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The New Normal – Digital Transfers and Remittance in Nigeria

The impact of the coronavirus pandemic could mark the end of physical cash payments due to hygiene concerns.

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The New Normal - Digital Transfers and Remittance in Nigeria

The coronavirus pandemic has, in no small way, affected many economies and industries across the world. It has also triggered a massive behavioural change amongst people, from how we interact with colleagues, friends, and family to how we function in general. The impact is also witnessed across the financial services industry, causing a necessary and rapid adjustment in the way we send and receive money.

Many experts predict that these changes will result in a new normal that will persist beyond the end of the pandemic and specifically, could mark the end of physical cash payments due to hygiene concerns. Studies have revealed that the materials that make up most banknotes provide the perfect environment for microbes to settle. Further findings identified the presence of harmful bacteria on banknotes including two life-threatening bacteria that have been linked to superbugs resistant to antibiotics. Research conducted by the London Metropolitan University in the UK showed that pathogens would survive on banknotes for up to 17 days. The World Health Organization (WHO) has suggested that people can get infected with the coronavirus through banknotes without observing proper hygiene, therefore it is widely agreed that at this time payments via digital money transfers are safer options.

Governments across the world have implemented different measures including restriction of movement, gatherings as well as encouraging citizens to adopt alternative money transfer channels. In an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), the Director of Corporate Communications at the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) advised Nigerians to adopt alternative payment channels such as electronic and digital money transfer methods while limiting the use of cash as much as possible.

To this effect, banks have begun to intensify digital operations in lieu of traditional channels, rapidly increasing their stake in FinTech while many businesses have begun to encourage customers to conduct transactions through available digital platforms. Elsewhere across the world, South Korea’s Central Bank took out of circulation all banknotes for two weeks to restrict the spread of the virus while deep cleaning banknotes at high temperatures and ultraviolet light. The British Retail Consortium announced that the contactless payment limits have increased from GBP 30 to GBP 45 and is now being implemented by its members.

READ MORE: Ripple helps MoneyGram records 100% growth on digital transactions

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Prior to the spread of the virus, governments in Africa had introduced measures and policies to increase the use of digital money transfer technology. In Nigeria, the CBN announced in September 2019 that its cashless policy will take effect on April 1 2020. This amongst other policies will only continue to encourage users to embrace digital transaction channels and increase the number of financially included adults in the country. Development partners including the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the African Development Bank (AFDB) have also been supporting electronic and digital financial inclusion across Nigeria and the rest of Africa. AFDB launched its Digital Financial Inclusion Facility last year with the intention of boosting digital financial inclusion across the continent.

The New Normal - Digital Transfers and Remittance in Nigeria

 

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Digital services are having a transformative impact on low-income households, as they provide a path to greater financial security and prosperity. We have continued to see an increase in digital transfers, as social distancing measures are encouraging people to use digital transfer methods – mobile money, bank transfer, and digital airtime top-ups. This method is cost-effective, saving money that can potentially be added to what the recipient receives, convenient for both sender and receiver, and provides a safe and hygienic alternative to carrying physical cash.

The GSM Association’s (GSMA) 2019 report indicates that mobile money use in Africa already showed strong growth indices. The continent’s mobile money accounts had exceeded $1 billion, with West Africa leading the charge. Deposit Money Banks (DMBs) also recorded a rise in e-payment earnings in Nigeria during the same period, which was also estimated to increase. These are all indicative of the substantial potential for growth in the industry even as COVID-19 causes people to explore digital payment channels.

No doubt, remittances have contributed significantly to Nigeria’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and has served as a source of income for many to support household, education and health bills amongst others. It is therefore important that this flow is not disrupted significantly. There is no better time than now to increase the awareness of these digital channels and encourage people to utilize them. Financial services and digital remittance organizations have continued to provide support to the digital transfer advocacy movement by offering different ways for friends and family to send money to loved ones across different borders.

Whilst the coronavirus pandemic has led to the era of social distancing, it has also increased awareness about the many advantages of digital technology. As ever, we encourage Nigerians to continue to follow government advice and guidelines from the World Health Organisation (WHO) whilst observing safety measures including keeping mobile devices clean.


Written by Gbenga Okejimi is Nigeria Country Director of WorldRemit. 

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Financial Literacy and its relevance in the 21st Century

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One of the most important lessons that a person can learn is how to manage their money. Many young people go into adulthood with little knowledge about financial management and they end up making mistakes that cost them a lot of regrets in the long run. Educating young people about the importance of financial management and making sound financial decisions will go a long way to prevent them from making costly mistakes. This will also encourage them to be financially prudent when making decisions. Thus, the importance of educating young people on financial literacy can never be overhauled or overemphasized.

Financial literacy is the act of acquiring set of skills and knowledge that allows an individual to make informed and effective decisions with all of their financial resources. Financial literacy also involves the skillfulness of financial principles and concepts such as financial planning, budgeting, forecasting, compound interest debt management, profitable savings techniques and also, the importance of understanding the value of money and the principles of wealth management. The lack of financial literacy leads to making poor financial choices that can have negative consequences on the financial well-being of an individual.

On the 3rd of January, 2019, Acting Gov. Sheila Oliver of New Jersey in America signed a law that mandates the state Board of Education include financial literacy instruction in the curriculum for sixth- through eighth-grade students in public schools across New Jersey. This bill was signed at President Barack Obama’s Elementary School in New Jersey City. Although the new law gone into effect in September 2019, New Jersey has actually been ahead of the financial literacy curve for years now. In 2014, the state adopted the program Standard 9, 21st Century Life and Careers, which include guidelines for what students need to know and be able to do in order to be successful in their careers and to achieve financial independence and health. Included are specific financial literacy standards broken out by grade level. However, the 2017 Financial Report Card from Champlain College’s Center for Financial Literacy provides the grades for all states, based on their efforts to produce financially literate high school graduates. Sadly, only five states received an “A” grade for their financial education efforts, namely; Alabama, Virginia, Tennessee, Utah and Missouri. These five states require high school students to take at least a half-year Personal Finance course as a graduation requirement. Only 17 states in total require high school students to take a course in personal finance.

After graduation every step our kids take from college through retirement will be directly influenced by their ability to manage their finances: student loans, credit cards, jobs, mortgages, savings, etc. Once they hit 18 years old, they are required, and able, to make decisions that could affect their entire life, often without the necessary financial knowledge and skills. The point being, understanding finance is a critical skill needed as an adult, yet it is not a mandatory high school course in most states.

The Central Bank of Nigeria made a commitment in 2011 which she referred to as the “MAYA DECLARATION”. The purpose of this declaration is to reduce the number of financially excluded Nigerians from 46.3% in 2010 to 20% by the 2020. To ensure the fulfilment of this obligation, a National Financial Inclusion Strategy was accordingly developed and launched in October 23, 2012. The strategy identified consumer protection and its constituent pillars of Market Conduct, Dispute Resolution & Consumer Education as critical to the attainment of its  objectives. Sometime in 2015, The Central Bank of Nigeria said it has commenced discussions with the National Education Resource Centre to introduce financial literacy programs into the education curriculum of secondary schools in Nigeria.

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At a recent stakeholders meeting conference that was held in Abuja on the 17th and 18th of January 2019, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) in collaboration with a variety of financial industry stake holders came out with a number of policy positions that will help to educate more Nigerians on Financial Literacy and its importance in the society today. It said once the discussions with NERC are finalized, Financial Literacy will be taught as a subject in all Nigerian secondary schools before the end of this year. The commencement of the financial literacy program will assist in improving the savings culture among secondary schools in Nigeria. An important aspect of this strategy is the implementation of financial literacy programs across various target groups of Nigerian population. On the 19th of July 2019, Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) said it is in partnership with churches and mosques in the promotion of financial literacy in the country. The bank’s Director, Consumer Protection Department, Mr Kofo SalamAlada made this known in an interview with News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Abuja. SalamAlada said the apex  Bank had organized outreach programs to educate members of some faiths based organizations with a view to educate them on the program and the need to key into it. CBN decided to use such religious organizations because of the spiritual and religious nature of most Nigerians. However, CBN is ready to work with any organization willing to set up an in house financial literacy program.

The five key points from the conference that was held in Abuja on the 17th and 18th of January at the stakeholders meeting include;

1. With Financial Technology (Fin-tech) becoming an increasingly important part of the business ecosystem , there must be deeper collaboration amongst the various regulatory authorities and private market participants such as deposit money banks (DMBs), Telco, retail stores and payment system banks (or agency banks). The regulators must ensure a seamless set of rules and responsibilities that cover issues related to the services rendered by each retail and wholesale market participant.

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2. Consumer education needs to be broadened and deepened. Multilevel platforms need to be adopted for the education of a wide range of consumers of financial services:

  • Market men and women
  • Students-primary, secondary and tertiary
  • Artisans
  • Crop Farmers
  • Animal Husbandry Farmers
  • Sellers of small unit items at the margins of urban economies

3. Consumer dispute processes must be fashioned in manners that guarantee quick, easy and inexpensive resolution of differences between service vendors and customers. This may also require speedy resolution of differences between regulatory agents, meaning there must be clarity over role and responsibilities in cases of dispute.

4. The target of national exclusion must be reduced from 46.3% in 2010 to 20% in 2020. The current exclusion rate in 2018 was about 36.8% according to a recent report by Enhancing Financial Innovation and Access (EFINA).

5. To reach the financially excluded, market infrastructure needs to be enhanced. Poor communication, especially in respect of Telco services in rural communities need to be urgently addressed. Many payment bank agents suffer frustration because of weak network connection and slow data processing time.

The lack of financial literacy can lead to owing large amounts of debt and making poor financial decisions. For example, the advantages or disadvantages of fixed and variable interest rates are concepts that are easier to understand and make informed decisions about if you possess financial literacy skills. Based on research data by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, 63% of Americans are financially illiterate. They lack the basic skills to reconcile their bank accounts, pay their bills on time, pay off debt and plan for the future.

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The current realities in the Financial Sector show that, it is only when the interest of consumers is given proper attention and protected that public confidence would be restored in promoting a strong and stable economy. Though there exits many educated and literate Nigerians, a high percentage of the population does not have the requisite skills to effectively manage their financial transactions and take advantage of the opportunities presented by the financial products and services to improve their well-being. An important aspect of this strategy is the implementation of financial literacy programs across various target groups of Nigerian population.

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Consumers of Financial Services have also been subjected to unethical practices from financial institutions which could be attributed to their low levels of financial literacy arising from their lack of knowledge of their rights and obligations in their relationships with the financial institutions. Financial illiteracy affects all ages and all socioeconomic levels. Financial illiteracy causes many people to become victims of predatory lending, subprime mortgages, fraud and high interest rates, potentially resulting in bad credit, bankruptcy or foreclosure.

However, some signs of lack of financial literacy include;

  • Not having a budget, a goal or a plan.
  • Excessive spending
  • Living on debt.
  • Not having emergency savings.
  • Borrowing for the wrong reasons.
  • Banking on an expected money
  • Not investing for the long term.
  • Ignoring insurance.
  • No retirement plan
  • Pressure from social media and friends.
  • The main steps to achieving financial literacy include;
  • Learning the skills to create a budget
  • The ability to track spending
  • Learning the techniques to pay off debt
  • Effectively planning for retirement.

These steps can also include counseling from a financial expert. Education about the topic involves understanding how money works, creating and achieving financial goals and managing internal and external financial challenges.

Financial literacy helps individuals become self-sufficient so that they can achieve financial stability. Those who understand the subject should be able to answer several questions about purchases, such as whether an item is required, whether it is affordable, and whether it an asset or a liability. This field demonstrates the behaviors and attitudes a person possesses about money that is applied to his daily life. Financial literacy shows how an individual makes financial decisions. This skill can help a person develop a financial road map to identify what he earns, what he spends and what he owes. This topic also affects small business owners, who greatly contribute to economic growth and stability.

How can financial literacy be encouraged in Nigerian?

  • There is a need for increased consumer financial literacy to improve the literacy penetration ratio which is still embarrassingly low. An 80% penetration by 2021 is targeted.
  • Nigerian youths need to be more actively engaged in financial literacy to create a more active financial industry participation rate for a demography group between 16 and 35 years of age. This represents over 60% of Nigeria’s population of an estimated 198million people
  • Women need to be especially targeted since research evidence show that they are more reliable borrowers of funds at the MSME levels
  • The different segments of the financial ecosystem; banks, insurance companies, pension fund managers and stockbrokers need to be more intimately related to provide consumers
    with a more robust understanding of products and services rendered by each market segment and how they are linked or complementary.
  • A process of monitoring and evaluation has been designed to ensure that processes or procedure agreed are actually followed

Children and youths are an important target group for the purpose of the financial literacy program. It should be noted that financial literacy is better learned at a young age instead of in adulthood. This is because a habit imparted in the youth at an impressionable age becomes a way of life. Where the youth grow without financial education, it would be difficult for them to have financial literacy as well as being capable of managing their own financial matters in a way that will impact their well-being when they become adults. When financial literacy is achieved, it will help to boost financial inclusion in any country-Nigeria to be precise.

It should be noted that being financially literate is different from acquiring normal education as some people are educated but financially illiterate.


Written by Chukwuma Aguwa

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The role of Artificial Intelligence in modern businesses and marketing

Among all the new innovations, the role of artificial intelligence (AI) has become more important.

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Embracing new technologies has become a significant facet in the development of businesses in modern times. In order to grow in the market, businesses have to be dynamic. The adoption of new tech innovations has enabled businesses to manage business operations very efficiently. The marketing on the internet has also become more emphasized as a special target market can be reached through new digital tools.

Among all the new innovations, the role of artificial intelligence (AI) has become more important. This technology helps businesses to save money as well as time whether it comes to marketing or operating various activities of the businesses. Here, we are going to show you how AI is very essential for modern businesses.

Artificial Intelligence: What Is It?

The basic concept of Artificial intelligence can be defined as the computer language or informatics tool that can be taught about businesses. Further, it can analyze and study the various works of the business and it can generate operational solutions with the motive to enhance its capacity so that the business can perform more effectively in the market. In a nutshell, this new tech is really quick and smart that provides various business benefits online.

What Businesses Are Benefitting from Artificial Intelligence?

Every business that is residing on the internet to serve the consumers is going to take advantage of AI tech. The concept of digital marketing mainly depending on artificial technologies and apart from that, it can bring many operational benefits as well. The Arts & entertainment sector, education sector, information & communication, healthcare, financial services, and the gaming sector are among the main business sectors that are taking the most benefits from artificial intelligence.

Emerging businesses like online sportsbooks and online casinos are using AI tech optimum to reach the target market and offer the best and suitable game proposals to the customers. Gaming sites like Wink Bingo are witnessing impressive successes by diverting customers to the online platform to play games like bingo. This all has become possible through the use of modern artificial intelligence. It helps all the businesses to focus on the target market and eventually convert them into customers. Once the marketing has been done successfully, it helps to suggest the most suitable options available at any business.

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The Various Roles of Artificial Intelligence in the Businesses

Artificial intelligence can help the business in several ways. Here are some of the benefits that artificial intelligence offers in order to grow the business:

It Saves Money and Time

As a business owner, one has to focus on multiple things and with the help of artificial intelligence, some of the many tasks can be done automatically. This not only reduces the manpower requirements but also helps to save a lot of time as well. Thus, the businesses can perform other more interesting tasks, increasing the overall productivity of your business.

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In the long term, it will help to enhance the productivity of the business without requiring more time and financial investment.

Reduces the Possibility of Errors

Artificial intelligence, as an automated tool, is much less prone to making mistakes than humans. When it comes to performing monotonous and routine tasks, people lose concentration, due to exhaustion or overload, as the hours go by and that is why we make mistakes that would affect the company. This is not the case with artificial intelligence operations systems that reach a response and service accurately. Since AI mages to process a lot of data and use it for decision making, the chances of occurring mistakes are minimal.

Improve Customer Experience

The role of AI is not only limited to marketing and operations because it also helps to enhance the customer experience. AI apps collect and analyze data of the customers and present very detailed information about every consumer group. All this allows businesses to personalize offers for the customers by adapting the product or service to their needs and increasing their degree of loyalty to your brand, or improving your help channels to generate faster responses to their requests or needs.

Virtual Assistants

This is another role of AI to enrich the customer experience. Virtual assistants are created with the help of AI tech so, they make communication between businesses and customers easy. It helps to solve customers’ queries and carry out certain actions. In order to make communication more reliable and error-proof, data should be processed in a large amount.

Smart Advertising

As we mentioned earlier, most businesses are using AI for marketing. Social media marketing and digital marketing through keywords and consumer searches are part of smart marketing by artificial intelligence. This helps the businesses to reach potential customers who would be interested in the goods or the services of the businesses.

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Sales Performance Analysis

Sales are essential in the business, especially if you are just starting out. There are various tools that artificial intelligence uses to evaluate emails, calls, or conferences to analyze what has worked and what has not in order to improve strategies when selling. For instance, these platforms compare the sales techniques used by the salespeople of the business, analyzing variables such as the chosen vocabulary or the time spent talking or listening to the customer. With this, the most effective techniques for attracting clients can be established to be carried out by the rest of the team.

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Traders’ Voice… Did you miss the “wow” moment at the Nigerian stock market?

At the close of the week, the market had improved, making the Nigeria Stock Exchange the best performing in the world.

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If you have ever been to Oja Eko (Lagos Island market), then you can simply infer the activities in the equities market last week by examining the experiences garnered in this commodity market.  There was a lot of buying; many got value for their money while some had to live with the regret of missing out on great opportunities or even lost money. On the local bourse last week, for all, it was a buying frenzy, but for many people, it was like the stock market held its first giveaway.

In nominal terms, the market gained N2.10 trillion W/W, representing a 12.97 percent uptick in both all share index and market capitalization. The WOW moment was on Thursday when the market had to throw in a circuit breaker for the first time, which is simply the exchange’s way of telling market participants to “please calm down.” The exchange paused trading for 30 minutes, after the market gains climbed past 5 percent, and resumed activities afterward. At the close of the week, the market had improved its year-to-date return to 30.53 percent, making the Nigeria Stock Exchange the best performing in the world. Great news, right?

The major push behind this aggressive buying interest seen in the equity space can be traced to the depressed stop rates at Wednesday’s treasury bills auction. The auction was concluded with stop rates at 0.035%, 0.15% and 0.30% for the 91-day, 182-day, and 364-day treasury bill, respectively (as against, 0.34%, 0.50%, and 0.98% recorded in the last auction).  Compared to its peers, Nigeria Treasury Bills is the only paper yielding negative real rate of return. It is safe to say we should not be expecting any FPI inflow in the fixed income space soon.

In a desperate hunt for higher investment returns, a plethora of retail investors rushed to the equities market to pick up stocks cutting across all sectors, irrespective of what the fundamentals dictate. Another factor that lent support to the bullish momentum was the circular from PENCOM instructing PFAs to restructure their business models, making the various fund categories reflective of the permissible risks of the underlying demographics. This action is expected to push some funds into the equity market over the four months period given by the regulators to restructure their asset allocation, and we saw some position taking by large fund managers at the start of last week.  and we saw some positioning by large fund managers at the start of last week.

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The bullish sentiment seen in the equities market is not unique to last week, as we have witnessed eight consecutive weeks of market appreciation, driven by the low rates in the fixed income market. Hence, this puts us at a crossroad, as we are faced with the possibility of further gains as fixed income rates are expected to remain low.

Overvalued or Undervalued?

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Some school of thought still believes Nigeria equities market is undervalued despite the rally and believes there is still room for a sustained rally based on a relative PE analysis. Compared to its peers PE average of 14.13x (JSE 25.87x, Nairobi 10.09x, BRVM 6.62x and Vietnam 15.63x) the Nigeria All Share Index is still relatively undervalued with a current PE of 12.43x. While the opposing school of thought believes stocks are overvalued based on technical indicators.

So, this brings us to the vital question, ‘Are you too late to the party?’

Please find attached our stock recommendation for the week.

Guess who is back on top?

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