Managing Director, Ecobank Nigeria Limited, Patrick Akinwuntan, last week said the bank is leveraging technology to push the frontiers of financial inclusion in the country, targeting the unbanked and under-banked.
In a keynote presentation at the Vanguard Economic Forum series on mobile money market and Fintech, in Lagos, Akinwuntan noted that Nigeria has improved financial inclusion from 47% to 63% in the last decade.
Speaking on the theme, ‘Leveraging Fintech Innovation for Unlocking Growth and Competitiveness in Nigeria’s Mobile & Payment Ecosystem,’ he said the country remains a dynamic market with a lot of opportunities for digital financial expansion.
He said Ecobank has built an ecosystem that leverages digital technology to bring affordable, easy and convenient financial services to the people and businesses.
The bank, he continued, is currently pushing EcobankPay, Xpress Agency Points and other digital platforms as key solutions to address the rapid shift to mobile payment and the adoption of digital channels across the country.
EcobankPay, he continued, is “a lifestyle scan and pay digital payment and collection service which accepts payments from other platforms – mVisa, Masterpass, and mCash. Payment can be made with any phone by scanning the QR code or using USSD at merchant locations.”
The product’s unique offering, Akinwuntan stressed, is its interoperability, as “all bank customers in Nigeria can pay through their accounts in other banks. It is free to set up, as the shop owner only needs his/her QR code and phone for notifications to start receiving quick and easy payments. Merchant QR can also be set up via Facebook Messenger as well as USSD payment for low-income phone users.”
EcobankPay, he assured, “is currently available at over 90,000 merchant locations across the country. This is in addition to over 6,000 Xpress point agent locations in the country.
“Also, we have over 8 million mobile banking subscribers across the Ecobank Group. Our Ecobank Mobile App is unique, as it is one universal App available in 33 countries where we operate in Africa. Furthermore, Ecobank has so far set up EcobankPay Zones in over 50 locations in different parts of the country. These are digital hubs enabling businesses within a location adopt Ecobank’s wide range of digital products for ease of payments for goods and services. The payment options at the zones include EcobankPay, Xpress points, Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) and Point of Sale (PoS),” he noted.
Akinwuntan said also that the banks’ strategy includes collaborating with Fintechs to surmount the financial inclusion and adoption of financial services challenge.
Quoting the Efinafintech 2018 report, he said that “there is an increased partnership with Fintechs as Nigeria is currently home to over 250 Fintechs and approximately 60% of them supporting payments and lending capabilities. The cumulative Fintech funding by banks in Nigeria has surpassed $250m in the past five years, he pointed out. “Ecobank hosts an annual Africa Fintech challenge and we are providing a support infrastructure for Fintechs that excel at the challenge.
“At Ecobank our vision and mission focus on providing Africans affordable and easy to access financial products and services. We believe innovation and technology could help remove barriers to 24/7 access to financial services through the use of self-service applications.“ He also noted that increasing mobile phone penetration has been a key enabler whilst the positive regulatory regime of the Central Bank is driving financial inclusion and seamless payment services initiatives in the country.
Commending Vanguard newspaper for organizing the event and the choice of theme, while applauding the various initiatives of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) targeted at promoting and creating an enabling environment for mobile banking to thrive in the country, he stressed the need for collaboration among all stakeholders to achieve the desired result.
In a goodwill message at the forum, Deputy Director, Payment System Department of the CBN, Musa Jimoh, lamented the cost of service, which he described as one of the reasons why people refuse to embrace some banking services including mobile money.
“So we came out with guidelines on bank charges to make sure that we regulate the charges and we have also come out with some other initiatives under the cashless scheme to see how we can bring people to the digital channel and reduce the high cost of operations in the bank.
“There are several initiatives that CBN is pushing to ensure the mobile money operators grow and help us deepen financial inclusion,” he added.
Earlier on, Professor Olayinka David-West, Academic Director, Lagos Business School, LBS, described financial inclusion as the access to unleash affordable financial services to the huge population of the unbanked and the under-banked in the society.
For her, therefore, “affordable financial service is important because not everybody can afford to pay for account maintenance of N500 a month.
“To address financial inclusion, innovation is important because it will help us address the easy access to financial services. It has nothing to do with literacy; it is about how do we design it knowing the capabilities of the people we are trying to serve,” she added.
Photo caption: From left: Engr. Gbenga Adebayo, Chairman, ALTON; Prof. Olayinka David-West, Academic Director, Lagos Business School, Patrick Akinwuntan, Managing Director, Ecobank Nigeria; Gbenga Adefaye, Editor-in-Chief, Vanguard Newspapers; Ayokunle Adaralegbe, Chief Risk Officer, CSCS; Eze Anaba, Editor, Vanguard Newspapers and Musa Jimoh, Deputy Director, Payment Systems, CBN, during the Vanguard Conference on Mobile Money Market & Fintech with the Theme: Leveraging Fintech Innovation for Unlocking Growth and Competitiveness in Nigeria’s Mobile Money Market and Payment Ecosystem, at Civic Centre, Victoria Island, Lagos.