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Going Cash-less: Hard Choices, Easy Life

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Yesterday, the CBN released a circular on the “Implementation of the Cash-less Policy”. Much of the social media dialogue diverted from Andela’s restructuring to the policy’s potential impact on the economy – especially for micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs). A lot of comments highlighted the perceived “ineptness” of this policy and conceived it as an attempt to further complicate things, frustrate small businesses and increase the number of businesses within the informal economy.

Do the facts agree with this position? No.

In this article, I argue that yesterday was calculated and is a step in the right direction.

A Short History Lesson

On 1 January 2012, there was an attempt by the government to curb excess cash in circulation by introducing the Cash-less Nigeria Policy. It was first introduced in Lagos and prescribed handling charges on cash in excess of N500,000 (individuals) and N3,000,000 (corporate bodies).

The policy was not put in place to remove cash from the equation but to reduce its volume. It also aimed to encourage more electronic based transaction systems e.g. POS terminals, short codes and the like. The policy was first rested in Lagos state with service charges taking effect from 30 March 2012.

Under the policy, effective from June 1, 2012 daily cumulative withdrawals and lodgment in banks by individual would be limited to a maximum of N150,000, while daily cumulative withdrawals and lodgments by corporate customers is pegged at N1million. However, individuals and corporate organizations wishing to withdraw above the fixed amount would have to pay special charges.

Essentially – this has happened before, it was always in the offing.

Why is Everyone Worked Up on Social Media?

To clarify the position in yesterday’s release, if you withdraw or deposit N500,100, the charge will be levied on the N100 and not the entire sum. After all, it’s little drops of water that makes an ocean. Dissenting opinions on the issue argue from two major standpoints and I have set them out in the following bullets.

Financial Inclusion

The first and most popular argument against the CBN’s cash-less move borders around financial inclusion. Proponents say Nigerians will be less interested in the banks and frequently conjure an illiterate Nigerian man who lives under a rock in some remote Nigerian village to prove their point. However, Nigeria’s current vector does not support the conclusions many commentators have reached.

Strong economies have equally strong banks; Nigeria’s banks are only beginning to get back on their feet. The informal economy valued at $240bn (IMF) presents an opportunity for the government to stabilize monetary policy and redefine banking in Nigeria. The pertinent question is, how does the government intend to do it?

Enter the CBN’s National Financial Inclusion Strategy (NFIS)

The long term move for the NFIS is to ensure that 80% of bankable adults in Nigeria have access to financial services. This is the reason why you have telecommunications companies offering Mobile Money nationwide, why there are more vending machines on the Island and why POS Terminals are available at barbershops in Modakeke (for a commission, you can withdraw and send money).

It has taken time but, it is working out – execution is key.

Ease of Doing Business

Another argument borders around ease of doing business, especially for MSMEs. Ask anyone who makes this argument a simple question: what is easier, physically depositing/withdrawing N3,000,000 or transferring N300,000,000 via internet banking?

This particular argument sees the entire situation as high risk because, if handled improperly, there is the possibility that businesses in the informal sector are crushed in the wake of yesterday’s announcement. Businesses and individuals alike have to pay N52 bank charges (plus VAT) on inter-bank transactions. Arguments from this quarters note that transferring money or using POS Terminals to make payments can reduce the incentive to have money in the bank in the first place.

I will use an illustration to explain how difficult it is to agree with the above position. A woman walks into Tejuosho market with N500,000 – she intends to buy 4 items from 4 different vendors. Which of the following options makes her life easier?

  1. Making those payments with *737# mobile transfer and paying N208 extra or
  2. Withdrawing N500,000 from her bank, taking it into Tejuosho market and making payments at 4 different shops.

Would you rather risk your personal safety because you intend to save N208? If we consider ripple effects in the illustration above, there seems to be an upside for companies involved in online payments, procurement and logistics. An upside any responsible government should leverage. If you do not want to use electronic payment channels, you would have to shoulder time costs, transport and think carefully about security.

Understanding the N500,000 Threshold

The statistics show that if 100 Nigerians read this article, only 2 will have over N500,000 in their bank accounts. Thus, there is at least a 20:1000 chance that this policy may never apply to you. On the off chance that it does, you most likely are in the 2% of Nigerians that own 90% of all bank deposits.

The aforestated shows that the Central Bank of Nigeria has by default safeguarded most Nigerians and inadvertently created an exception to the policy – the 98%. It is simple, the bulk of Nigeria’s individual and business demographic will never have to shell these fees. It shows that this policy was carefully thought out, all that’s left is effective implementation.

Government Considerations

Corruption has been touted as an existential threat to Nigeria. As a country, we hold multiple records on several corruption indexes. Through this policy it has become easier to monitor the movement of money and track illicit financial flows. Whether we grasp this or not, it is a big win for Nigeria.

Monetary inflation is becoming an increasing threat to efforts to stabilize the economy. Monetary inflation happens when there is a consistent rise in the amount of money available within a currency area/country. When this happens especially with the admixture of several other factors including the transmission mechanism, there is a tendency for prices of goods and services to cost substantially more. Essentially, with less cash in circulation – chances that the price of garri will go up become minimal (too much money makes garri expensive).

Also, it is impracticable for this government to pay interests on loans, fund the new minimum wage, protect the foreign reserves, subsidize petrol, cover federal salaries and continue projects under the current revenue streams. The government realizes this and is taking steps to create long term sustainability. More money from the 2% means that more projects are possible going forward.

Going Forward

There are obvious risks with the policy especially as there seemed to be no warning or a phasing stage. The Buhari led administration has brought this policy at a time when there is the ban on CBN forex for importation of certain goods, proposed increased in VAT to 7.5% and tons of other policies that we cannot seem to agree are in Nigeria’s best interests. However, we can all agree that the government is driving change with monetary policy.

For the Cash-less policy to work, proper execution is more important than a viral A4 printout/PDF with the CBN letterhead. The government must clarify exemptions to the rule, increase the ease of access to mobile money and better network coverage.

Also Read SMEs: Carefully Navigating The Loan Agreement

The Cash-less Policy, if properly executed, might put an end to tally numbers and long queues in banks, increase the amount of diversified small businesses (small businesses providing peripheral financial services) and increase the formal economy.

Irrespective of Nigeria’s lingering challenge with implementation, I am taking the road less travelled by saying, Nigeria is actually playing to her strengths – we will be fine.

Author: 

Samuel Korie is a graduate of Law from Obafemi Awolowo University (formerly University of Ife). He is passionate about policy, volunteering and the unchartered frontiers of the legal profession.

 

 

Investment

Diaspora investments: A must for the development of Africa

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Image Source: rupixen.com

It has been three years since his Excellency president Nana Akufo-Addo of Ghana shared some controversial thoughts on Africa’s dependence on aid or support from Europe in a decades long effort to develop the continent.

He was applauded for his bold statement and stance, but many (especially people from the Ghanaian diaspora) thought they were only words. Words they had heard many times before, but without plans or actions backing them. This might be true from their perspective, yet for the current generation of descendants from those who have been sold into slavery, it was good to hear an African leader show some backbone.

“We can no longer continue to make policy for ourselves, in our country, in our region, in our continent based on whatever support that the western world or France, or the European Union can give us. It will not work. It has not worked, and it will not work”.

The Diaspora Is Linked To The Strength of Africa

President Nana Akufo-Addo’s views on European aid are commendable, even if we debate how much he will be able to back up his words with actions.

“The place of the Diaspora, the status of the people in the diaspora, of the African diaspora, is intimately linked with what happens on the continent. An Africa strong and performing, transforms your position, your status here in Europe”.

He was addressing diaspora members in France, but he could have been addressing all people of African descent worldwide. The fact is that his ability to back his words, not exclusively but to an important extent, is contingent on the support he as an African leader receives from the African diaspora.

Remittance Coming From The African Diaspora

As a member from the African diaspora, one might ask: “Are we not supporting enough?”

Ishmeal Lamptey (Source: unsplash.com)

According to the World Bank Sub Saharan Africa received an estimated 48 billion US dollars in remittance funds from the African diaspora in 2019.

A study by Comstock, Iannone, Bhatia published in March 2009 (yes, the phenomenon has been studied for some time now) shows most funds are spend on costs of sustenance (29%), medical costs (16%) and education (12%).

When looking at the order of precedence these costs take in relation to each other, we see that unforeseen costs come first, second are medical costs and the last are for education. This underlines what we all know. The fact that there is often a sense of emergency to these transfers.

The Need To Move From Remittance To Investment In Africa

So, to answer the question of the diaspora, if it is not doing enough…well no. Harsh isn’t it? The fact of the matter is that the remittance funds are our own version of aid to the continent. It is keeping our people our family from dying but it’s not helping with any development.

We, the African diaspora, need to make the transition from remittance to investment. Remittance will always be part of the financial flows, but when seen in relation with Foreign Direct Investments (FDI) from the diaspora, they shouldn’t dominate as they do at present.

Following the content of a few independent journalists, there is now ample proof that at least some in the diaspora are not only willing, but able to move to the continent and start new businesses. But this group is a very small minority. The vast majority will not be able to follow suit and we should not want them to.

The revenues of the use of their human capital is needed to generate the investment flows Africa needs. The challenge Sub Saharan Africa faces is that of aggregation of available funds originating from the diaspora. The funds are clearly there, the industries which need them for we’ve identified, but now we need to create a robust infrastructure to aggregate and get them to their destination.

Like we pointed out in our previous article about thinking sufficiently big; while we keep our eyes on the end goal, we might need to start building one stone at a time. From individual projects, to industries, to the whole economy.

When doing so, we need to keep in mind that Africa is a unique environment. The common instruments of capital allocation used in the world should certainly be our starting point, but not limit our imagination when pooling the diaspora funds and channeling them into the continent.

As we have admonished a few times now; Africa should think BIG. And that also applies to its diaspora. In the coming articles we will continue exploring the idea of “thinking big” in the African context. So please make sure to subscribe to our Newsletter. We invite you to share your thoughts with us on the matter and get a discussion going with us and our other readers.

Article By: Jerrol Cambiel, Chief Executive EU Operations Debnoch Capital

 

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Press Release

North Ladder Secures $5 Million Series A Financing Round To Accelerate Global Expansion

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North Ladder Team (Source: Siddharth Sudhakar)

North Ladder (previously called BuyBack Bazaar), a UAE based secured trading platform for pre-owned luxury assets and electronics, today announced a $5 million Series A funding round led by regional venture capital firm BECO Capital. The new investment will help the company scale up its technology platform, enhance customer experience and pursue further geographic expansion.

The homegrown start-up also revealed that it will begin operating under the new brand name North Ladder effective immediately, representing the company’s strategy of charting new markets and supporting individuals across the globe in their endeavour to elevate their financial situation. The disruptive and innovative technology platform is the first of its kind, providing access to verified buyers of second-hand goods and instant cash. North Ladder currently enables users to sell electronics such as phones, laptops, tablets, and smart watches, as well as luxury assets including watches and cars, with a unique option of buying it back within a few months.

The Series A financing builds on an exceptional year for North Ladder which saw rapid growth of its clients, network of buyers and corporate partnerships. To date, the platform has witnessed over 15,000 transactions in the UAE, with over 85 different nationalities served while earning an impressive 4.9/5 customer satisfaction rating. In 2021, the start-up is looking to establish its presence in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the United States, with a focus on scaling the platform significantly in the next 18 to 24 months.

“North Ladder has demonstrated tremendous success with its unique model of helping customers access immediate funds against their assets. The provision of a seamless and trusted digital platform for the sale of pre-owned goods has immense socially transformative potential at a global scale. We are excited about partnering with them to take their services to the next level,” said Dany Farha, CEO & Managing Partner, BECO Capital.

The company recently appointed Sandeep Shetty, former Managing Director of the core ride hailing business at Careem, as Cofounder and Chief Executive Officer of North Ladder. Prior to Careem he also led the digital transformation program at Emirates NBD and has held leadership positions at McKinsey & Company and GE Capital across India, the United States and the Middle East. Sandeep joins the leadership team of co-founders Pishu Ganglani and Ricky Husaini who together bring years of prior global start-up, financial services, technology and operations experience.

“Our exciting partnership with the region’s leading investor BECO Capital gives us the opportunity to scale operations in the UAE and expand to other strategic markets, with the mission of meaningfully impacting people across all strata of society,” said Sandeep Shetty of North Ladder. “Our global auction brings professional buyers from around the world to compete and provide local customers with the best prices and no hidden surprises.”

Since its launch in 2018, North Ladder has been recognized as one of the “Top 5 innovative start-ups in the MENA region” by PayPal backed accelerator, Village Capital and awarded as an Innovator by Entrepreneur Middle East.

 

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Press Release

Legacy Premier Foundation Congratulates New World Trade Organisation (WTO) Head Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala

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Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala © AFP via Getty Images

The entire team at Legacy Premier Foundation hereby congratulates Dr Ngozi Okonjo Iweala as the new chief of the World Trade Organization (WTO).

With a proud heart and jubilation, we salute our quintessential woman of many feats on this global call to service.

This is a perfect example of a narrative that says “when opportunity meets preparedness success is inevitable”. Madam Director, you are an epitome of this simple quote. Over the years, you’ve carefully built a track record of competence with your records very visible in the public domain.

We are very pleased to send our warmest congratulations on your appointment as the seventh (7th) Director General of the foremost World Trade Organization, also making history as the first African and female to hold this prestigious position.

At this time where the world is battling with the Covid-19 pandemic, with a gradual return to normalcy, there are still some undulating terrains in the global trade landscape. We believe with you at the helm of affairs coupled with 25 years of diplomatic dealings and demonstrated leadership as a World Bank executive, you will saddle the affairs of the WTO and the entire global trade economy through these sensitive times.

We wish you much success in your new post and we look forward to the pleasure of working with you, in the place of making our African continent prominent in the scheme of world trades, and much more rejuvenation of hope that an African has all it takes to get to the zenith of his or her career without any equivocation.

We wish you a resounding success with legendary actions for global impact.

Signed: Dr Remi Duyile, Former VP, Bank of America and Founder, Legacy Premier Foundation

Visit: Legacy Premier Foundation

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