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Meet Sola Akinlade, co-founder of Nigeria’s foremost payment platform Paystack

The Nigerian financial space is currently being disrupted by a group of new companies building Fintech solutions.

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Sola Akinlade

The Nigerian financial space is currently being disrupted by a group of new companies building financial technology (Fintech) solutions.

With this set of ‘disrupters’ leveraging on the latest mobile, cloud, and digital technologies, Nigeria is increasingly becoming a home to Fintech firms, thereby changing the narrative in the payments and banking ecosystem.

The financial space has changed from boring, at the turn of the last decade, to something that was more interesting in recent years. However, things are gradually moving towards inspiring with the emergence of these new disrupters who are constantly injecting fresh innovations into the payments scene to ensure that merchants collect payment from their customers in the most seamless and secure manner.

Enter Sola Akinlade, co-founder and CEO of Paystack, one of such disrupters making a bold move to revive the Nigerian payment system. Paystack is a modern payments platform that allows Nigerian merchants to receive funds from anyone, anywhere in the world.

In a question & answer session with Sola, he revealed the journey with Paystack.

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His education and work experience

Sola was born in Lagos and went to St. Gregory’s College for his secondary education. He proceeded to Babcock University, where he bagged a degree in Computer Science in 2006. After his university education, he worked at Heineken as a Management Trainee, specialising in database management from 2007 and left in 2009.

Shortly after that, he spent the next 5 years working on a software called Precurio, an open source collaboration platform like Dropbox, which was used by over 200,000 organisations. While working on the software, a few banks reached out to him to help them build software, this was when he realised that he could take a stab at figuring out how to make payments easier for businesses in Africa.

What gave birth to Paystack?

During Sola’s stint as a software engineer working with banks, he saw an opportunity to solve several payments challenges that African businesses face using technology. Equipped with the technical skills to take on the challenge, and together with his co-founder, Ezra, they both started to build the Paystack platform and today, the platform serves over 17,000 businesses, and process over 15% of all online payments in Nigeria.

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In his words:

“We started Paystack because we believe that better payments tools are one of the most important things that African businesses need to unlock their explosive potential. We think of Paystack as an amplifier of the incredible work that African business owners are already doing. With better technology tools, African businesses can be better equipped to play a growing role in the global economy.”

Prior to the formal launch of the platform in 2016, he had started talking with several business owners to understand their payment challenges, and it was very clear from the interaction with them that a large market lay waiting.

During its launch in January 2016, Paystack already had a waiting list of about 300 businesses – all of whose owners he had spoken with to understand their pain points and how Paystack could solve their challenges. Paystack also got inducted as the first Nigerian company into Y Combinator, a Silicon Valley-based incubator. These signaled as validation that the platform was worthwhile and that Paystack would be a success.

Building the right team

In the early days, the real work was trying to convince partners to work with the team and move fast to actualise its dream. According to Sola, in building a formidable team, the platform looks out for 3 things when hiring: deep curiosity, an ability to solve problems, and deep empathy. From its early days of just 2 people in the company to over 30 now, these three qualities, have helped in building an incredibly formidable team dedicated to solving the payment problems in Africa, and helping businesses grow.

Meet Sola Akinlade, co-founder of Nigeria’s foremost payment platform Paystack

Sola with Co-founder Ezra Olubi

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 The new Series A funding

The platform recently announced that it has raised $8 million in Series A Funding. The round was led by payment leaders: Stripe, Visa, and Tencent. Follow-on funding was from Y Combinator, as well as angel investors Tom Stafford (Managing Partner at DST Global), Gbenga Oyebode (founding partner of Aluko & Oyebode and Board member of MTN Nigeria), and Dale Mathias (Co-founder, Innovation Partners Africa). This brings Paystack’s total investment to date to more than $10 million.

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The company said the new Series A funding will be used to power its next stage of growth – building out its payment infrastructure even further, expanding across Africa, and becoming a complete growth engine for modern businesses in Africa.

Concerns that foreign investors are taking over Nigeria’s tech startups

According to Sola, tech startups will continue to seek funding where available especially as many startups aspire to not only excel locally but also to thrive globally.

  “At a global scale, the important thing to look out for when seeking investors isn’t just capital, it’s also to build strategic relationships. These are some of the reasons, for instance, why Paystack chose Stripe and Visa – two of the world’s biggest payment companies – as investors.”

“I believe that once this generation of tech companies become successful and achieve liquidity, a lot of the ‘local’ value generated will go into funding the new generation of startups”

Are fintechs kicking out banks?

Sola believes that banks and fintechs have different but important roles to play in the financial space. He is optimistic that the relationship between the two players will continue to evolve but predicts that even a few banking services will be delivered by fintechs, while the ‘brick and mortar’ bank will always exist.

 Paystack in the next 5 years

In 5 years, the goal is to power growth for even more African businesses and enable newer business models across Africa.

Fikayo has a degree in computer science with economics from Obafemi Awolowo University. ITIL v3 in IT service management. An alumnus of Daystar Leadership Academy. Prior to joining Nairametrics had stinct in Project management, Telecommunications among others. Also training in Consulting and Investment banking from Edubridge Academy. He has very keen interest in Politics, Agri-business, private equity and global economics. He loves travelling and watching football. You can contact him via [email protected]

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Currencies

DEVALUATION: CBN updates website to official rate of N360/$1

The central bank of Nigeria has devalued its official exchange rate from N307/$1 to N360/$1.

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CBN website states oil price is still $61, Naira under pressure as Nigeria records poor export earnings, 4 key sectors the CBN plans to pump money into

Just as Nairametrics reported, the Central Bank of Nigeria has devalued its official exchange rate from N307/$1 to N360/$1. The apex bank has now reflected this change on its website signaling a confirmation. The bank is yet to issue a press release to this effect.

The CBN has now officially devalued by 15% moving from N307/$1 to N360/$1. Depreciation at the “market-determined” I&E window is 5% having moved from N360/$1 to N380/$1

Devaluation: Nairametrics reported yesterday that the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) sold dollars to banks at N380/$1 in a move signifying a devaluation of the currency. Banks trading at the Investor and Exporter (I&E) window bought dollars at N360/$1 from the CBN on Friday, March 20, 2020. The I&E window is the official market where forex is traded between banks, the CBN, foreign investors, and businesses. The central bank typically buys or sells in the market as part of its intervention program.

The CBN has updated its website with the official exchange rate.

Nairametrics also got hold of a letter from the CBN to banks informing them of the new exchange rate for dollars flowing from the International Money Transfer Operators (IMTOs). According to the CBN, IMTOs will sell to banks at N376/$1 while banks will sell to the CBN at N377/$1. The CBN will sell to BDC’s at N378/$1 while the BDC’s will sell to end-users at “no more than” N380/$1.

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Single Exchange Rate: A report yesterday also suggested that the CBN also planned to move to a single exchange rate policy for determining the price of the dollar. A senior central bank official who does not want to be identified, said, ‘Today we allowed the rate at the importer and exporters (I&E) window to adjust in response to market developments.’

The central bank has now made an apparent u-turn after it had initially that the “market fundamentals do not support naira devaluation at this time” detailing reasons why it did not need to devalue.

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Falling oil price: Oil prices fell to under $20 on Friday before climbing back up to settle at $23 per barrel. Nigeria’s Bonny light trades at $26 while the benchmark Brent crude trades at $29 per barrel. In response to the crash in oil price, Nigeria’s announced a cut to its 2020 budget by N1.5 trillion as it faced the reality of a potential drop in its revenues. Nairametrics also has information that state governments are getting jittery about their ability to sustain salary payments as a reduction in their federal allocation “FAAC” is anticipated.

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Career tips

Investment options for salary earners

Investment options for the salary earners
#Investing #Entrepreneurs #Investment #Salary #Wages

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Investment options for salary earners - bank loan

Recently, one of the readers of my articles asked to know what investment options are open to salary earners. A salaried individual is like everyone else except that he or she has a fixed monthly income. This implies that their investments and expenses have to be managed strictly according to their fixed monthly income.

Since salary is assumed to be the only source of income for the salaried, it is advisable that such an individual fortify himself financially before investing so that adverse investment performance will not have untold effect on him and his family. Therefore, if you are a salaried prospective investor, you need to:

Get life insurance

Most families in Nigeria are single income families so much such that if anything bad happens to the income earner, the family gets shattered, at least financially. Again, given the risks inherent in capital market investments, it is only prudent to have a life insurance as a first step in one’s investment journey. It is very baffling to see many investors very deep into the market, yet they do not have life insurance.

[Read Also: Understanding the risks in bond investing]

Life insurance is and should be a basic part of any financial plan. Life insurance is a protection for loved ones against financial hardship arising from the death of a breadwinner. This is even more important today than ever before with high cost of funeral expenses, college education and medical bills. So, the first investment option for a salaried individual is to get a life insurance.

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Prepare for financial emergencies

Life is full of surprises, emergencies do happen, jobs are lost without notices, and even good investment opportunities emerge sometimes suddenly. There is, therefore, the need for a cash reserve to help weather the financial storms and emergencies when they come calling.

Cash reserves do not only provide for emergencies, they also help to ensure that investments are not liquidated prematurely or at inopportune times to cover unexpected expenses. There are no hard and fast rules on what the exact amount of the required cash reserve should be, but most financial experts and planners will advise that an amount that equals about six months of living expenses be set aside.

So, as a salaried person, your next investment should be to have a cash reserve. A cash reserve should not necessarily be in a savings account or under the mattress; it could be in an interest-bearing money market account, money market mutual funds with low to zero luck-up period or another form of very liquid investment that is readily convertible to cash without loss of value.

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[Read Also: Understanding the risks in bond investing]

Know your risk appetite

As a salaried and fixed income individual, your risk appetite is most likely going to be low as well as your risk tolerance, although your extended family profile could change all that. You need to know or understand your risk tolerance before you engage in any capital market investment.

Your risk tolerance will and should drive the type of investments you go into. Your risk tolerance depends on your psychological makeup, your current insurance coverage, presence or absence of cash reserve, family situation, and your age among others.

Talking about family situation, it is reasonable to think that a married individual whose children are still in school will be more risk averse than an unmarried person. On the other hand, older people have shorter investment time horizon within which to make up for any losses. the reason for this is because the older you get the less time you have to work to recoup on losses.

In that case the risk tolerance of an older man will be less than those for younger folks. Again, the more cash reserve and insurance coverage you have, the more your propensity to take risk. Now having known your risk tolerance based on the underlying factors, you can then define your investment objectives

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[Read Also: Important tips on how to profit in a bearish market]

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Set your Investment objectives/goals

Having met those essentials above, you are now ready for a serious investment plan or program. A good investment plan starts with investment objectives. Investment objectives are the force that determines what you invest in. Investment objectives range from capital preservation, to capital appreciation and constant income generation.

Capital preservation as an investment objective implies that you, the investor, aim at minimising the risk of loss by maintaining the purchasing power of your investment. So, if you are risk averse or you will need money from your investment soon for children’s education or for building a house or you are nearing retirement, this should be your objective.

Investors whose aims are to see their investment portfolios increase in real terms over a period of time are better suited for capital appreciation as an objective. This is better for investors that are more risk tolerant and those with more potential to recoup on losses along the way.

If you are already retired or nearing retirement, and therefore depend on your retirement plan supplemented by investment income, you need an investment that generates income rather than capital gains. In that case, your investment objective should be current income generation. It is always good to have investment goals stated in terms of risk and returns.

[Read Also: I-Invest generates over N2 billion transaction in less than 6 months]

Decide on asset allocation

Armed with the knowledge of your risk appetite and investment objective, you are now ready to decide on what to invest in, and how much to invest in any asset class. This takes you to asset allocation decisions. Asset allocation involves dividing an investment portfolio among different asset classes based on an investor’s financial requirements, investment objectives and risk tolerance.

A right mix of asset classes in a portfolio provides an investor with the highest probability of meeting his/her investment objectives. Asset allocation is the most important investment decision an investor can make in a portfolio because it demonstrates an investor’s understanding of his or her risk preferences and return expectations.

It is good to strive for a diversified portfolio. Unfortunately, the Nigerian market does not provide a lot of asset classes for optimal diversification, but diversification can be achieved across sectors or industries within the few asset classes in the Nigerian stock market.

Decide on how to invest

There are different ways to invest in the capital market. You can invest directly by making the stock selections by yourself, thanks to the online stock trading platforms that abound the world over. This implies that you have what it takes to conduct the required research and analysis of the companies whose shares or stocks you wish to buy.

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[Read Also: How I Would Invest My Mother’s Retirement Funds]

It also implies that you have what it takes to know when to sell or add to existing positions. Another method is to have someone “do the heavy lifting” for you. In this case, that someone, often times called fund manager or portfolio manager, does the research and analysis and selects shares that suit your investment preferences, investment objectives, risk tolerance and appetite as well as your investment time horizon.

This route is most suitable for investors that lack the knowledge and time for the required research and analysis. If you decide to go this route, mutual funds are the best bet for you.

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Business News

Atiku kicks as Buhari spends $3.7 billion in foreign debt service since 2015

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Budget: FG completes just 31.7% of constituency projects, Nigerians react to President Buhari's signing of Finance Bill 

The Buhari led government has spent about $3.7 billion in foreign debt service since 2015, one of the highest from any democratically elected government. The highest single-year foreign debt service was in 2006 at $1.79 billion.

About 68% of Nigeria’s foreign-denominated debt servicing is in commercial Eurobonds issues over the last two years. The loans range between 5.1% and 9.2% per annum. Nigeria’s external debt stock stood at $27 billion in June 2019.

Rising debt service: The Buhari administration has so far spent about $1.1 billion in foreign debt service this year. In 2018, the government spent about $1.4 billion in debt service, more than 3 times the $444 million it spent servicing foreign debts in 2017. The rising cost of debt service is a direct attribute of the government’s reliance on foreign loans as a means of funding government expenditure.

Debt service since 2003. Source: CBN. Nairametrics Research (C)

Foreign Loans: Nigeria’s fallen revenue following the crash in oil price has allowed President Buhari to rely mainly on foreign loans to fund government expenditure. As of June 2015, Nigeria’s foreign loans were about $10.5 billion mostly made up of multilateral and bilateral loans.

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However, by June 2019, total foreign-denominated loans were $27 billion with $10.8 billion made up of Eurobonds. Commercial loans which include Eurobonds and Diaspora bonds make now make up about 42% of total foreign borrowings.

[READ ALSO: Babatunde Fowler attributes FIRS success to technological innovation (Opens in a new browser tab)]

Critics of the government have complained about the government penchant for debts believing that it could put the future of younger Nigerians in jeopardy. Supporters of the government, however, believe the borrowing was necessary to invest in critical sectors of the economy particularly infrastructure.

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Recently, Director-General of MAN, Segun Ajayi-Kadir expressed worry about Nigeria’s rising debt.

“….the rising debt profile of Nigeria continues to be a cause for concern, especially the capacity of government to effectively service it and, at the same time, meet the bursting needs and aspiration of the citizenry going forward.” 

“Already, our budget projections for 2020 anticipates a debt service sum of 2.45trillion, an amount higher than the 2.14 trillion earmarked for capital expenditure. 

“And even though our debt-to-Gross Domestic Product (GDP) ratio, which currently stands at 28 percent, is still below the average in Africa, our revenue-to-GDP ratio remains low.”

The Finance Minister Zainab Ahmed however, believes the current debt profile is sustainable, comparing it to our GDP.

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“Currently, Nigeria’s debt is at N25 trillion; that is about $83 billion. And at $83 billion, we are just at 18.99%…so 19% debt to GDP. I hear people say Nigeria has a debt problem. We don’t have a debt problem. What we have is a revenue challenge and the whole of this government is currently working on how to enhance our revenues, to ensure that we meet our obligation to service government as well as to service debt.”

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[READ ALSO: Babatunde Fowler attributes FIRS success to technological innovation (Opens in a new browser tab)]

Former Vice President and defeated PDP Presidential aspirant, Atiku Abubakar during the week piled criticism on the government’s borrowing.

“I have said it time and again. The business of government is too serious to be left in the hands of politicians. We must all ask questions because if they throw away the future, it is not going to be their future they are throwing away, it will be all our futures.

“The fact that Nigeria currently budgets more money for debt servicing (N2.7 trillion), than we do on capital expenditure (N2.4 trillion) is already an indicator that we have borrowed more money than we can afford to borrow. And the thing is that debt servicing is not debt repayment. Debt servicing just means that we are paying the barest minimum allowable by our creditors.

What this means: Nigeria’s rising foreign debt profile should be a worry to investors and businesses and must be watched closely. The country’s ability to repay these loans will continue to be harder as it increases especially now that it is costing about 9%. The immediate risk for investors is the exchange rate which could be the first to suffer should the government struggle to repay its loans.

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