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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.

 

 

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ITFC and OCP Africa unite for the strategic financing, innovation, and capacity building of agriculture in Africa

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ITFC CEO Eng Hani Salem Sonbol and CEO OCP Africa Mr Karim Lotfi Senhadj(Image: ITFC)

ITFC and OCP Africa will jointly introduce a new “OCP School lab” campaign in Senegal in November 2019

RABAT, Morocco, October 21, 2019- The International Islamic Trade Finance Corporation (ITFC), a member of the Islamic Development Bank (IsDB) Group, and OCP Africa, a subsidiary of OCP SA, have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) that will cater towards strategic funding, innovation and capacity building measures to increase agricultural production yields and income levels for Africa’s smallholder farmers. The agreement was signed between Mr Karim Lotfi Senhadji, CEO, OCP Africa and ITFC CEO, Eng. Hani Salem Sonbol.

The MoU will increase collaboration between ITFC and OCP Africa in various areas, including  smallholder farmer training on sound agricultural practices; soil testing and fertility management to support better yields; innovation and digitalization tools to modernize agricultural practices; and capacity building and support of young farmers for sustainable and inclusive development.

Commenting on the MoU, Eng. Hani Salem Sonbol, CEO, ITFC, said that the cooperation with OCP Africa is in line with ITFC’s mandate to support the development of strategic value chains in countries member of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC). “The services provided by ITFC in the agricultural sector, both in terms of trade financing and tactial support, has expanded significantly over the past years, targeting critical areas of the value chain, from farm input to processing, pre-export, and export. The sector is also one of the value chains that is ready for innovation and SME development.”

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OCP Africa’s CEO, Karim Lotfi Senhadji said, “The smallholder farmer is central to OCP Africa’s strategy to support the transition of farming communities from subsistence farming to modern, sustainable agri-business. Our aim is to strengthen the continent’s agriculture ecosystems thus enabling African farmers to prosper. The agreement with ITFC will support efforts to train farmers on best farming practices, test soils for accurate fertilizer recommendations, facilitate access to financing, and improve access to markets”.

ITFC and OCP Africa will jointly introduce a new “OCP School lab” campaign in Senegal in November 2019. A flagship program of OCP Africa, OCP School Lab is an innovative program aimed at increasing the yields and the incomes of smallholder’s farmers on strategic crops by offering a full set of agri-services:

  • A School: interactive training sessions with live demos on good agricultural practices and animated videos in local dialects for higher impact
  • A mobile Lab: Soil-testing using latest innovations (X-rays, big data and machine learning) and live information on soil needs and fertilizer recommendations

ITFC has been providing significant support to ensure food security in Sub-Saharan Africa. In 2018, trade finance approvals for the food & agriculture sector amounted to US$749.6 million, representing 14.4% of the total trade finance portfolio, a 71% increase compared to the previous year. Sub-Saharan Africa accounts for 50% of ITFC’s food & agriculture sector financing extended in 2018.

International Islamic Trade Finance Corporation (ITFC).

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Egypt urges World Bank, IMF to support regional integrity in Africa

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CAIRO – 18 October 2019: Minister of Investment and International Cooperation Sahar Nasr called on the World Bank and IMF to boost their support to Egypt in achieving regional integrity and intra-trade in Africa, a press release on Friday read.

Addressing the Intergovernmental Group of 24 on International Monetary Affairs and Development in Washington, Nasr called on the WB and International Monetary Fund to expand investments in the region.

The minister said that Egypt’s vision to face the slowdown in global economic growth and trade tensions is to achieve more economic integration and continue to take the path of reform to make our economies more competitive and attractive for investment, to achieve the aspirations of the world countries in growth and development.

Nasr explained that the Egyptian government has implemented a comprehensive economic and social reform program to promote sustainable growth, alleviate poverty, create good jobs, enable the private sector to promote growth, and provide opportunities for all sectors of society to participate in the economy, especially women and young entrepreneurs.

The Minister added that President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, as the chairman of the African Union, has set the achievement of regional economic integration as a top priority.

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Nasr also discussed Wednesday with the World Bank the provision of $500 million for the pollution control and solid waste management project in Egypt.

Nasr added in a statement that Egypt is also discussing with the World Bank raising the level of partnership to support the health and education sectors in Egypt.

For his part, World Bank Vice President for the Middle East and North Africa Farid Belhadj affirmed that Egypt is a very important country for the bank’s fields of work.

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“Therefore the World Bank is keen to contribute effectively to the efforts exerted to achieve development in Egypt, especially in the field of infrastructure, in light of the economic and legislative reform that contributed to improving the investment climate in Egypt,”Belhadj explained.

Egypt Today

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African Development Bank inks €12.5 million deal with Adiwale Fund for SMEs

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The African Development Bank on Thursday signed off on its €12.5 million equity investment in Adiwale Fund 1, a first-generation private equity fund targeting high growth potential Small and Medium Sized Enterprises (SMEs) in francophone West Africa.

The Bank Group’s board of directors approved the investment in March as part of its commitment to grow  SMEs and improve livelihoods in countries underserved by the global equity market.

With a target fund size of €75 million, the Fund will take minority stakes in vibrant SMEs in countries where economic prospects and the Fund’s networks permit a rapid scale up.

Deal size for the Fund will range from €3 to €8 million. Primary target countries will include Cote d’Ivoire, Senegal, Burkina Faso and Mali, while secondary beneficiaries will include Togo, Benin and Guinea.

Across these economies, some of which are fragile states, the Fund will target three sectors: consumer goods and services, including education and health; business services such as transport, logistics, information technology and construction, and manufacturing, including pharmaceuticals, agri-processing and chemicals.

Abdu Mukhtar, Director for Industrial and Trade Development said the Fund’s investment strategy is aligned with the Bank’s High 5 goals especially ‘Industrialize Africa, Integrate Africa and Improving the Quality of Life for the People of Africa’.

“The most exciting part is that the Fund focuses on SMEs in francophone West Africa which accounts for nearly 19% of West Africa’s GDP but attracts only 7% of private equity capital. As these companies grow, they cross the borders and integrate across different countries,” Mukhtar remarked as he signed and exchanged deal documents with the Fund Manager’s co-founder Jean-Marc Savi de Tové.

Established in 2016, the Fund Manager, Adiwale Partners, houses a team of experienced West African nationals with several decades of combined private equity, operational, development finance and asset management experience in Africa, Europe and the United States.

Also Read Meet Sivi Malukisa, The Congolese Entrepreneur Whose Food Startup Is Promoting DRC Cuisine

From a development perspective, the Bank’s equity investment will provide growth capital to African SMEs, resulting in spill-over effects on job creation and tax revenues, with about 45% of the jobs going to women, Mukhtar said.

Savi de Tové said the Fund will also provide local entrepreneurs with management expertise and boost best-in class corporate governance and human capital development, which ultimately unlocks growth and supports economic transformation.

African Development Bank

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