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West Africa Launches New Payments Digitization Agenda

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In Senegal, 8 out of 10 workers are paid in cash. Most are temporary workers and excluded from health insurance. A survey revealed that 77% of temporary workers would be willing to receive their wages digitally if this gave them access to health insurance. These are some of the major findings of the publication that the Senegalese government has launched today, with support from the Better Than Cash Alliance (United Nations), the World Bank and the National Agency of Statistics and Demography of Senegal. Combining digital payments with health insurance benefits offers an excellent opportunity for social inclusion, formalization, and financial innovation.

Digital payments stimulate domestic production and consumption. If 50% of temporary workers in Senegal received payments digitally, 45 billion CFA francs would be added to GDP per year (around $80 million USD). Paying workers digitally, speeds up the financial inclusion for the population, boosts business competitiveness and increases financial system liquidity. To tap into this potential, the SME Development Agency (ADEPME) plans to bolster its SME support fund with $20 million USD (around 11 billion CFA francs) from the World Bank. This will be used to strengthen SME digitization initiatives and support digital payment projects for workers.

High-level leadership speaks out in support of digital payments for workers

Senegalese President Macky Sall and H.M. Queen Máxima of the Netherlands, who serves as UN Secretary-General’s Special Advocate for Inclusive Finance for Development (UNSGSA), have launched an appeal to fellow leaders, the private sector and civil society, inviting them to: “use this report to ensure digital payments are at the center of a sustainable and fair economic recovery. We look forward to jointly providing leadership on this agenda to achieve an inclusive and digitally enabled recovery,” the two leaders added.

To set an example, the President of Burkina Faso, Roch Marc Christian Kaboré, also decreed, in late 2020, the digitization of payments for workers in the administration of Burkina Faso. When the COVID crisis emerged, the West African Economic and Monetary Union (WAEMU) and the Central Bank of West African States (BCEAO) took decisions aimed at reducing the circulation of cash in the 8 countries. These actions have had tangible impacts which are beginning to change the lives of workers and companies.

Digitizing payments and advancing universal health care coverage

While receiving a salary is often linked to health care contributions, globally at least 61% of workers operate in the informal sector without adequate coverage, according to the International Labour Organization (ILO). Indeed, in some countries, there is not always a legal obligation for employers to contribute to any kind of coverage for their informal/self-employed workers, which affects women more than men.

To meet this challenge of inclusion, the National Agency for Universal Health Coverage in Senegal has launched an ambitious digital payments platform. It has partnered with fintechs and private companies to link access to universal health coverage and digital payments – specifically targeting women. Flagship national enterprises such as the agricultural giant SODAGRI or SMEs such as QUALIOCEAN and Kossam SDE are setting an example by providing temporary workers with universal health coverage. More than 200,000 workers will now have access to quality, government-subsidized health care.

While 81% of national companies have fewer than 20 employees, on average hundreds or even thousands of temporary workers are employed in their supply chains. Employees are generally banked, but 93% of employees on temporary contracts are paid in cash. The latter are systematically excluded from the formal health system.

The successful transition towards digital payments

Three obstacles have limited the growth of payment digitization in Africa: the size of the informal sector, sometimes up to 90% of the economy; the historically low financial inclusion rate; and most importantly, 21% of African workers receive a wage keeping them below the poverty line.

This has all changed dramatically. Financial inclusion has surged since 2010 with the arrival of electronic money issuers and fintech.

The country’s largest employer, Compagnie Sucrière Sénégalaise, has successfully digitized payment for around 8,000 workers via a partnership with local fintech. “We wanted to digitize payments without using the banking system, which isn’t suited to some populations,” noted Claude Fizaine, the company’s Secretary General, in an interview with an African media outlet. “For employers, the benefits of digitizing payments include avoiding the constraints of managing large amounts of cash, and all the risks that distribution can involve. It also makes it possible to offer employees tools tailored to their financial and family situations, which can only have a positive impact on their personal and professional lives,” he added.

WAEMU’s innovations should continue to inspire the rest of Africa. Since 2012, it has been the continent’s engine for economic growth and stability. The examples of Senegal and its neighbours reinforce the ILO’s global agenda that could well make digital payments for workers a new global standard for promoting decent work.

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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RobinHood, WeBull, Others Trading Apps Hit 14 Million Users Globally, Twice More than a Year Ago

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Over the past years, trading apps have revolutionized the way people interact with the world’s financial markets and stock exchanges, making it simple and easy to trade online, whether at home or on the go. The number of people using these apps to make investments and monitor market trends has grown constantly each year, but in 2021 it surged to all-time highs.

According to data presented by BuyShares, RobinHood, WeBull, Fidelity Investments, E*Trade and eToro, as the world’s top five trading apps, doubled the number of users in the last year to nearly 14 million as of July.

RobinHood Hit 7.3M Monthly Active Users, Double the Second-Ranked WeBull

Stock trading has been moving to mobile for quite a while, and tech companies have been working on well-designed trading platforms to provide top-notch service to a new, tech-savvy set of users. That shift first started in the United States, where Robinhood has attracted tens of millions of users. On the other hand, the European market is still fragmented, with a handful of stock-trading apps slowly expanding to new markets.

According to AirNow data, RobinHood is by far the most popular trading app in the world. In July 2020, the app had around 4.3 million monthly active users. However, user numbers spiked in the first half of 2021, reaching a peak of over 9 million in May 2021. In July, around 7.3 million people worldwide used RobinHood to trade and make investments, 70% more than in the same month a year ago.

With 2.7 million monthly active users, or twice less than the leading RobinHood, WeBull ranked as the second most popular trading app globally. However, statistics show WeBull witnessed the biggest growth, with the number of users surging by 265% year-over-year.

Fidelity Investments ranked third with 1.8 million active users, 38% more than in July 2020. Morgan Stanley’s E*Trade and eToro followed, with 1.1 million and 1 million monthly active users, respectively.

RobinHood Reached 11.9M Downloads in 2021, Close to Other Top Four Apps Combined

Stock trading app developers are constantly innovating and adding new features to make portfolio management easier to do on the go. For example, many of the latest-gen trading platforms now feature AI-based tools to help users evaluate investment risks.

Besides having the largest user base, RobinHood also witnessed the biggest number of downloads this year. In the seven months of 2021, the trading app was downloaded 11.6 million times, close to the other top four apps combined, with almost one-third of all downloads happening in January.

WeBull was downloaded 5.6 million times in this period, 2.3 million more than the third-ranked eToro. Fidelity Investments and TD Ameritrade round the top five list, with 1.9 million and 1.2 million downloads, respectively.

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Verve Partners OBMEET To Give Cardholders 50% Discount

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In furtherance of its drive to strengthen the payment landscape across the globe, Africa’s leading payment technology and card business, Verve, has announced its partnership with OBMeet, a video conferencing and networking company, to give Verve cardholders a 50% discount on the platform.

The discount which is currently running till December 31, 2021 avails Verve cardholders added value for the services they enjoy on the OBMeet platform.

With this collaboration, Verve cardholders accessing the OBMeet no longer have to worry about the incidental challenges associated with such video conferencing and multi-streaming platforms, such as complex payment structure, capital flight, inconsistent exchange rates etc.

Speaking on the discount, Cherry Eromosele, Group Chief Marketing and Communications Officer, Interswitch Group, said the partnership with OBMeet to reward Verve cardholders with a 50% discount on the selected packages is a demonstration of Verve’s commitment to reward its cardholders’ loyalty.

Eromosele said the firm is stirred to partner with OBMeet because they share a similar vision of delivering an invaluable experience to their esteemed customers.

She explained that the partnership will guarantee Verve cardholders faster and safer payment experiences on the OBMeet platform.

She said: “Consistent with our mantra of being ‘the rewarding way to make payments’, Verve cardholders are not only rewarded with seamless, faster, and convenient payment solutions, but they also enjoy more rewards in discounts as much as 50% on the OBMeet platform, from now till December 31, 2021.”

Vincent Ogbunude, Divisional Head of Verve, commented on the firm’s commitment to delivering top-notch digital payment solutions to Nigerians.

“It is no gainsaying that Verve has consistently delivered innovative payment solutions to Nigerians and the Africa continent.

“We are continuously seeking opportunities to ease payment pain points for Verve cardholders as well as Africans and this partnership with OBMeet is a testament to that commitment.

“We are confident that our cardholders will enjoy seamless payment on the OBMeet platform and the 50% discount offer is added value to the invaluable payment experience the Verve card provides,” he said.

Speaking on the partnership, Emmanuel Gabriel, founder of OBMeet stated that the collaboration is instrumental for companies, institutions, content creators, Small and Medium Enterprise, entrepreneurs to overcome the many challenges of capital flight, complex payment systems inherent in accessing video conferencing and multistreaming platforms.

He said: “Our focus is to give everyone around the world the opportunity to connect, build ideas and express themselves in a new way.

We are focused on creating economic value via the OBMeet communication platforms which bridge communication gaps and language barriers around the world.”

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Flutterwave, MTN Partner on Mobile Money

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Flutterwave, Africa’s payment technology company, has announced a mobile money partnership with MTN Group, that will allow businesses that are integrating Flutterwave in Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Rwanda, Uganda and Zambia, to receive payments via MTN Mobile Money, called MoMo.

MTN MoMo is a fintech platform providing consumers and businesses with an electronic wallet, enabling electronic transfers and payments as well as access to digital and financial services.

At the end of June 2021, MTN MoMo had 48.9 million active users and 581,514 merchants. MoMo enables businesses to accept and make payments within the mobile money ecosystem. The new partnership will enable Flutterwave to offer MTN Mobile Money as a payment method to its business customers.

In recent years, Africa has witnessed an explosion in mobile penetration as smartphone adoption has risen rapidly. According to the GSMA, this year, Africa would hit the half a billion mark of unique mobile subscribers and the continent would reach 50 per cent subscriber penetration by 2025. The sub-Saharan Africa alone is responsible for more than 45 per cent of the world’s mobile money accounts with the number of account holders exceeding half a billion by 2020, as shared on Statista.

Through the partnership, MTN and Flutterwave will positively contribute to this trend by increasing mobile money usage and penetration in Africa to improve local economies and livelihoods as well as create opportunities for individuals and businesses across the continent.

Commenting on the partnership, Founder and CEO of Flutterwave, Olugbenga Agboola, said: “Africa has one of the highest growth rates for mobile money adoption and e-commerce in the world. It makes sense that we help provide a seamless payment method to support and ensure African businesses reap the full benefits of the e-commerce boom in the region. Our goal has always been to grow a new wave of prosperity in Africa by creating more avenues for businesses in Africa to accept payments. With this partnership, we can achieve this while creating endless possibilities for our customers.”

Group Chief Digital and Fintech Officer at MTN, Serigne Dioum, said: “As we progress on our journey to becoming the largest fintech platform in Africa, we will empower millions of businesses to embrace e-commerce in our markets to accept digital payments from MoMo consumers. We believe this is an enabler to accelerating digitized payments in Africa. Building strong ecosystems through partnerships is central to our platform strategy and we will continue to invest in expanding the reach of our platform to consumers and businesses in Africa.”

The new partnership will further expand on Flutterwave’s previous collaboration with MTN, beyond Uganda and Rwanda, with the potential of deepening adoption of digital payments and e-commerce in Africa, a sector expected to reach $29 billion by 2022, according to Statista.

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