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Paga Set to Expand Agent Network

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  • Paga Set to Expand Agent Network

As stakeholders in the financial services sector and the telecommunications industry are pushing ahead with the plan to ramp up financial inclusion in the country, agent networks are gradually gaining traction.

The expansion of agent networks nationwide has been identified as critical to driving financial inclusion, as seen in other emerging economies such as Bangladesh and India.

Agents – particularly cash-in/cash-out agents – act as the entry point for financial inclusion and facilitate the crucial conversion between cash and digital money, according to the Central Bank of Nigeria.

Across the world, agents have played a vital role in offering many low-income people their first-time access to financial services.

“Agent networks present an opportunity to service people in areas that lack bank branches or other physical financial access points like Automated Teller Machines. Consequently, a functional agent network is imperative for extending financial services to the unbanked. However, deficit of fixed location agents has been a challenge,” the CBN states in the exposure draft of the ‘National Financial Inclusion Strategy Refresh’ report.

In 2010, Nigeria made a commitment to reduce the adult financial exclusion rate in the country from 46.3 per cent to 20 per cent by 2020, and the National Financial Inclusion Strategy was launched on October 23, 2012 in order to attain the target.

The 2012 NFIS defined financial inclusion as “when adults in Nigeria have access to a broad range of formal financial services that are affordable and meet their needs,” and set out the target for overall financial inclusion at 80 per cent, with a long list of more detailed targets, recommendations and an implementation plan to achieve the goals by 2020.

To attain the financial inclusion target by 2020, there must be 62 agents for every 100,000 Nigerian adults, according to the CBN.

“Currently, there are only 28.2 agents per 100,000 Nigerian adults. Issues around profitability of agent networks, agent fee structure and other environmental issues have contributed to this gap. A deliberate effort needs to be undertaken by stakeholders to address policy-related bottlenecks and rapidly deploy agents,” the apex bank says.

Mobile money operators such as Paga have helped increase the number of agents in the country despite the challenges.

The Managing Director, Paga, Mr Tayo Oviosu, in an interview with our correspondent, stresses the need for more agents in order to enable more Nigerians access financial services.

“I think that is the first thing we need to do in Nigeria. How do we scale the network of agents to every community across this country?” he adds.

As part of efforts to enable the rapid growth of agent networks, the Shared Agent Network Expansion Facilities plan was developed by stakeholders.

The CBN, Deposit Money Banks, mobile money operators and super-agents designed SANEF, which entails an aggressive rollout of a network of 500,000-agents to offer basic financial services, including cash-in/cash-out, funds transfer, bill payments, airtime purchase and government payments.

Oviosu says, “The second impediment (to financial inclusion) is the channels and access to the channels, and all these things are being addressed in different ways. The third impediment is the pricing and limits that were placed on accounts. In 2009, when we started this business, you could only send N3, 000 to someone.”

He says it took a long time for the CBN to change the rules, adding, “As at September last year, it is now N50, 000 per day, which makes more sense.”

According to him, the central bank has done the right thing by making funds available at a rate that makes sense for a 10-year-plus investment for a company like ours to invest in agent networks.

“Today, at Paga, we have 17,000-plus agents. We estimate at Paga, through our agents, we have already created over 10,000 jobs,” Oviosu says, indicating that the company could contribute 80,000 agents by 2020.

“There is a lot of opportunity for entrepreneurs. All our agents are entrepreneurs. Imagine how many jobs would be created when you have 550,000 agents. The unemployment number would go down noticeably but that is not going to happen overnight. So, we are committed to this, and we think it is a very good policy by the central bank,” he adds.

Under the SANEF initiative, the agents will also provide remote Bank Verification Number enrolment services.

“Telecom companies have a role to play. The big role that they have to play is to make sure that the infrastructure exists. We need access to base stations across the country so that every Nigerian can buy the most basic mobile phone and get access to at least 2G,” Oviosu says.

He adds, “They have to make sure that their USSD is open to all financial institutions and that it has uptime and that they are making money on it. Financial institutions should pay them; I actually hold the view that the government should not regulate that price. It could be subsidised by the CBN.”

The Paga MD highlighted the need to provide mobile money wallets that could be used for a broad range of transactions in rural areas.

He says, “To open a mobile money wallet, all you need is your name and phone number, and we are actually talking to the CBN to allow us be able to open mobile money wallets for people who do not have a phone number because not every Nigerian has a phone.

“The way we look at it is that when people open that mobile money wallet, they can then also open a bank account. From my wallet, I can access my bank, so the bank is going to provide services through my wallet.”

According to the CBN, 58.4 per cent of the nation’s 96.4 million adults were financially served in 2016, compared to a target of 69.5 per cent – leaving 41.6 per cent (about 40.9 million adults) financially excluded.

“We are very excited about the things that we are working on,” Oviosu says, adding that the company has struck partnerships with banks to expand its agent network.

He says, “Secondly, we are working with the banks to come up with savings products to be offered on our platform so that people can access savings, eventually lending and, like I said, graduating to opening a full-fledged bank account through our platform.

“These are partnerships that we are having with the banks that would really drive and help us reduce the number of people who are financially excluded in Nigeria.”

CEO/Founder Investors King Ltd, a foreign exchange research analyst, contributing author on New York-based Talk Markets and Investing.com, with over a decade experience in the global financial markets.

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Bolt Bags €20 Million From World Bank’s IFC to Expand Operations in Emerging Economies

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Bolt, the leading European mobility platform, announced new funding of €20 million received from World Bank’s IFC.

“We’re delighted to announce that we’ve received €20 million in funding from the International Finance Corporation (IFC), a member of the World Bank Group”, Bolt said.

The investment came less than three months after the Estonian company raised €150 million in a round led by D1 Capital Partners.

Through this investment, Bolt will continue to develop mobility solutions that create earning opportunities, stimulate entrepreneurship and improve access to transportation in emerging economies. One of the shared goals of Bolt and the IFC is to empower women and improve their access to mobility.

According to Stephanie von Friedeburg, IFC Senior Vice President of Operations,  “Technology can and should unlock new pathways for sustainable development and women’s empowerment.”

“Our investment in Bolt aims to help tap into technology to disrupt the transport sector in a way that is good for the environment, creates more flexible work opportunities for women, and provides safer and more affordable transportation access in emerging markets.”

Recently, Bolt introduced a women-only ride-type in South Africa for her customers to address safety needs, enable women passengers to connect with women drivers, improve women’s mobility and access to earning opportunities.

Markus Villig, CEO of Bolt, said the goal of the company and its partnership with IFC is to Provide strategic value to emerging economies

“We are looking forward to partnering with IFC to further support entrepreneurship, empower women and increase access to affordable mobility services in Africa and Eastern Europe.

“Together with the investment from the European Investment Bank last year, we are proud to have sizable and strategically important institutions backing us and recognising the strategic value Bolt is providing to emerging economies.”

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Crowdyvest Attracts New Investors and Appoints Tope Omotolani as CEO

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Crowdyvest Limited, an impact-driven fintech platform, launched in 2019 by Onyeka Akumah and four other Co-Founders has today announced a big change in its leadership and additional investment in the company, in a bid to scale up as a digital savings company.

Crowdyvest was created to provide all-in-one financial solutions for individuals and businesses to achieve short or long-term goals while facilitating impactful growth in line with the United Nations 17 Sustainable Development Goals. The Fintech company went live in beta-stage in August 2019 but launched fully as a crowdfunding platform in January 2020 where its users and sponsors can sponsor high-impact opportunities that yield good benefits through its pooled sponsorships and individual projects.

Today, however, the company announced Onyeka Akumah will officially step down as the CEO of Crowdyvest and Tope Omotolani who is currently the Managing Director and also a co-founder, will become the new Chief Executive Officer of the startup, effective immediately. Notwithstanding this change in leadership, all the management and staff of Crowdyvest will be retained. And as a result of the new investment in Crowdyvest, the fintech startup will completely exit the EMFATO Holdings group and also transition from its previous crowdfunding model to making strides as the go-to digital wealth management and savings platform under Tope’s leadership.

Onyeka Akumah speaking on this development said, “I have taken this decision to step down as the CEO of Crowdyvest as a result of the new investment in the company which gives it good footing for scale. Today, Crowdyvest is exiting fully from EMFATO Holdings and we are very happy about the new investors led by Tope, and excited to see how Tope will lead this business to new heights. I will now focus more on leading Farmcrowdy and Plentywaka as CEO of both companies into new markets in 2021. Tope is a strong and amazing leader and I see her leading Crowdyvest to become one of the leading wealth management companies in Nigeria within the next 3-5 years. I wish her and the team all the best and will continue to advise them on their journey when needed’’.

The new CEO, Tope Omotolani also said, “It’s an honor and a privilege for me to be able to lead the team to the next level and next chapter of the business. Onyeka founded this company on the ethos of integrity and strong customer satisfaction and I’m grateful for the opportunity to continue to lead this technology company into it’s next chapter. Our major goal and focus as Crowdyvest is that we see a lot of people become financially free and we’re able to do this by the products that we create on the platform”.

The emergence of female leaders has become a centrifugal force for good in the world and many organisations. For the first time, we’re seeing examples of female leaders emerging from across the generations to cross-weave their knowledge and drive for change and Crowdyvest is joining the wave of change having a Female Leader and CEO.

Crowdyvest is today launching the Crowdyvest Savings Platform to give savings options to over 10,000 subscribed members on it’s platform. This savings platform will give its members a variety of plans to help build a savings culture based entirely on their pace, so they can reach their life goals faster.

This savings platform has four products that are properly tailored to fit all categories of individuals, including the Millenials, Gen Z, Gen X, and Baby Boomers, and each of these products have their unique features and benefits. They are;

Flex Savings which speaks to our young and trendy Gen Zs and Millenials, gives them the opportunity to save as much as they like with the option of withdrawing their money at any time during the year with a withdrawal fee of 2%. The Flex savers also have the opportunity of 7 official withdrawal days which comes without a withdrawal fee.

Vault Savings here, users have the opportunity to safely deposit money into their vaults and lock it for a period of time (3 months, 6 months, or for years). Funds deposited in the vault will be locked and ineligible for withdrawal throughout the locked period. The vault savings is for long-term savings and is targeted at pensioners, trust funds savings, legacy savings, etc.

Pace Savings, savers have the opportunity to deposit money as they wish for a set target. The pace savings option is recurring starting with the least period of 3 months. The money can be deposited automatically into the plan or manually based on the saver’s preference. The plan is targeted at salary earners, entrepreneurs, etc.

Flex Dollar Savings gives savers the opportunity to save and earn returns in dollars. Crowdyvest Members have the opportunity to grow their savings in a more valuable & stable denomination.

Every saver enjoys the benefits of good interest rates from 12.5% to 15%, zero bank charges, plans tailored for everyone, and effective and prompt customer service. We also have referral opportunities where you can earn as much as NGN 1000 for every person you refer to Crowdyvest. For more information, visit the Crowdyvest website.

Previously as a crowdfunding platform, Crowdyvest was able to create an impact by funding 24 projects across various sectors including Agriculture, Real Estate, Transportation, etc, has worked with 9 project partners, has operated in 17 states with over 10,000+ active sponsors, over 90,000+ total users, and over 8,000 Monthly Active Users. Today, the company is a Digital Savings platform with closed membership, Crowdyvest will provide financial solutions for her community of individuals and organizations that are committed to long-term growth and financial freedom.

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FirstWave Signs Level 1 Partner Agreement with pan-African technology company Moja Access

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Neil Pollock, CEO, FirstWave Cloud Technology - investorsking.com

Leading Australian-headquartered, global, cybersecurity-as-a-service company, FirstWave Cloud Technology Limited (ASX: FCT) (FirstWave), is pleased to announce the signing of a three-year Level 1 Partner Agreement with Moja Access, part of CSquared Group (www.csquared.com), a pan-African technology company.

Moja Access is the Kenya-based operating company of CSquared, a joint venture between Google LLC, Japan-based Mitsui & Co, investment firm Convergence Partners, and the International Finance Corporation (IFC, part of the World Bank Group), with the goal to make commercially driven investments to improve and increase connectivity and internet access in Sub-Saharan Africa.

CSquared currently operates fibre and last mile WiFi networks in several cities across Kenya, Uganda, Ghana and Liberia, with over 40 mobile operators and internet service providers relying on its infrastructure for serving mobile consumers and corporate customers. These four African nations had over 10 million Micro, Small & Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) and over 70 million internet users at the end of 2020.

In the initial phase of this partnership, FirstWave has deployed its recently launched FirstCloud™ WebProtect DNS platform for each of CSquared’s four territories for use by CSquared’s operating companies and Level 2 partners. CSquared’s operating companies’ partners and their end-customers will get the web security solution as part of their internet service on an “opt-out” basis.

As a consequence, revenue generation will commence immediately, and end-customers can ‘opt-out’ if, for any reason, they decide they do not want the service. Moja Access is currently in conversations with customers for uptake of this service.

The Partnership Agreement is for a 3-year term with rolling 6-month extension options thereafter and in keeping with FirstWave’s unique service proposition – democratising enterprise-grade cybersecurity-as-aservice – the vast number of MSMEs and Internet users across these 4 African nations can now be protected on CSquared’s network from cyber intruders, on a consumption basis, at an affordable monthly price.

FirstWave’s business head for EMEA & North America region, Sundar Bharadwaj, said, “CSquared Group’s Kenya-based entity Moja Access is a truly innovative partner for FirstWave in Sub-Saharan Africa with excellent credentials with its Telco and ISP client base. We look forward to expanding the reach for our Enterprise-grade cybersecurity solutions to small and large end-customers through this partnership.”

Lanre Kolade, Group CEO of CSquared, said, “We are very excited to have signed this partnership with FirstWave. Our clients, including Telcos and Internet Service Providers, will benefit from FirstWave’s differentiated SaaS products. It will allow us to rapidly deploy and sell on a consumption based monthly pricing model, enterprise grade cybersecurity services to all our clients and their end-customers, large and small.”

FirstWave’s CEO, Neil Pollock, said, “I’m delighted to welcome CSquared Group’s Moja Access as our 8th Level 1 partner and see initial revenues already flowing from the partnership. CSquared is a fast-growing pan-African service provider backed by two large global corporations Google LLC and Mitsui & Co. CSquared already delivers robust fibre connectivity and internet access to thousands of end-customers via its 40+ mobile operator and ISP clients. With revenues already delivered, the partnership has had a really positive start.”

This announcement has been approved for release by the Board of Directors.

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