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‘How $2m fintech challenge will boost financial inclusion’

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Enhancing Financial Innovation & Access (EFInA) has introduced a new challenge focusing on financial technology (fintech) companies to enhance financial services for Nigeria’s low-income population.

At a business forum organised by the British High Commissioner to Nigeria, Paul Arkwright, EFInA’s board chair, Segun Akerele, introduced the company as a financial sector development organisation that promotes financial inclusion.

The firm’s mission, Akerele explained, is to make the financial sector work better for the poor. The Department for International Development (DFID) and Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation fund its activities.

According to Mrs. Bunmi Lawson, a board member of EFInA, with the launch of a new $2 million fund for start-up and growth stage, the poor will have more access to financial products and services.

“Following our recent request for information at our Fintech Outreach Forum, it gives me great pleasure to announce the launch of a new $2 million fund for start-up and growth stage fintech firms looking to increase access to financial products and services for the poor as well as reduce the rate of financial exclusion in the country.

“The aim of the fund is to stimulate and catalyse the financial technology delivery channels provided by the fintechs. The fund, to be known as ‘The Fintech Challenge Fund’, will be used to pilot and support the development of innovative financial products and services using digital technology. In addition, the new fund will support projects that help strengthen financial resilience in Nigeria by aligning innovation and modern technology with the needs of the target audience,” she said.

According to Lawson, the grants will cover $50,000 to $200,000 for ‘Fintech Challenge 1’ and $200,000 to $500,000 for Fintech Challenge 2. Meanwhile, the United Nations Women Nigeria has partnered with Procter and Gamble (P&G) and Afrigrants to empower 250 women in Kaduna State.

The beneficiaries were trained on financial literacy and ways to improve their relevance in the labour force. UN Women Nigeria has been at the forefront of ongoing efforts to enhance women’s economic empowerment in the country.

The UN Women country representative, Mr. Lansana Wonneh, said partnership with the two organisations to train the women on business management strategies would reinforce women-owned businesses in the state.

“Women and girls make up almost half of Nigeria’s population, but their contribution to measured economic activity, growth and well-being is far below the potential, resulting in significant socio-economic consequences.

“Sixty-five per cent of women are living below the poverty line in Nigeria. With respect to employment, the demographic and health survey showed that the female labour force participation rate was 59.1 per cent compared to 81.1 per cent for males. This has reduced women’s ability to climb out of poverty, leading to the exclusion of women at the secondary and tertiary levels.”

Director, Africa Global Government Relations and Public Policy, P&G, Temitope Iluyemi, said: “The programme is aimed at empowering women to maximise their capabilities and increase their participation in the labour force.

“At the end of the programme, we aim to absorb some of the women into our growing distribution network, so that they can honestly hone the business management skills they acquired, while giving them opportunity to integrate into regional value chains like ours.”

Image/Source:GuardianNG

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Philips Introduces Momentum 559M1RYV 4K HDR display with Ambiglow for Xbox

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Philips 55 lifestyle in situ Xbox (Image: Supplied)

MMD, the leading display specialist and brand license partner for Philips monitors, today announced the release of the world’s first designed for Xbox console gaming monitor. Philips Momentum 559M1RYV featuring 55-inch panel size boosting 3840×2160 resolution with 4K / 144Hz, 4ms GTG response time, and many other features that will be available in the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Pakistan.

4K HDR display with Ambiglow 559M1RYV/01 | Philips

Philips Momentum 559M1RYV: Design and Sound

This new “Philips Momentum 559M1RYV” bears the name Momentum 559M1RYV and bears the same exterior appearance as the previous version, including the adoption of a VA LCD panel with a W-LED backlight system with Ambiglow technology that adds a new dimension to your viewing experience. Innovative Ambiglow technology creates an aura of light on the surrounding wall from behind the screen panel. Its fast processor analyzes the content of the displayed image, and continuously adapts the color and brightness of the emitted light to match the displayed image. This technology also helps reduce eye strain to enjoy the scenes, it also supports DisplayHDR 1000 standard. The gaming monitor includes a specially designed speaker enclosure from the engineers at Bowers & Wilkins, the British loudspeaker company globally renowned for their innovative designs and sound engineering, that completes the experience.

Pankaj Budhiraja, Category Manager – Philips Monitor – Middle East & Africa, said: “The new Philips Momentum monitor offers unique user experience especially for gamers who demand exceptional graphic quality display and flicker-free pictures. This monitor is a wholesome entertainment package with build-in stereophonic speakers, sharp picture quality, vibrant colors and dynamic contrast and excellent resolution”.

Philips Momentum 559M1RYV: Performance

Philips Momentum 559M1RYV including Displayport 1.4, a USB-B port along with 4 USB 3.2 ports, two of them with fast charging. The Philips Momentum Monitor delivers designed for Xbox validates performance with ultra-clera 4K resolution at a minimum 120Hz refresh rate. 3840×2160 pixels with a 16:9 aspect ratio and a good response time of 4ms, as for the brightness rate in the mode up to 750cd / m2, while in the HDR mode it reaches 1200cd / m2. As for the color weight, we will notice that it offers DCI-P3 color gamut with 95% coverage, NTSC color gamut with 104% coverage, and sRGB with 125% coverage.

“As Philips always prioritizes user health, we introduce Ambiglow technology for eye-friendly productivity and a premium sound system. The monitor been extensively tested, and validated by engineers at Microsoft and MMD to ensure perfect compatibility, Philips Momentum meet’s the high expectations of the Xbox fans, creating an integrated gaming atmosphere to enjoy.” Budhiraja added.

Key features for Philips Momentum 559M1RYV:

  • Screen size: 55-inch
  • Resolution: 3840 x 2160 UHD 4K
  • Panel type: VA
  • Refresh rate: 120Hz (HDMI 2.1); 144Hz (DisplayPort 1.4)
  • Response time: 4ms
  • Aspect ratio: 16:9
  • V-Sync method: Adaptive Sync
  • Contrast ratio: 4,000:1
  • Ports: HDMI 2.1 (x3), DisplayPort 1.4 (x1), USB-C (x1), USB-B (x1), USB 3.2 (x4)
  • Ambiglow: 3-sided
  • Power supply: Internal, 100-240VAC, 50-60Hz

 The Philips Momentum 559M1RYV monitor is available through MMD authorised distributors in the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Pakistan and comes with a standard 3-year warranty, and EUP in UAE AED 6999*.

 

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GSMA Report 2021: Over Half World’s Population Now Using Mobile Internet

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The GSMA has launched its global State of Mobile Internet Connectivity Report 2021 showing that, despite the COVID-19 pandemic, more than half of the world’s population is now using the mobile internet. Mobile internet usage translates to just over 4 billion connected people,  225 million more compared to 2019, and up from a third of people globally just six years ago.

Even with this impressive growth in mobile internet connectivity, both in terms of mobile internet coverage and usage, the report highlights that work must accelerate to bridge the digital divide. Of the 3.8 billion people who remain unconnected, only 450 million people do not live in areas with mobile broadband coverage, (“the coverage gap”). The coverage gap represents a significant improvement year on year.

The far bigger challenge is the 3.4 billion people who live in areas that are already covered by mobile broadband, but are not using it, (“the usage gap”).

The report examines trends in the coverage and usage of mobile internet over the last six years and identifies the key barriers to mobile internet adoption. It also looks at the early impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and the most significant regional effects. Finally, it makes recommendations to help close the digital divide and ensure greater access to mobile internet connectivity.

“The COVID-19 pandemic made clear the importance of mobile internet access to people’s lives and livelihoods and has accelerated the digital transformation around the world. Mobile  is the primary and often the only way to access the internet in low- and middle-income countries. While more people than ever are now using the mobile internet, some fundamental barriers stop far too many people from using mobile internet. To close this usage gap, all of us – government and industry – need to do more,” says the GSMA’s Chief Regulatory Officer, John Giusti. “In particular, we must address the key barriers to usage of mobile internet services, most notably literacy and digital skills, as well as affordability. Only through targeted and collaborative action can we bridge the digital divide.”

Coverage and usage gap in mobile internet is narrowing

During the last six years, the coverage gap has continued to narrow: 

  • In 2014, almost a quarter of the world’s population did not have access to a mobile broadband network. 
  • By the end of 2020, that figure was only 6%.  
  • Now, 94% of the world’s population has access to a broadband network, with most progress between 2014 and 2018. 
  • In 2020, global coverage increased by one percentage point, from 93% to 94%. This reduced the number of people living in areas without a mobile broadband network to 450 million. Those who remain uncovered typically live in sparsely populated rural areas with difficult terrain.

The number of people using mobile internet has also increased for the second year in a row: 

  • However, the usage gap remains large and accounts for the majority of the unconnected. 
  • In 2020, 3.4 billion people (43% of the world’s population) lived within the footprint of a mobile broadband network but were not accessing mobile internet services. 
  • Although the usage gap is narrowing, it is now seven times larger than the coverage gap. 
  • In 2014, the usage gap accounted for 64% of the total unconnected population – this figure grew to 88% by 2020 due to the increase in mobile broadband coverage.  
  • Low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) now account for almost 93% of the world’s unconnected population and more than 98% of the uncovered population.  
  • Between 2019 and 2020, the most significant increase in mobile internet usage is in East Asia (61%), which grew by 4%. 

Barriers to mobile internet usage 

The pandemic has highlighted the importance of mobile internet connectivity to the social and economic well-being of people around the world. People with mobile internet access were able to stay connected with friends and family, conduct business, gain access to critical information and services, and otherwise ease the monotony of lockdown life. Yet 47% of the population in LMICs are still not using the mobile internet despite living within mobile broadband network coverage.

Key barriers include: 

  • Lack of awareness of mobile internet and its benefits, literacy, and digital skills make up the largest barrier to adoption. Nearly a quarter of adults across the report’s surveyed countries are not aware of mobile internet and its benefits. 
  • Affordability: internet-enabled handsets and data became less affordable in many LMICs in 2020 due to the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

These barriers often disproportionately affect specific segments of the population, especially people living in rural areas and women. 

A Collaborative Approach 

The global climate challenge shows that mobile connectivity can be a lifeline for people during crises, re-emphasising the importance of doing more to improve access to mobile services.  The only way to close the digital divide is through a strong collective effort to address people’s barriers to accessing and using mobile internet. It requires targeted action by all stakeholders including mobile operators, policymakers, government and the broader private sector. 

This report is the output of a project funded by the UK Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO), and the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida). The views expressed are not necessarily those of either organisation.

The GSMA’s State of Mobile Internet Connectivity 2021 is available at: www.gsma.com/somic

 

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Banks across Africa Turn to IBM Hybrid Cloud and AI Solutions to Accelerate Digital Innovation

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IBM Hybrid Cloud General Manager, Alan Peacock and IBM General Manager for IBM North, East and West AfricaAngela Kyerematen-Jimoh (Image: Supplied)

IBM (NYSE: IBMtoday announced that major financial institutions across Africa have selected hybrid cloud and AI capabilities from IBM to unlock digital innovation and continue their work to develop digital-first solutions, ultimately broadening access to financial services on the continent.

COVID-19 continues to accelerate the already rapid changes that were happening across the financial services sector in Africa, fast-tracking the adoption of digital technologies to boost financial inclusion. With over 475 million Africans expected to be mobile internet users by 2025 GSMA –The mobile economy sub-Saharan Africa 2020, digital and mobile play a critical role in facilitating the delivery of digital financial services to consumers who transact on their mobile phones. As banks focus their efforts on open innovation, security and high-value services, hybrid cloud solutions have become increasingly important to deliver seamless and secure digital banking experiences.

“Enterprises, especially those in highly regulated industries like financial services, face unique challenges when it comes to balancing innovation and regulatory compliance,” says Alan Peacock, General Manager, IBM Cloud. “For decades, IBM has been fueling the transformation of the financial services industry, bringing IBM’s trusted industry experience and leadership in security and data privacy to help banks modernize, transform operations and drive innovation.”

According to IBM’s COVID-19 future of business study, more than 59% of the organisations that participated said that the pandemic accelerated digital transformation, and more than 75% of responding executives indicated they expect changed customer behaviour to continue after COVID-19. As companies in the financial services sector are speeding up transformation, IBM hybrid cloud and AI solutions are supporting their drive to accelerate digitalisation in different parts of the continent.

“In the past year we have seen banks navigate changes brought on by a growing preference for digital and mobile solutions, increasing smartphone penetration and the demand for convenience, innovation, and simplicity from today’s modern consumer, says Angela Kyerematen-Jimoh, Regional, General Manager for IBM North, East and West Africa. “As banks across the continent take advantage of the opportunity to provide digital financial services which boost financial inclusion, IBM is working with Africa’s leading financial groups to deliver intelligent, cloud-based, digital-first innovation through IBM’s hybrid cloud and AI capabilities.”

Ecobank, the pan-African banking conglomerate, with banking operations in 33 African countries, has adopted a hybrid cloud approach to extend its reach to millions across Africa.  Using IBM Cloud, Ecobank migrated their flagship mobile banking application to leverage the on-demand capacity of resources that can support sudden spikes in traffic on its mobile banking services. Ecobank also has access to other IBM cloud services that can be used to develop more innovative, digital-first solutions to enhance their own client experience.

With over 12 million customers on its flagship mobile application, Ecobank is on an accelerated digital banking transformation journey and is set out to expand its digital offerings and grow the 30 million digital transactions it already processes on its platforms. As part of this journey, the Pan-African banking conglomerate has built scalable business solutions which allow for ease of integration with third-party providers using their open digital banking platform for a growing customer base.

Pan-African bank, Nedbank has set out to deliver superior digital experiences to customers. To achieve this, the bank is modernising its core banking applications with a hybrid cloud strategy and has partnered with IBM to help bring digital products and services to life.

To take advantage of the flexibility and agility offered by modern cloud technologies on this digitalisation journey, Nedbank explored a hybrid multi cloud approach, adopted the IBM Garage methodology to implement IBM Cloud Pak for Integration. Through IBM Garage, the bank was able to deep dive and explore fresh solutions and in a week achieved what would have taken them months. Faced with the need to integrate complex legacy systems, Nedbank turned to IBM Cloud Pak for Integration to help build a simplified and standardised integration approach to their cloud strategy. This enables Nedbank to shift their legacy applications into the cloud and integrate with other cloud-based applications they are consuming as they modernise and position for future innovation.

Attijariwafa Bank, the Pan African Banking and Financial Group, has adopted IBM hybrid cloud solutions software to advance the digitisation of its banking operations, and quickly bring new digital services to its customers, all in a secure and flexible environment. Using IBM Cloud Paks that are built on Red Hat OpenShift, the leading bank will streamline and better integrate front-and back-office processes and to modernise business and IT operations.

By deploying IBM Cloud Paks, Attijariwafa bank will modernise and manage its core banking applications like its corporate banking application, on a secure, integrated and easily scalable environment. This will allow a rich and simple customer interaction while decreasing the time to bring new offerings to market. It will also enable the banks’ employees to focus their effort and time on serving their customers better.

This collaboration with IBM supports the digital transformation strategy of the bank and facilitates a full modernisation of the bank’s operations in an open, hybrid cloud environment.

United Bank for Africa Plc (UBA), Africa’s global bank operating in 23 countries globally and with headquarters in Nigeria, has set a goal to grow its transaction volume significantly over the next few years and to deepen retail market penetration. To achieve this, they would be required to attract the unbanked, acquire new customers through digital banking and retain existing customers by adopting a “No Transaction Must Fail (NTMF)” initiative.

Using IBM POWER9-based servers, Flash system storage and IBM PowerVC (Power system virtualization & cloud management), UBA set up a scalable, private cloud environment that is cost-effective taking the first step towards embracing a hybrid cloud model.

Customers’ needs are evolving as they seek banking services across channels and expect personalization. Co-operative Bank of Kenya turned to IBM to modernize their core banking platform and reach their customers on different channels including mobile and online while offering customized services driven by insights. For this, they required a technology that would also empower their employees who work across teams to simplify processes, optimize customer data, while also achieving goals like reducing infrastructure and maintenance costs. With IBM Power and FlashStorage solutions, they now derive improved insights on customer data, faster query resolutions, quicker time-to-market on new services across channels – all backed by high available, scalable, cloud-and AI-ready technology.

Banco Mais, a leading bank in Mozambique, turned to IBM to help streamline its business processes and reduce turnaround times for customer-facing services. In the face of a growing competitive market locally, Banco Mais needed to develop financial service products faster to retain and gain market share.

Banco Mais implemented IBM Business Process Manager on Cloud service and was able to start projects quickly and deploy process application solutions without the need to build the IT infrastructure. By turning to this IBM Cloud solution, they could develop, test, run and monitor their business processes at a fraction of the time it would otherwise have taken. As a result, Banco Mais reduced turnaround time for loans by 60% and decreased the time it took to implement services that took 3 to 4 months by 85% to improve customer experiences.

Earlier this year, IBM announced the general availability of the industry’s first financial services-ready cloud platform, IBM Cloud for Financial Services, as well IBM Cloud Satellite. First revealed in 2019, the IBM Cloud for Financial Services is designed to help reduce risk for financial institutions, their partners and FinTechs, and innovate quickly with built-in controls that are adhered to by the entire ecosystem. IBM Cloud Satellite brings a secured, unifying layer of cloud services for clients across environments, regardless of where their data resides, delivering security, data privacy, interoperability and open standards found in hybrid cloud environments.

 

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