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Exploring branchless, other digital forms of banking in a crisis

Banks these days have the digital options that allow their customers to manage the vast majority of banking needs without leaving their homes.

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Digital technology and blockchain altering conventional banking models - Emefiele, Exploring branchless and other digital forms of banking in a crisis

We are certainly living in unprecedented times. An indicator, which calls for concern, is how the number of Coronavirus cases has increased from 2 to 81 in the span of some weeks in Nigeria and unfortunately, this continues to rise with each passing hour. Many countries are reaching a rather critical infection juncture where things may likely get out of control.

The Nigerian government, especially in Lagos, has begun to implement the “self-quarantine” rule for its residents. Over this past week, churches, mosques and even banks have begun taking precautions against the spread of the virus.

Recession looms as UN, ILO declare 25 million will become jobless

Union Bank announced that it had instructed its employees who can work from home to do just that during this period. Ecobank sent a circular to all vendors not to come to its locations except for essential services and pre-approval.

Even more recently, Access Bank Plc announced that an individual, who visited one of their branches in Lagos on the 16th of March, 2020 was tested positive for the virus, and so the bank urged its customers to take full advantage of their digital platforms instead for all their banking needs.

The chaotic effects of the pandemic make it rather unclear what the Nigerian financial services industry will look like after the crisis is over, especially in banking. Fortunately, banks these days have the digital options that allow their customers to manage the vast majority of banking needs without leaving their homes. Now more than ever, the importance of exploring digital platforms and tools in banking or the lack thereof is increasingly highlighted.

[READ MORE: Digital payments sustains surge, affirms growth prospects)

Therefore these questions arise:

  • Are Nigerian Fintechs prepared for the worst possible outcome in a global crisis?
  • Giving that with any significant market pullback, opportunities will eventually arise amid the disruptions, are they ready to employ all tactics needed to milk these opportunities?
  • Is this an opportunity to strive for a future where digital and branchless banking solely driven by technology could change the way we bank?

Globally, there is an indication that the pandemic could hasten all forms of digital banking trends, and bankers are reporting that digital usage is rising alongside the proliferation of the virus. In many cases, it is surging.

Nigeria records a rather significant number of people with a preference for online and mobile banking, however, there is still is a large number of people who depend solely on brick and mortar banks to manage their finances. Could bank agents be the solution for these categories of customers?

To keep up with safety precautions, more Nigerian banks may need to encourage the use of online and mobile platforms and increase their assistance with customers to execute work outside the branch and as well as encourage the activities of their various agents with branchless banking.

It is undeniable that in the past few years, branchless banking, which has relatively become a mantra for Nigeria, has been impactful in facilitating financial inclusion. Inclusion has always been a concern in most countries of the world and even more so in Nigeria due to certain geographic conditions of the country. Over and again, we discuss the challenges to reach out to the underbanked rural areas within the country.

The increasing fear and quarantine measures are bound to keep customers away from bank branches at this time, so the opportunities abound in branchless banking can now be fully explored. The outbreak also makes this a great time to make a move toward a germ- free banking experience. This will facilitate the process of financial inclusion as it allows access to people in remote areas and is preferential to younger generations and most importantly is much more cost-effective.

[READ ALSO: COVID-19 Pandemic: Ecobank encourages customers to adopt digital self-service solutions)

The truth with everything happening, we might not have much of a choice than to fully adopt technology and digital banking seeing as for the foreseeable future, movements will be limited to its barest possible minimum and rightly so.

There are many upsides to fully adopting digital and branchless banking, and Nigeria has successfully adopted agency banking in this sector but more importantly, these suggestions will help permit the full transformation of our financial services industry especially at a time like this:

  • Retail outlets: Remote or not, every neighbourhood has a number of retail stores offering a variety of products but not financial services. There is no time or money for banks to spend on building their own retail presence right now. Exploring these existing retail outlets offers the opportunity to create a familiar service environment for less educated people helping them feel safe rather than intimidated or overwhelmed.
  • Trust through technology: In the adoption of branchless banking, as bank-customer interface shifts to a third-party retail environment ensuring trust is paramount. Even in fear, customers need to have confidence in the activities carried out by both bank agents and non-bank agents.
  • Mobile phones: Nigerians already have implemented the culture of USSD codes, we, however, need to explore that even more. Ensuring that mobile phone users can enjoy financial services with speed and ease could change the entire user experience.

Financial Technology FinTech, Job loss, Accion Venture Lab, Fintech: Growth frontier of the next decade 

The barriers to customer adoption have less to do with attitudes about technology (fear of change, unfamiliar user interfaces, security concerns, etc. although that is valid as well) than with communicating precise customer benefits and financial incentives for various business providers.

When you consider the hundred thousand bank agents operating in all forms of mobile money platforms for receiving and making payments in the city of Lagos alone, it shows that the electronic value transfer system can go even further if only experts can be deliberate in their inclusion efforts and that users have a real incentive to use them, now is perfect as there is an urgent need for social distancing and a limit to physical contact that cannot be achieved with the regular banks.

Nairametrics frequently publishes articles from experts such as financial analysts, economists, researchers and investors. We also feature articles from guest writers and bloggers who wish to push their views and opinions through our platform. To get your articles on Nairametrics, kindly send an email to info@nairametrics.com and we will publish it within 24 hours of approval by our editorial team.

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Tech

Facebook takes on Zoom with its new video chat feature

Video-calling services have seen a sharp rise during the coronavirus pandemic with options like Zoom and its daily active users growing to 300 million.

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Facebook widens anti-fake news project to 10 more African countries, Facebook just changed its logo, here’s why , Facebook launches new payment platform, Facebook Pay, Startups in Facebook Accelerator Programme raise $500,000 , Facebook to pay $550 million to settle privacy violations lawsuit , Facebook builds a gaming app, Facebook is building high speed internet connectivity to Nigeria, Facebook Takes on Zoom with its New Video Chat Feature

Virtual Meetings have exploded in recent months with the Coronavirus outbreak forcing people to start working and socializing from home. Video-calling services have seen a sharp rise during the coronavirus pandemic with options like Zoom and its daily active users growing to 300 million in April.

Another popular option, the Houseparty, owned by Fortnite-maker Epic Games has been downloaded more than two million times as at the beginning of March and other apps, such as Microsoft Teams, offer premium features for free.

With the current trend and the need to meet the demands of teleconferencing, Facebook is jumping into video chat game with its product feature, Messenger Rooms, a new feature that will allow up to 50 people to take part in a video chat, even if they don’t have Facebook accounts.

Facebook has had a long and notorious history of expanding its features to emulate major competitors, from first launching stories on Instagram in 2016 as a clone of Snapchat. Now Facebook wants more of the video market and is trying to take on the now popular video sharing platform, Zoom (ZM).

(READ MORE: Google, Facebook extend remote working for employees)

Previously, the messenger video calls were limited to eight people but with this new video feature ‘Messenger Rooms,’ users can currently host a meeting with up 50 people at once with no time limit on its messenger app, it will also be added to the company’s other applications- WhatsApp will see that the maximum number of people who can simultaneously join a video call will increase from four to eight.

Zoom founder reacts to criticism over app security as surge meets company unprepared, Facebook Takes on Zoom with its New Video Chat Feature

This new feature will be available on beta versions of WhatsApp for both Android and iOS. For making a video call with up to eight people, your WhatsApp must be running version 2.20.133 on Android and version 2.20.50.25 on iOS. The other condition is, the other participants that you’re looking to video and voice call, must also have the same beta version of WhatsApp running on their devices.

What’s the Catch?

Although these Messenger Rooms won’t be completely private, WhatsApp video and voice calls with up to eight people, will be end-to-end encrypted so no one else can view or listen in on private conversations, not even Facebook. Basically, end-to-end encryption is one of the main Unique Selling Points (USP) of the new video feature. Facebook is working to bring the security protocol to Messenger and Instagram Direct, so users will potentially be able to cross-platform chat across all these services one day, it’s easier said than done.

Like house party, the messenger rooms will let people drop in and out of the group video chats while the “room” is open just the way people have the ability to bump into each other in the physical world. Another catch of the new video feature is that users can create a Messenger Room that will be able to keep their room private, block unwanted participants, and send invitations to people who are not on Facebook.

Facebook is working to prevent the reoccurring issues its competitor’s faced like the “Zoombombing problem,” which let uninvited guests drop into video calls to abuse participants or share pornography.  The company is working with cryptographers to make the links for the Messenger Rooms difficult for hackers to guess. Although, publicly discoverable rooms will be listed at the top of the Facebook news feed and chats will not be end-to-end encrypted. Possibly, this would be one of the reasons why Facebook may successfully take on Zoom with its security and end-to-end encrypted tactics.

Other features of the new video feature include:

  • The ability to add eight people to a WhatsApp video call – up from four.
  • The return of “Live With”, which lets users host Facebook Live streams with another person, to bring guests or performers on to their show.
  • The ability to watch Instagram live videos on desktop computers.
  • Participants will be able to use augmented reality filters and change their background in real-time.

 

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Tech

Tech Roundup S02E19

The Nigeria tech space has seen major validation from global investors over the last few years, and reports

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Tech Weekly RoundUp, coronavirus, Week 8, wole

We conclude our Fintech Roundtable series, this time with a discussion on Fintech related investments.

The Nigeria tech space has seen major validation from global investors over the last few years, and reports show that over $400 million went into Fintech startups in 2019, and amid Covid-19, Nigeria based Fintechs have announced new rounds of investment this year but will this trend continue.

READ ALSO: PWC report details how COVID-19 will impact Nigerian FinTechs

To help us unpack this, this panel discussion was led by Deji Sasegbon, Director of Platforms at EchoVC and a returning guest on
the show.

We covered several topics but focused on what investors might be doing differently going forward and how Investments in Fintech ideas and businesses across Africa might be impacted going forward.

Hope you find the episode interesting.

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Digital Financial Literacy, a must for every Nigerian in Post-COVID

Nigeria has set a 95% digital literacy target for the next ten years under a Digital Economy Strategy in order to ramp up the contributions of the ICT sector to the Nigerian economy.

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Digital Financial Literacy, a must for every Nigerian post Covid-19

The importance of digital literacy in the furtherance of Nigeria’s economic growth is a topic that has proven to be extremely paramount especially in these forced changing times.

Truth is, talent training outlets are not in short supply in Nigeria; from Decagon to Learn Factory; there are a number of programmes offering advanced and specialized digital literacy skills in fields like software development, machine learning etc.

As a matter of fact, Nigeria has set a 95% digital literacy target for the next ten years under a Digital Economy Strategy in order to ramp up the contributions of the ICT sector to the Nigerian economy and last year, the sector accounted for 13.8% of the nation’s GDP which is more than the oil and gas sector on which the country has previously been heavily reliant.

The Lagos State Government since this pandemic collaborated with Microsoft Office to train 18,000 secondary school teachers on digital literacy in order to equip, train, and engage them to deliver on their duties through technology during this lockdown period.

(READ MORE: Digital financial services amid COVID-19)

However, digital financial literacy is a niche that still has not become mainstream as many would assume. For the reason of the evident gap in the country, we have companies like NetPlusDotCom organizing webinars to educate Nigerians on the importance of an inevitable shift to digital payments and financing post-COVID-19.

Digital Financial Literacy, a must for every Nigerian post Covid-19

Unfortunately, there are a few challenges hindering the growth of digital financial literacy in Nigeria, they include:

  • Policy Implementation: Already set regulations geared towards promoting digital literacy are not readily implemented.
  • The regular school curriculum does not reflect a component of digital literacy skills that would be relevant in the future of work.
  • High costs of infrastructures such as the Internet and power is one of the challenges faced in promoting digital financial literacy in Nigeria.
  • There is a digital divide due to the existence of unreached communities who are not aware of the concept of digital literacy.
  • Digital literacy has been termed too difficult to conceptualize resulting in unnecessary complexity for the understanding of the process to a layman.
  • Resistance to Change: The general attitude of people towards change and what digital literacy offers, is a hindrance in promoting digital financial literacy.
  • Skepticism of many unenlightened Nigerians.

(READ MORE: Facebook is building $1 billion high speed internet across Africa)

Proposed Solutions

  • More citizen engagement and awareness of existing and new policies on digital literacy.
  • Investment in research and development by the government and other institutions to help Nigerians be more conversant on international standards as it concerns promoting digital literacy.
  • There should be a collaboration between organizations whose works are centered on digital literacy with schools in actualizing a more robust curriculum.
  • The government should provide tax incentives/ reliefs for telecoms to enable them to reduce the costs of data. Telecoms can also provide ICT parks to allow for access to the internet.
  • On inclusion, collaboration between Government, Multilateral organizations, and civil society groups should be considered to reach underserved communities possibly in the local language so as to avoid the language barrier.
  • To ward off resistance to change, there should be orientation programs on the need and importance of digital literacy using the bottom-top approach of reaching out to grass-root individuals.

 

 

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