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Covid-19 and Financial Inclusion in Nigeria: The Good, The Not-So-Ugly

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Onyeka Akpaida, Founder and Chief Impact Officer at Rendra Foundation

No one envisioned the world would be at a standstill for 6 weeks, much less experiencing a global pandemic; in an unprecedented manner, COVID-19 decided to show up regardless.

The economic disruption of this pandemic will largely come from ‘’aversion posture” taken by people to avoid contracting the virus. These include government-imposed lockdowns, business closures and reduction in activities by people which will inadvertently affect all sectors of the economy and translate into reduced income for suppliers, lower wages, unemployment and a lower standard of living.

Bringing it home, our 2020 fiscal budget revenue assumptions were made with a $57 per barrel benchmark; however, the crude oil price dipped as low as $20 this month.

This is worrisome to me as we have been unable to sufficiently set aside buffers against these daunting economic challenges. It is my hope that coming out of this pandemic, Nigeria is able to commence a dogged economic diversification drive.

The estimated number of financially excluded adult Nigerians as of 2018 was 36.6m and given the lockdown situation following the pandemic, many financial services providers are unable to implement planned projects in terms of onboarding customers. It is obvious that Nigeria will not be achieving her 2020 financial inclusion goal of reducing exclusion by 20% from 36.6m to 19.9m adult Nigerians.

Statistics from Global Findex also show that a lack of regular income is the major reason for financial exclusion and it is inevitable that the economic impact of the pandemic which includes loss of income particularly with adults that earn daily wages will not do us any favours in closing this gap.

This article will be addressing the impact of the pandemic on Nigeria’s financial inclusion drive and recommendations to stakeholders- fintech, social enterprisesand government on how best to mitigate and innovate in the short andmedium-term.

Although the effects of this pandemic are going to hit hard in the short and medium- term; there is ample opportunity to cushion the effects by getting the most vulnerable adult Nigerians financially included to give them access to the opportunities highlighted in the recommendation section of this article.

The Not-So-Ugly (Covid-19)

Remote Work: This is inevitable as many brick and mortar financial service providers have to swim against this tide that is in an uncharted territory. The banks are sequestered and so are the customers; financial service providers are leveraging on every office and communication tool to keep work going. You can find us in front of our computers with the webcam on having your ‘beloved’ Monday morning meeting with your line manager trying to explain why you have been unable to land that customer.

Loans & Lending: There will definitely be a surge in the requests for loan facilities to meet up to daily and expensive demand of staying at home; I can imagine most lending institutions and apps are inundated with loan requests given the ease of getting credit in less than 5 minutes. Loan default is guaranteed as some workers have been laid off, and those who earn daily wages in non-essential sectors will be unable to meet up with their repayments.

The good news is the Central Bank of Nigeria has directed that moratorium be given to credit facilities and most financial service providers have taken a consumer friendly position by providing up to 3 months moratorium to ease the burden on borrowers. The Central Bank of Nigeria has also directed that interest rates on all applicable intervention funds be reduced from 9% to 5% (be sure to check that your bank has done it.) It is also expected that lending institutions will reduce the credit limits of customers to mitigate default.

Mobile Money Usage: Following the lockdown measures and call for social distancing, most transactions will be conducted via mobile banking apps and agents to cater to under-served and peri- urban communities. According to EFINA Access to Finance 2018 Survey, Mobile money usage increased by 2.2% from 2016 and we expect these numbers to increase exponentially by the end of 2020 with the lockdown being a key catalyst.

Leveraging the use of USSD offline technology, it has become easier reaching the under-served with affordable banking services as it does not require internet usage. We expect to see growth in the Access to Finance 2020 survey statistics on mobile banking usage in the areas with previously high financial exclusion rates.

The Good (Recommendation):

Financial Inclusion Goal: The  Digital Nigeria report on financial inclusion as at January 2020 revealed that over 36 million of the 101.4 million adult Nigerians are financially excluded and if you are gender- focused like I am, it will interest you to know that about 20.5 million of the excluded population are women. There is a huge opportunity for new players in the financial inclusion space irrespective of your business location- Urban centres or rural communities and if you are passionate about under-served communities, there are over 28 million excluded people in this demography.

Reduction in barriers to entry by regulators in the financial inclusion space such as high cost of fees will also encourage more players and ultimately bring us closer to Nigeria’s financial inclusion goal of achieving a 20% reduction in the excluded population by 2020.

Kenya’s largest Telco announced a fee waiver on M-Pesa, the country’s leading mobile money product for 90 days to reduce the physical exchange of currency in response to the COVID-19 outbreak following a directive from Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta to explore ways of deepening mobile-money usage to reduce risk of spreading the virus through physical handling of cash. Implementation of such measures will use digital finance as a lever to influence social distancing, P2P transactions and financial inclusion in an infectious health crisis.

Fintech and Social Enterprises: There is an opportunity for fintech companies to innovate and go beyond payments and transactions. One of the many effects of the pandemic and lockdown measures is an increase in illnesses especially in rural and densely populated households or communities where social distancing is nothing but a pipe dream. This is the time to collaborate with health management and pension organisations to develop a product that caters to the vulnerable and under-served.

Micro & SME Businesses and Households: Nigeria with over 37 million micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) account for over 84% of the jobs in the country; the Central Bank of Nigeria, taking the 48.5% contribution of the sector to our GDP, introduced the N50 billion Targeted Credit Facility (TCF) in March 2020 as a stimulus package to support households and MSMEs affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. This facility will be disbursed through the NIRSAL Microfinance Bank (NMFB) with a reviewed maximum amount for MSMEs now pegged at N2.5mm (formerly 15mm) and a moratorium period of up to 1 year.

To date 80,000+ number of applications have been received and you can access the guidelines and application via the NMFB. There is also a need for a membership or association system to be created for hawkers and road side sellers who fall under the category of micro-businesses to access to facilities such as the COVID relief for affected businesses. The association will be responsible for disbursement, monitoring and repayment of the facility.

Government Agencies

As it is, the government is fast losing the trust of its citizens as the stories from the implementation of social protection programmes are highly discouraging. Although we are in a too little too late situation, I will still recommend that the government makes financial inclusion and biometric registration an essential part of its social registration process. This will reduce the risk of paying “ghost beneficiaries”as each person registered will have the BVN as a unique identifier.

In the US where there is a stimulus package for citizens earning less than 75000 USD. Eligible citizens are now receiving $1200 monthly support. 7 eleven (a Walmart competitor) and Mastercard created a card with an account behind it to quickly capture the excluded and reduce their wait time to receive the stimulus by several weeks when compared to the post-delivery option.

Also Read: Women in Tech: Interview With Ellen Fischat, Founder Story Room and Inspiring Fifty SA Ambassador

Written by: Onyeka Akpaida is a financial service professional with 9+years of experience in financial inclusion, consumer-centric digital banking and public sector engagement in a top tier leading International Bank and the founder of Rendra Foundation where she works to promote financial inclusion for low- income and migrant women in northern Nigeria.

Rendra Foundation


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Press Release

Journey Wellness, an AI-Enabled, Personalised Healthcare Platform Launches in South Africa

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Journey Wellness Co-Founders, Dr. Jacques Ludik and Lara Wayburne (Image: Nomsa Mdhluli)

Journey Wellness, an AI-Enabled, Personalised Healthcare Platform set to Revolutionize Wellness & Healthcare in South Africa. The Platform will transform business employee benefits and medical schemes’ approach to offering wellness for employees and medical aid members.

A revolutionary new approach to offering Ultra-Personalised, Artificial Intelligence-Enabled Healthcare from tech-trendsetting company Cortex Logic is set to transform the way medical aid schemes, consumers and corporates offering employee benefits as part of their EAP (Employee Assistance Programmes) view their current healthcare offering.

The Journey Wellness platform is perfectly timed to coincide with the current global shift in Healthcare, as the focus moves from a disease-management model to one that encourages optimum health and disease-avoidance, targeting younger as well as existing members with a holistic, pro-active offering.

Corporates and medical schemes are realising that they need to offer their employees and members wellness and EAP benefits that move beyond expensive, reactive, chemical care to cost-effective, proactive preventative primary care.

“Globally, an ever-increasing portion of healthcare spend and focus is shifting to promote wellness and wellbeing, rather than responding to illness,” says Lara Wayburne, a respected Healthcare Actuary consulting to Cortex Logic and part of the development team of the Journey Wellness Platform.

“Healthcare analysts predict that over the coming decade the focus on wellness and wellbeing can reduce overall healthcare costs by as much as 30%.”

“Journey Wellness enables that future by empowering and engaging consumers to better understand the drivers that impact their health and therefore be more actively involved in managing their own health. By doing so, the Journey Wellness ecosystem encourages positive health seeking behaviour, promoting better physical and mental health,” says Wayburne.

The driving force behind Journey Wellness, Dr Jacques Ludik, Founder and CEO of Cortex Logic, who has also recently written a book called ‘Democratizing Artificial Intelligence to Benefit Everyone’, says that the Journey Wellness platform will provide more healthcare, to more people, faster.

“Essentially, Journey is a cost-effective, pro-active, personalised and engaged AI health companion that will improve health outcomes for everyone involved – the medical scheme provider, employers, employees, healthcare providers and ultimately the end-user consumer who will benefit from personalised, proactive healthcare with the added benefits of cost savings all-round,” says Dr Ludik.

Journey Wellness offers a number of benefits for Medical Schemes, Corporates and End-Users:

Employer Groups and Medical Scheme providers will benefit from the cost savings inherent in moving from expensive, reactive, chemical care to cost-effective, proactive preventative primary care for their members and employees. This will result in increased productivity, increased employee engagement, reduced absenteeism and cost-savings to all involved.

Healthcare Providers will benefit from having a 360-degree view of their patients that will improve wellness proactively without costly chemical intervention, usually at the reactive stage and will also empower patients with continuous self-care.

And, Consumers will benefit from a Holistic Wellness Solution and the reduced need for expensive healthcare options, improved wellbeing, rewards for engagement and ultimately having a personalised wellness coach on hand at all times to help them understand their health status and associated risks and better manage their health and improve quality of life.

“Overall, it’s a win-win scenario in which technology, data and analytics foster a collaborative and progressive healthcare environment, creating an ecosystem for improved wellbeing one step at a time that benefits everyone,” says Wayburne.

Journey Wellness has also made an exciting announcement around making the Platform’s Mental Health Module available for free to users from 1 September 2021.

“We realise that the current state of affairs globally, and in South Africa in particular, with pandemic lockdowns and economic uncertainty foremost on our minds, places an enormous amount of pressure on people. So, we’re offering free access to our Mental Health Module to users, where they can access an AI-enabled mental health companion 24/7,” says Dr Ludik.

The Journey Wellness Demo Platform for Corporate Employers and Medical Schemes is available at www.journeywellness.co.za, and for Consumers, the User App is available as a free download for Android and iOS devices at Google Play and App Store. Medical schemes and Employers looking to offer Journey Wellness to their members can interact directly with Journey Wellness by requesting a demo via the website.

 

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Investment

Chaka secures $1.5M pre-seed round to power digital investments and wealth management opportunities across Africa

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Chaka CEO, Tosin Osibodu at a press briefing (Image & Press Release: Chaka)

Chaka is thrilled to announce its $1.5M pre-seed funding round led by Breyer Capital, a global venture firm focused on catalyzing growth in high-impact companies like Spotify, Facebook, and now, Chaka. Other participants in the round are 4DX Ventures, Golden Palm Investments, Future Africa, Seedstars, and Musha Ventures.

Chaka is a technology solutions company on a mission to enable every business and person in Africa to access borderless digital investment and wealth management opportunities. The team combines investment expertise and best-in-class technology to provide reliable digital Investing, trading and wealth management solutions that are easy-to-use and easy-to-integrate.

Their mission is to enable digital border-less investing for African businesses and individuals. They’re powering the digital investment landscape in Africa through partnerships with asset managers, financial technology firms, and regulators with whom we have a shared mission. We achieve this by providing trading solutions that are easy to use and easy to integrate.

With this capital, they will focus on the goals to build a roster of formidable partners and accelerate expansion to other markets within West Africa. This investment also enables them to hire top talent and integrate more advanced functionalities into our investment and wealth management solutions.

Jim Breyer, CEO of Breyer Capital, shared his view on this investment and it illustrates their shared vision: “We are proud to align ourselves with a company that is leveling the investment playing field for Nigerians (and Africans at large). We’re confident in the value Chaka provides through its digital tools, and we look forward to playing our part in supporting Tosin, Bo, Olaolu, and the Chaka team.”

This is a significant milestone for Chaka and could not have come this far without their users, partners, early investors, and a talented, achieving team of Champions.

They see digital investments as a means to boost economic transformation in Africa, and we’re very keen to bring this vision to life.

 

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Manufacturing

Emmanuel Penneh set to lead the Ghanaian team that will re-assemble the first Nissan Navara made in Ghana

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Emmanuel Penneh (Image: Lusawovana Pius- edelman) 

Emmanuel Penneh arrived back in Accra this week, ready to start the next phase of a journey that’s taken three years so far and still has an intensive eight months to run. On Thursday 3 June 2021, the married 44-year-old father of three graduated with his team of 11 Ghanaians from an intense eight-week course at Nissan South Africa’s Rosslyn manufacturing plant outside Pretoria. That was just the first step for them. Now the hard work begins, getting Ghana’s brand-new Nissan assembly plant in Tema, outside Accra, ready to begin re-assembling the first ever Nissan Navaras to be built in Africa early in the New Year.

The graduation is a critical milestone in a process that began back in 2018 with the signing of the landmark Memorandum of Understanding between Nissan and the Government of Ghana, followed by the drafting and promulgation of Ghana’s automotive development policy the following year and then the appointment of Japan Motors Trading Company (JMTC), as Nissan’s preferred partner last year to ensure that the new facility will be 100% Ghana owned and run.

Penneh is up for the challenge. Speaking at the special graduation ceremony held at the Rosslyn, SKD plant, he said he and his team were proud and honoured, excited and delighted. “This is a historic evolution for Nissan Ghana, Nissan South Africa and Nissan worldwide. This is the plant where the Nissan Navara is being made for the first time in Africa, by Africans for Africa, now we are going home to re-assemble the first Navara made in Ghana for Ghana by Ghanaians!”

Penneh will be the plant manager. It’s a feather in the cap for the 10-year JMTC veteran. Before being approached to lead the team, Penneh was service co-ordinator for the group’s aftersales operations, overseeing five workshops across Ghana. He’s been in the automotive industry for 14 years, with four years at Man Truck Ghana before he joined JMTC.

“It’s exciting,” he says, “it gives a new dimension to my career. After concentrating on the after sales aspect, I’m now coming into the industry that actually builds the vehicles.”

The eight-week training that the team underwent in South Africa had been gruelling, he said, they had no idea what to expect. “It was challenging coming fresh into this industry and discovering so many processes and rules and mastering them, but it’s been exciting.”

He’s exceptionally proud of the team he led to South Africa and the way they’ve conducted themselves. “This (the creation of a Nissan assembly plant in Ghana) is going to be a game changer for ourselves, but also for our country, creating jobs, upskilling people and creating opportunities for local brand ownership.”

 

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