The Governor, who broke the news at the 2016 Annual Bankers’ Dinner organised by the Chartered Institute of Bankers of Nigeria (CIBN) on Friday night, in Lagos, said such tax, targeted at the middle, upper class and long phone call makers, can generate N100 billion annually into the federal government coffers.
Speaking on the theme: “Policy options for reversing Nigeria’s economic downturn” he said the country’s economy is currently facing a classical case of “stagflation” and although the 2016 budget is well on track to tackle it, there is need to boost revenue generation base though increased taxes.
He suggested that government could explore opportunities for more revenues to wriggle out of stagflation and recession by introducing a negligible telecom surcharge to be paid by initiator of a telephone call.
“There are several ways we can raise additional revenue to finance the increased expenditure that is needed to engender fast and sustainable growth in the economy. I think we can consider introducing a negligible telecom surcharge to be entirely borne by the initiator of a call. In order to protect the poor and vulnerable amongst us, we could structure it to only take effect after the third minute of talk. Some analyses have indicated that the government could earn about N100 billion per annum from this alone,” he stated.
Emefiele explained that the surcharge will mainly be borne by middle and upper class people since many poor people do not make calls for more than three minutes.
He explained that stagflation occurs when a country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is falling or stagnant while unemployment and inflation are rising, all simultaneously.
“As recent data from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) indicate, Nigeria’s GDP growth decelerated by 0.36 per cent and 2.1 per cent in the first and second quarters of 2016, respectively. More also, the rate of price inflation for the months of September and October were 17.9 per cent and 18.3 per cent, respectively, while official statistics also indicate that the country’s unemployment rate increased to 12.1 per cent and 13.3 per cent during the first and second quarters,” he stated.
Emefiele said that stagflation is a difficult condition for policymakers to deal with, insisting that no single macroeconomic policy can address rising inflation and slow growth simultaneously, because fighting inflation may require implementing policies that might, in the short term, be inimical to economic growth, whereas expansionary policies to stimulate growth usually worsen inflation.
Still on taxes, the CBN boss said government could also consider introducing minimal property taxes across the country. “This not only raises money for the government but also could be a veritable weapon against corruption since it creates a database of who really owns homes in this country. Another option to consider would be to fully implement the 2003 Cabotage Act. This is Act stipulates that all cargoes and passengers in the inland and coastal waters be transported by ships and ferries built, owned, crewed and manned by Nigerians,” he said.
Emefiele explained that contrary to the requirement of this Act, there are several foreign-owned vessels providing shipping services locally. “Out of about 600 ships that operate within our waters, only about 60 of them are owned by Nigerians and are mostly idle, in violation of the Act. Industry sources suggest Nigeria may be losing as much as N2 trillion annually from this anomaly. In addition to raising revenue, a full implementation of the Act could also spur job creation, capacity building, and significant backward integration,” he said.
Speaking further, he said that exchange rate is simply a price that is determined by the forces of demand and supply.
He said that while the proposal may seem controversial, variants of this policy have proven to be highly effective in other climes and even here in Nigeria. “For example, throughout the early days of South Korea’s economic renaissance, the government intermittently used excessively stiff tariffs, quantitative restrictions and prohibitive inland taxes to effectively ban many items with potential for high imports, and simultaneously, offered generous and subsidized loans to firms for export promotion causes. In fact, at some point, about 93 per cent of total imports into South Korea were subject to one or more such restrictions,” he said.
Emefiele admitted that interest rates are a veritable tool for curtailing inflation but with inflation at over 18 per cent, the regulator would be abjectly failing on one of its cardinal objectives if it cuts interest rates at this time. “Second, for those who say we need a rate cut to spur growth, we need to remind that high inflation is highly inimical to economic growth. Indeed, many empirical studies have estimated the threshold level at which inflation becomes significantly growth retarding to be 11 per cent for developing countries. With ours at 18.3 per cent, one must question the judgment of cutting interest rates at this time,” he said.
The CBN Governor insisted that interest rates reflect not just the cost of capital but also the cost of doing business, hence, the need to also look at interest rates from the perspective of the lender. “Given that most banks have to individually provide security, power, and other infrastructure, it is not surprising that some of these costs are passed on to customers in the form of high interest rates. Notwithstanding these facts, we will continue to use moral suasion to encourage commercial banks to be more considerate in interest charges on customers,” he stated.
Microinsurance is driving greater financial inclusion, says aYo Ghana CEO
There has been a ‘material increase’ in awareness of financial service products like microinsurance during 2021, with growing numbers of Ghanaian consumers purchasing cover to protect themselves and their families in the event of hospitalisation or loss of life.
Francis Gota, the CEO of microinsurer aYo Intermediaries Ghana Limited, says the company has seen a strong increase in its customer base since the start of the pandemic, with more than 6 million customers on its books at the beginning of November. It expects to add another 1.8 million customers in 2022. The company offers Hospitalisation and Life Insurance Cover through its two insurance products, ‘Send with Care’ and ‘Recharge with Care’.
In 2020, the company paid claims of about GH¢2.4 million to more than 8,000 customers.
“Microinsurance is dispelling the myth that insurance is just for the wealthy, educated, and formal-sector employees. Today, every Ghanaian consumer can purchase insurance on the go, using their mobile phones. Phone penetration and technological advancements are making it much easier to reach clients and provide better, more cost-effective service,” said Mr Gota.
Microinsurance is seen as a powerful enabler of financial inclusion in African markets, providing a much-needed social safety net that helps vulnerable people and particularly people with low incomes to stay afloat when the unexpected happens.
“Covid has made many people aware that tomorrow is not promised. As a result, many consumers have a better appreciation for insurance now, and this given us an opportunity to help protect more people than ever before, by providing cover against unexpected life events,” said Mr Gota.
Over 6 million subscribers are currently using aYo’s Recharge with Care product, which offers life and hospital insurance cover every time customers recharge their MTN airtime. Customers can get up to GH¢120 for each night they are admitted to hospital, and up to GH¢6,000 life cover for themselves and one family member who is registered on the policy.
How to sign up
For Recharge with Care, subscribers sign up via app.ayo4u.com or by dialling *296#, selecting option 1 and following the prompts. They can sign up for MyLife, MyHospital, or both. A maximum premium of GH¢6.00 provides cover that is valid for 30 days. Subscribers use the same process for filing claims (*296#, option 1, option 7, and follow the prompts.) Valid claims are paid directly to the claimant’s mobile money wallet.
MTN MoMo subscribers can send MoMo through aYo Send with Care by dialling *170#, select option 1 (transfer money) and then option 3 (Send with Care) on the mobile money menu. This will give them up to GH¢30,000.00 hospital and life insurance cover for themselves, and up to GH¢3,000.00 life cover for their family members (the receivers of the MoMo).
aYo partners with MTN to launch insurance for all Ivorians
Panel Guests: From the left: Laurent Koffi Senior Manager Segments Mobile Financial Service of MTN Cote d’lvoire; Jean-Charles N’Gotta CEO of aYo Cote d’lvoire; Marius Botha Group CEO of aYo Holdings; Philippe Attobra CEO of Sanlam Assurance Vie (Image: Karli Stock)
aYo Holdings, African microinsurance fintech together with telecommunications giant MTN and Sanlam Life has launched two innovative insurance products in Côte d’Ivoire that will contribute towards MTN subscribers enjoying peace of mind.
CEO of aYo Intermediaries Cote d’Ivoire Limited, Jean-Charles N’Gotta, said: “It is estimated that less than 2% of the Ivorian population currently has insurance. This is because most people think insurance is only for white collar workers with high incomes. We want to show that with aYo services, people with all levels of income can get peace of mind at an affordable cost to help take care of their financial health even after hospital bills due to an accident or illness, or their funeral expenses if the unforeseen happens and they pass away.”
Two basic products will be available at launch once consumers sign up to aYo:
aYo Recharge+ rewards MTN MoMo (Mobile Money) users by offering free accidental hospitalisation cover and life cover each time customers purchase airtime via MoMo. Customers can also take advantage of the AutoBoost, paid-for, functionality to get even more cover with every MTN airtime recharge.
With the free component of aYo Recharge+, each time a customer uses their MoMo wallet to recharge airtime, they get 8 times that amount as accident cover and 12 times that amount as life cover. When they take advantage of AutoBoost to buy additional cover (from 25 CFA to 300 CFA), this amount is multiplied by 200 for additional accident hospitalisation cover and by 300 for additional life cover.
aYo Kash+ offers cover for illness and accidental hospitalisations as well as life cover each time a consumer sends money, pays utility bills or school fees via MTN MoMo. Each time a customer makes a person-to-person money transfer or pays a bill using MTN MoMo, they get illness cover equal to the amount they spend in that transaction, accident and life covers for three times the amount transacted by paying a 5% premium. When they pay school fees using MTN MoMo, they get life cover for twice the amount transacted by paying a 2% premium.
Getting cover and claiming is as easy as using the aYo progressive web app from your mobile phone by visiting www.ayo.co.ci. Signing up, interacting, and claiming all happens without the need for any physical paperwork. When claiming, the required documents can be attached and sent via WhatsApp too.
aYo launched in January 2017 in Uganda and has reached more than 14 million customers across Uganda, Ghana and Zambia. The company has paid in excess of over $1 million in claims.
“Insurance, and the peace of mind it provides, has become more important than ever in today’s fast-paced world, where risks are a part of our daily lives. You never know when you will have to pay to get back on your feet after an accident or an illness. Often, the cost is so large that it goes beyond your immediate financial capacity, and that is where aYo and our innovative products will be most helpful,” said Jean-Charles N’Gotta.
Microinsurance can mirror mobile money boom in Africa – if the conditions are right
Marius Botha, Group CEO of African Insurtech aYo Holdings
When it comes to mobile money, there’s no doubt that Africa leads the world. From humble beginnings as a peer-to-peer money transfer system back in 2007, it has boomed to nearly $500bn in transactions in 2020, with more than 560 million users across the continent.
According to the GSMA’s State of the Industry Report on Mobile Money 2021, global daily mobile money transactions exceeded $2 billion for the first time last year, and are expected to pass $3 billion a day by the end of 2022. And there’s still more growth where that came from. According to the Wall Street Journal, only 45% of the continent’s population has an active mobile phone.
What’s interesting is that customers are not only using their accounts more frequently, they are also using them for new and more advanced use cases. Many of the socio-economic and development challenges arising from the pandemic are being tackled with mobile money solutions. This suggests that more people are moving away from the margins of financial systems and are leading increasingly digital lives, the report said.
This is particularly good news for the microinsurance sector, which is growing steadily across Africa on the back of mobile network expansion, and is covering millions of people against financial shocks caused by unexpected life events.
Will microinsurance’s growth mirror that of the mobile money space in Africa? It’s hard to say at this stage. Right now, there are 130 mobile-enabled insurance services in 28 countries, with over half offering coverage for life and funeral or health and hospitalisation services. According to the GMSA report, 43 million policies were issued in 2020, two-thirds (29 million) of which were life and health insurance policies.
For microinsurance to show MoMo-like growth a few things have to happen:
First, a shift in existing perceptions of insurance as something that’s expensive, reserved for the middle class, or not to be trusted. This shift is slowly gathering momentum, largely through word of mouth. The more people experience the tangible benefits of microinsurance, the more they talk about it in their community, which drives greater trust – and ultimately, greater uptake.
Secondly, we need greater diversification of product and benefit options. While some insurance providers have already expanded their offerings from life and health insurance to income protection, education and even house insurance, life and health coverage remain the prevailing offerings.
Thirdly, it’s vital to have enabling insurance and telco regulations across the continent. For example, tax on the use of airtime as a premium collection method in some markets will have to be exempted in some countries. In others, restrictions on mobile money premium collections will have to be amended. The challenge is to build in consumer protection mechanisms to prevent over-charging of customer airtime or mobile money wallets from multiple products, and to ensure sufficient balances remain for other spending needs. We certainly don’t want to see outcomes similar to over-indebted consumers burdened with additional debit order or payroll collections for insurance, as has happened in some markets in the past.
Finally, we need to ensure profitable business models for all product providers in the value chain. While mobile channels reduce the marginal costs of accessing information and participating in financial service activities, the industry still relies on driving sufficiently high volumes of transactions at low costs, and low-cost distribution models. Many consumers still demand some level of face-to-face intermediation, which adds a layer of costs to the equation.
The stage is set for microinsurance to boom in Africa – and hopefully follow the mobile money growth trajectory. And that will be good for everyone, most of all consumers who are currently underserved and under-covered. Let the growth begin.
By Marius Botha, Group CEO of African Insurtech aYo Holdings
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