Last year, I predicted that interbank pricing would crash; the CBN didn’t disappoint. Now that you can now do transfers as low as N10 a pop, start seeing crazy emergent behavior where it’s now way cheaper to use your app or USSD to send N250 for bread and moin-moin than taking Keke Marwa to the nearest ATM.

#5 Opay will be one of the top ten banks in Nigeria
Everyone seems to be screaming about how the Chinese African juggernaut has ridden roughshod over GoKada and Max.NG. What they haven’t paid attention to has been the massive growth of the payment infrastructure backing it. In 2017, the first thing Opay did was buy the derelict Paycomm mobile money which has now grown from nothing to becoming the seventh-largest player on the interbank market. In 2020, Opay will push massive retail credit, offer better rates for investments, and their size means money stays within their ecosystem than move out. Expect them to get a seat at the Banker’s Committee soon. And if they ain’t invited, they would buy one of the commercial banks.

#6 CBN kickstarts Open Banking
APIs rule the world and the last walls erected by banks against the onslaught customers integrating their bank services into other apps are crashing down with open banking APIs. Nigeria has been slugging it since 2017 but this year, CBN will back it with a directive and possibly adopt the standards being done by Open Banking Nigeria (disclosure, I’m a trustee at Open Banking so this is as much as a prayer and as a prediction)

#7 Agency banking becomes successful as the number of agents hits 600K
My good friends at SANEF had an amazing 2019; they did multiples of what they started the year with. The growth of adoption would see agency banking exploding to over a million agent touchpoints. The vast agent banking network would drive the emergence of new payment products and business models from fintechs. But but but, don’t dance too fast, this would be dominated by MTN as they are pushing more infrastructure and agent recruitment spend that all other super agents, combined. Those guys don’t play around!

#8 A heavy hitter launches a digital bank, eclipses all the struggling existing small players
Many players have tried to crack the digital bank nuts, but it has been mostly eggs thrown at walls just to pull it down. If you call yourself a digital bank in Nigeria today, you are probably too small to be just a little over insignificant. But come this year, someone (probably not a Nigerian entity) puts money down to end this argument and launches the Monzo of Nigeria. But it wouldn’t be any of the players we have now.

#9 A prominent international player buys a major fintech (think Flutterwave, Paystack and not Interswitch)
Visa just plopped $200m to get 20% of Interswitch but doesn’t own it and would have to share the crumbs and strategies with other institutional investors. This year, however, a big hitter would come for any of Flutterwave, Paystack, or even some of the lesser-known but kicking-it fintechs.

#10 Whatsapp decides to launch the next payment play in Nigeria using Facebook Pay, trouble starts for all fintechs
Whatsapp would land forcefully in Nigeria as it’s first foray to own payments within the African ecosystem. After all, if the only massive growth potential left in the world is in the SSA, why not start from the palace of the king of Africa?

#11 The one prediction 100% to come true
Most of these predictions are at best an educated guess at what could happen, which isn’t better than a bunch of bananas trying to eat a monkey.

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