I travel to meet Dr Adesola Adeduntan in Edinburgh, where he had been invited to give a keynote address at the Edinburgh School of Business about the role of financial institutions in driving financial inclusion. Fittingly, as you land in Edinburgh, you are greeted by billboards from different investment funds advertising their credentials in responsible and sustainable investment and how environmental, social and governance (ESG) considerations underpin their activities.
With economists and politicians questioning capitalism and the Western liberal model, today the emphasis is very much on a stakeholder-based approach, whereby growth and prosperity is more equally attributed and takes into consideration the needs of the wider community. Sustainable investment has become de rigueur among corporate jargon.
Dr Adesola Kazeem Adeduntan, CEO of First Bank of Nigeria, is a veteran in the Nigerian banking and corporate world. His overriding message, clearly expressed throughout his interview responses, and also at the various talks he gave during the day (at the Business School and at a law firm), is on the importance of doing good if you’re to do well – financially – in Nigeria and indeed, Africa.
A telling sign
FirstBank is actually the oldest bank in Africa. It was established in Lagos in 1894 as the Bank of British West Africa. Last year, it celebrated its 125th anniversary. It is also the biggest bank in Nigeria in terms of assets and branch network.
For Adeduntan, a veterinary doctor by training, it becomes clear, once we have settled down for our discussion, that the institution’s longevity is a telling sign: it not only proves the bank’s resilience, it also shows that it has the right structures in terms of governance and the right business model, with the country’s development at its core. The theme of the anniversary celebrations was about how the bank has been woven into the fabric of Nigerian society.
The clear message to the industry is that while it is possible to make a quick buck, you can only enjoy the sort of longevity it has if you conduct your business with the interests of the country at heart.
Nonetheless, it’s apparent Adeduntan does not want to dwell too long on past glories. Using the analogy of a car, he says that there is a reason why the windshield is large whilst the rear-view mirror is small.
The challenge of fintech
As in most sectors, traditional ways of doing business have been coming under increasing disruption from ever-evolving technology. The banking industry is no exception and seems to be under siege from an expanding fintech onslaught.
I ask him if he is worried that non-financial companies will be entering the banking sector, especially given the recent change in regulation by the Central Bank that allows non-traditional finance institutions, namely mobile operators, to enter the fray.
He says he is not worried as his bank has one of the best-defined strategies when it comes to financial inclusion and that it has the largest digital banking network in Nigeria.
Much of this has been developed through the bank’s FirstMonie Agents system: 46,000 agents represent the bank across the country. Currently, 9m customers transact on their USSD platform (by mobile phone, both smart and analogue) in addition to 3m customers transacting on the FirstMobile platform.
The agent network, the biggest of its kind in the country, enables the bank to provide services to the most remote rural communities; and because it doesn’t need to have an extensive branch network, it means that these services can be supplied at a fraction of the cost of a ‘legacy’ banking model.
Adeduntan prefers to use the phrase ‘financial deepening’ when talking about the unbanked. Financial inclusion has increased from the low 20s to approximately 40% in Nigeria over the past seven years and is expected to double to the mid-80s within the next five years.
He says ‘financial deepening’ occurs when financial inclusion starts playing an important role in economic development. It’s about layering additional products on the current agency banking network – services such as micro-credit, micro-insurance and micro-pension.
The aim is to provide value-added services whilst at the same time increasing the savings rate; this aspect, which is critical in driving investment rates, has been one factor behind Asia’s rapid growth.
It is in this area, he says that the bank has a vital role to play and a distinct advantage over new entrants. Technology, he emphasises, will play a crucial part in broadening financial inclusion. In addition, it is important to partner and collaborate with different stakeholders such as NGOs and other organisations dealing with the bottom of the pyramid, to help them reach out to different groups and also improve financial literacy.
Last year saw a boom in venture capital investment into Nigeria. For example, $400m was invested in a number of fintech start-ups during November alone. Is he not worried that these fintech players, with their lower cost base and ability to use technology, AI and big data to overcome traditional hurdles, are going to take the majority share of the pie when it comes to servicing the unbanked?
He said that would only be the case if the banks do not manage to reinvent themselves. In Edinburgh, he actually spent a large part of his day visiting tech hubs around the university in the city and speaking to fintech companies. FirstBank, he adds, has a number of partnerships with fintechs as well as its own Digital Laboratory developing new solutions for the bank.
Nevertheless, he firmly believes that the ‘legacy banks’ will still continue to play a very central role, especially “in this part of the world where banks are quite dominant and they have significant buying power”.
In terms of settlements and deposits, he sees many of these new players as partners they can work with, even if in some areas they will be competitors.
Scope for growth
Despite the impressive strides made by the banking sector in Nigeria, Adeduntan believes there is still a massive scope for growth for the sector. He points out that none of the country’s top banks have made the Top 10 Banks in Africa list, despite Nigeria being the continent’s largest economy.
He thinks that with the signing of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement, “we are entering a very interesting period for the banking sector, not only in Nigeria but Africa in general.”
On the domestic front, does he expect further consolidation? “Within certain thresholds,” he answers. “Anything that would allow the strengthening of the entire banking sector, I am sure the Governor of the Central Bank would be positive about.”
He also points to demographics and the high rate of the unbanked as great opportunities for the growth of the sector continentally. “According to UNICEF, two billion babies will be born in Africa in the next 30 years,” he said. “And in places like DRC [where FirstBank has a presence] financial penetration is as low as 5%.” Put the two sets of figures together and, in theory at least, you get vast opportunity. But he adds the all-important caveat that demographics are only good if managed properly.
Supporting national champions
It hasn’t all been plain sailing for the bank, however. Adeduntan inherited a bank with several large exposures in the oil & gas and energy sectors, at a time when the oil & gas prices fell considerably, resulting in the devaluation of the naira against the dollar.
He says his management weathered the storm, reduced NPL levels to under double digits, and has strengthened the risk infrastructure, thus enabling the bank to better deal with cyclical downturns in future.
Discussing the role of large companies in the commercial landscape, Adeduntan says it is essential to have big banks like FirstBank, just as it is vital to have national champion companies that have the scale and wherewithal to make transformative investment. Such companies require financial institutions of similar scale to support them. The Dangote Group’s investment into what will become the continent’s largest oil refinery is a case in point, he adds.
Role of the Central Bank
We move on to the regulator and the role of the Central Bank. Does he think that it is too interventionist, dictating how much banks should lend, where they should place their assets?
Adeduntan refused to be drawn into criticism of the regulator, with whom he said he, and other bank CEOs, had a strong relationship. But he did say that the role of a central bank in the development of an emerging economy is clearly different from the role of a central bank in a developed economy.
“It is not unusual that the Central Bank intervenes in critical sectors allied to the loan to deposit ratio. It’s about economic growth; it’s about development; it’s about channelling credit in sectors that are very important for the national economy.
“Let us take agriculture – again, we are one of the biggest lenders into that sector. We found the Central Bank intervention in some of those critical sectors extremely useful and not just for us as a bank, but for the country as a whole. When you look at intervention in agriculture, you have to put it in the context of the size of the population. Nigeria is a country of 200m people today. The business of feeding 200m people is a strategic business. Everything that is being done to ensure that at least we are self-sufficient in food production is strategically important. We find the Central Bank intervention in those areas quite useful and of national importance.”
He reflected the positive attitude of many Nigerian entrepreneurs to the country’s future. He says he has a lot of time for the Economic Advisory Council – composed of credible business leaders and economists – that has been put together by President Muhammadu Buhari. And despite reports that the government is not economy-minded, he thinks that it is a pro-business government.
It was nearly 10.00 in the evening when we finished our talk, his day having started at 07.30am. We went back to sustainability and the role of financial services to make sure they are lending to institutions that are ethical about their business and operating in a sustainable manner.
He said that the journey had started even if it is still early days. “But ultimately,” he said, “this is where we are headed. The Nigerian Sustainable Banking Principle speaks to this particular question. I think it’s evident from the points that I’ve made today, you can say that FirstBank is a bank that is happy to forego a few basis points in terms of its net margins if that means it is contributing to development in a more ethical and sustainable way.
“We’ve always made a point that profitability is very important for us at FirstBank, but economic growth and national development is equally very important and speaks to the sustainability question.”
Culled from African Banker
A new MSME Academy is now available for all Africa’s Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises in Nigeria
MSMEs are invited to join our first series of informational webinars tailored for MSME operating in Nigeria.
Spearheaded under the AUDA-NEPAD “100,000 MSMEs by 2021” (100K MSMEs) programme launched by the African Union Development Agency – AUDA-NEPAD and the Ecobank Group, the MSME Academy provides easy access to practical training and resources on financing opportunities in various countries, how to build a digital presence for businesses and how to adapt business operations in the era of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Panafrican MSME Academy offers free access to market intelligence, a host of mentors with a diverse experience while assisting with access to funding opportunities. The MSME Academy will have three components: an informational webinar with invited speakers, a series of virtual instructor-led trainings and mentorship for the MSMEs.
MSMEs are invited to join our first series of informational webinars tailored for MSME operating in Nigeria. The first webinar provides tips on access to finance and building a digital presence.
When: 3rd September 2020
Where: Register to the MSME Academy at https://msmeacademy.nepad.org/
About AUDA-NEPAD 100k MSMEs
The AUDA-NEPAD 100K MSMEs programme is focused on the implementation of the Agenda 2063 Aspiration number one (1), which aims at building a Prosperous Africa, based on Inclusive Growth and Sustainable Development.
The programme will provide support to African MSMEs and is structured in three pillars, namely: the MSME Academy, MSME Marketplace, and MSME Financing Support Programme to be delivered through an MSME Digital Platform.
- MSME Academy: The MSME Academy aims to build the capacities of MSMEs across Africa through a combination of relevant content library, a network of institutions specialized in MSME support such as incubators and accelerators, and a community of peers, mentors, and advisors.
- MSME Marketplace: a consolidated marketplace of marketplaces, enabling MSMEs to access e-commerce, procurement and alternative financing opportunities across the continent
- MSME Financing Support Program: a scheme that will bring together financial institutions, guarantee funds, and other institutions to reduce the cost of risk for lenders to deliver capital to MSMEs at scale. The objective is to radically expand access to finance by aggregating smaller financial institutions such as micro-credit institutions and credit unions that have access to micro-enterprises, standardising their processes, and building trust in their capabilities.
The MSME Digital Platform is a one-stop-shop for all MSMEs across Africa to access all these three programmes which jointly address MSMEs’ challenges with access to capacity building, markets, and capital.
The African Union Development Agency-NEPAD is the development agency of the African Union, coordinating and executing priority regional and continental development projects to promote regional integration towards the accelerated realisation of Agenda 2063 – Africa’s vision and action plan. We are mandated to strengthen the capacity of the Member States and regional bodies.
About Ecobank Group
Ecobank Transnational Incorporated (‘ETI’) is the parent company of the Ecobank Group, the leading independent pan-African banking group. The Ecobank Group employs over 14,800 people and serves more than 23 million customers in the consumer, commercial, and corporate banking sectors across 33 African countries. The Group has a banking license in France and representative offices in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia; Johannesburg, South Africa; Beijing, China; London, the UK, and Dubai, the United Arab Emirates. The Group offers a full suite of banking products, services, and solutions including bank and deposit accounts, loans, cash management, advisory, trade, securities, wealth, and asset management. ETI is listed on the Nigerian Stock Exchanges in Lagos, the Ghana Stock Exchange in Accra, and the Bourse Régionale des Valeurs Mobilières in Abidjan. For further information please visit www.ecobank.com.
Media Enquiries- For more information contact and to schedule interviews:
African Union Development Agency-NEPAD
Ms Millicent Kgeledi – Communications Officer
Tel: +27 83 2661829 | [email protected]
Mr Austen Osokpor – Media Relations
Tel (+234 8023877699| [email protected]
For technical questions related to the MSME Academy, please contact [email protected]
The Africa Soft Power Project: New virtual summit featuring 50+ speakers across 15 sessions launches this week
Sessions will be free to attend and include a Q&A component.
This week will see the launch of a new global virtual summit, focused on how Africa can harness soft power effectively. Hosted by Nigerian stakeholder communications firm, RDF Strategies, in collaboration with Dragon Africa and a number of media and corporate partners, the fifteen-part series will run from Aug 12th – Sept 4th, and feature 50+ speakers from across the creative and commercial sectors.
Themed ‘Creative Power: Content, Culture, & Platforms – Where is the Money?’ the virtual event represents a first of its kind convening of creative and technology leaders from across the globe. Sessions will be free to attend, and include a Q&A component, allowing audiences to converse directly with some of the most prominent thought leaders and pioneers, focused and passionate about Africa.
Some of the sessions include:
- Reopening Africa – An Opportunity to Reboot
- The Globalization of African Beats: Culture, Trends & Opportunities
- The Future of Sports & Live Entertainment
- Pop Culture, Gender Roles, & Responsibility to Audience
- Rethinking the Business of Beauty – Sustainability, Visibility, & Trends
- Going All The Way: Africa & The Diaspora
- Full line-up: https://theafricasoftpowerproject.com/#sessions
Some of the speakers include:
- Yewande Adewusi, BBC News Regional Director for Africa (Moderator)
- HRH Nnaemeka Alfred Achebe, The Obi of Onitsha
- Nana Bediatuo Asante, Secretary to the President of the Republic of Ghana
- Sandra Jackson Dumont, CEO, Lucas Museum of Narrative
- Mike Eboda, CEO Powerful Media
- Full line-up: https://theafricasoftpowerproject.com/#speakers
Some of the partner organisations include:
- 234 Media
- The Africa Centre
- Powerful Media UK
- Full line-up: https://theafricasoftpowerproject.com/#partners
“When you look at the global dialogue on Africa – compared to somewhere like the US – it is markedly different,” says Nkiru Balonwu, Partner of RDF Strategies & Convener of The Africa Soft Power Project. “The global news, and even our own, love to amplify the negative issues that face the continent, while often remaining silent on its successes. The onus falls on us as everyday Africans – and those of African heritage around the world – to challenge these negative stereotypes and build a better picture of our future. Music, art, film, fashion, and all creative mediums are unified by a common theme: their ability to powerfully communicate, and engage people through narrative. Beyond the creative sector, brands and businesses would do well to understand that there is a direct correlation between on-going stories of African success, and the continent’s ability to attract money, and increase individual country-level GDP.”
“It has been an absolute pleasure coming together to build this platform as a bridge for important conversations between Africans and the African diaspora,” said Obi Asika, Founder & Chairman, Dragon Africa. “I strongly believe in our soft power and the need for all African nations to intentionally invest in it. From my lens, when I say ‘soft power’ I am referring to our cultural and creative industries, the innovators, the storytellers, from Nollywood to Afrobeats, from our cuisine to our fashion, our art and literature, our culture and our lifestyle. In this first series we have an amazing array of speakers who will dive deeper into some of these areas. We are also focused on monetization, on how we can build African-owned platforms that can scale to meet our needs and most importantly how we can build alliances between Africa and our diaspora to raise capital & build capacity for us to win together. There has never been a more important time to take ownership of Africa’s narrative and introduce our true heritage and history to a world that has been sold a mononarrative not of our making.”
As the world’s last large, underdeveloped market, the importance of the creative and knowledge industries take on added significance when we consider that the continent will be home to more than a third of the world’s population and half of the world’s youth by 2100. Individual discussions within The Africa Soft Power Project summit will form around how Africa can harness its soft power effectively, to advance strategic interests and shape global conversations.
For more information and to sign-up for specific sessions, please visit: https://theafricasoftpowerproject.com
Top passive income strategies using Cryptocurrencies in Nigeria
Now is the time to enter the wagon of the Blockchain and Decentralize Finance wave.
The world of today is one where one needs multiple streams of income. Just saving some money in a bank account is no longer sufficient to guarantee financial safety. This is due to the low-interest rates across all countries of the world. Regular savings account with low-interest payments could ironically be losing money due to inflation.
This is where cryptocurrencies and the world of Blockchain at large can help. There are numerous opportunities in it to make some money on the side without having to risk income trading. These types of strategies give a return without active participation by the user.
This is the world of passive income, a stream of money that is accumulated over time regardless of the actions of the user. There are many protocols and services in the crypto space that offer possibilities to make money passively.
As the world is faced with the COVID-19 crisis and the Central Banks of the world print money, inflation is a big threat to developing nations. Nigeria is no exception. The latest figure of the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) is 12.5% for July. This, coupled with the average APY for a savings account being 4.2%, means any regular saver in the country is losing money with a savings account.
Before we continue, check out this analysis of Bitcoin’s performance during this COVID-19 pandemic posted on Remitano.
This is why every Nigerian needs to research and be involved in passive income strategies. The future of the old financial system is in question while the crypto economy is growing. We just saw a bull run while the global economy is in crisis. The strategies outlined here, plus others out there can be a critical tool to achieve financial independence.
The current trend in Blockchain protocols is to move away from Proof of Work (PoW) towards Proof of Stake (PoS). This has to do with the high costs of mining hardware, risks of centralization, and scalability limitations of the Proof of Work consensus algorithm. This made many old and new protocols move away from PoW and adopt PoS in their blockchains.
The Proof of Stake algorithm works, as the name suggests, by forcing those nodes looking to get rewards from validating transactions to lock some funds in the network to do so. This is known as staking, the nodes that meet the requirement enter a lottery to become the origin of the next block. Once the block has been propagated successfully, the node receives a reward in the native cryptocurrency of the network.
One way to do this is to set up a node by yourself and stake some crypto to become a validator. This, however, is not without risk. A node has a set of responsibilities in the network, such as staying online 24 hours a day. If a node fails in those responsibilities, it losses part or all of the locked funds. This is done to encourage nodes to play an optimal role in the Blockchain.
This means that running a full node alone is risky, and it could be a little expensive. Not as expensive as a mining farm, but above one thousand dollars. This is where stake pools become attractive. A stake pool is where a group of users delegates their cryptocurrency to a node in exchange for some of the rewards it gets when validating a block.
The pool operator gets a higher percentage of the rewards and the possibility of becoming a validator more often. The lottery is not purely random. The more a node stakes in the network, the higher the chances of validating the next block. So, pool operators have the incentive of attracting many stakeholders to make their chances better.
Some of the protocols offering stakeholding are Algorand, Vchain, Tezos, Tron, Cardano, and some others.
Cardano is the latest to offer stake pools with its after launching its mainnet on July 29th. Unlike Ethereum, there is no limit to how little a person can stake in the network. This makes it an invaluable tool for passive income strategies.
Second Crypto Saving
Crypto saving is a new example of the traditional savings account in the world of Blockchain. Cryptocurrency exchanges are in constant need of liquidity for coins and tokens on their platforms. This means that a user holding some coin or token lets us say Tether (USDT) can loan this token by depositing it in a liquidity pool for others to borrow. The people on the other side of the operation have to pay interest, and part of that interest is given back to the depositor.
The most popular services for this type of strategy are found in Ethereum. This is because most DeFi products are in that Blockchain. These pools include Compound, Aave, Uniswap, and dy/dx. Additionally, users of the Argent mobile wallet can directly connect to these protocols from the app on their phones.
The interests are standard annual returns. These range from 3% to 5%, except in Compound. In it, the interest rate varies daily and also changes per token. On some days, DAI may have a higher return than USDT, while on other days, the trend can reverse to favor the second. The interest earned is calculated daily, and the savings can be taken out at any time.
This makes it the easiest choice to earn passive income in the Blockchain right now. The limitation is that, for now, it mainly works in the Ethereum network. The variety of tokens that can be used to make deposits is restricted to those issued in Ethereum. Some examples are Tether, USDC, Basic Attention Token, DAI, Wrapped Bitcoin, and others.
There is no boundary to how much money a person can deposit in these protocols. It can be as little as one dollar of some stable coin such as Tether or DAI. This is great for people looking to save in the Nigerian market. Instead of using bank’s savings accounts, which lose to inflation, a savings pool like Compound can return a higher interest rate in a year than any commercial banks could under the present economic conditions.
Finally Affiliate Rewards
Many exchanges, protocols, and other blockchain projects rely on affiliate marketing. They need happy and engaged users to drive traffic towards them and boost organic growth. Of course, this demands that the user has some platform, Twitter account, YouTube Chanel, etc., to reach an audience. So, it is not entirely passive.
Of course, rewards accumulate over time. It is unnecessary for a promoter to constantly post on social networks to achieve a steady stream of income. One of the most advantageous affiliate programs is the one offered by Remitano. This affiliate program not only gives rewards on direct referrals but also on referrals of downliners. All commissions are on a recurring basis.
Click this link to learn more about the Remitano affiliate program, the best affiliate program in the crypto space.
The world of cryptocurrencies grows by the day. The opportunities to cultivate multiple streams of income are only increasing in Blockchain. Now is the time to enter the wagon of the Blockchain and Decentralize Finance wave.
This is an especially powerful tool for Nigerians and citizens of developing nations. Before, we were limited by those financial institutions running in our countries, but the crypto economy is global. Blockchain has eliminated all the limitations of trading, savings accounts, investing, and other services, which in the past were only available in developed countries. Blockchain has opened the doors to financial freedom, and it is up to each of us to go through them.