Nairametrics interviewed Gaurang Shah, the Senior Vice President, Digital Payments & Labs, Middle East and Africa, Mastercard MEA, on a number of topical issues that affect digital and financial inclusion in Nigeria and Africa.
How would you assess the digital payment scene in Nigeria?
It has come a long way and a lot still needs to be done, as less than 5% of consumer payment transactions are electronic. This isn’t peculiar to Nigeria, as a recent study conducted by Mastercard found that cash still epitomizes 85% to 90% of all consumer transactions internationally and it is associated with significant direct and indirect costs. Direct costs include lost tax revenues, cash production, handling, and transportation.
But we are seeing a rapid growth as emerging markets, in particular, have increasingly identified the need to digitize their payment economies and reduce cash dependency as a way to accomplish financial inclusion.
Nigeria’s payment space has great potential for increased digitization, expansion of acceptance, and the creation of more innovative solutions to grow inclusion. Through the power of partnership with key players in this ecosystem, and innovative solutions underpinned by Mastercard’s secure and trusted technology, we believe the future is bright for Nigeria’s payment space.
Last December, the CBN reviewed some bank fees and charges and also introduced BVN 2.0, which were meant to drive financial inclusion. Comparing Nigeria with other emerging markets, what more can the apex bank do to further break barriers?
Payment digitization can be a solution to reinvigorate the economy. According to Moody’s Analytics, each 1% increase in the use of digital payments produced an average annual increase of US$104 billion in the consumption of goods and services. This represents a 0.04% increase in GDP in developed markets and a 0.02% increase in developing ones. Every contribution will count to ease the declining GDP growth rate.
Enabling financial inclusion is something we have quite some experience in doing. Five years ago, we made a commitment to bring 500M financially excluded individuals into the digital economy. Now that we have achieved that goal, we’re focused on extending our commitment to bringing in a total of 1 billion individuals by 2025 and helping 50 million micro and small merchants (MSMs) connect to the digital economy by enabling them to accept electronic payments.
By making it easier to accept electronic payments, along with greater access to other opportunities including credit, Mastercard is providing businesses with the tools they need to grow and thrive.
From our experience, everyone has a role to play, from the smallest businesses to the biggest corporations, governments to NGOs, traditional banks to fintechs, from the older generations to the youth. When you create digital solutions that are easy for people to use and fit into their lifestyle, they will adopt them easily. We live in the digital age where most people will have a mobile device by the end of the next decade, placing digital solutions in their hands with basic solutions will drive uptake.
To do this, we must understand user needs and behavior through research, in-market assessment, and cash journey mapping. Financial education is also very key, along with employing authentication technologies that respect user privacy. We must co-create and enable innovation through close engagement with regulators, and run pilots to ensure commercial viability while remaining focused on achieving scale.
CBN’s 2020 target is to ensure 80% of Nigerian adults access financial services by the end of the year. Do you think this is achievable?
Yes, but reaching that target will require a broad range of efforts, and specifically in Nigeria, it will include ongoing work on government disbursement solutions, wage digitization of private-sector workers, partnerships with mobile network operators, solutions for gig workers, scaling efforts with fintechs, digital platforms and digital wallets/apps, and solutions addressing needs of the financially vulnerable.
How has Mastercard been able to stay competitive as Africans adopt decentralized finance and peer to peer lending?
For more than 50 years, Mastercard has been transforming how people pay and get paid. Our solutions power one of the world’s fastest payment processing networks to make transactions faster, easier, more accessible, and more secure.
We invest in understanding the real needs and be close to the market as we innovate new solutions. That’s why 5 years back, we set-up our Financial Inclusion R&D center in Africa and invested in understanding the real problems in the most critical economic verticals in the African market – Agriculture, Education, SME, Healthcare, etc. and came up with solutions that we not only piloted but are now commercializing in the region.
Besides our technology, we believe that fostering a culture of innovation is critical to success. So, we hire talented people with curious minds and big ideas and then help them cultivate innovation. We’re also committed to working with developers and entrepreneurs, enabling advances in the payments ecosystem of the future.
We are passionate about innovating in Africa for Africa and we have invested in several African companies, including Jumia (a leading e-commerce platform in Africa) and Oltio (a mobile payments technology company in Africa).
What do you think the future holds for African banks in the digital payment ecosystem?
That’s a great question. Technological advancement and innovation are steering the digital financial services industry. Fintech players are becoming globally mainstream and an increasing influx of fintech players are competing with large traditional players. What was once a focus on peer to peer payments has now expanded to everything from credit to insurance to wealth management, offered through a centralized cloud-based platform.
Mastercard’s approach towards encouraging collaboration between fintechs and financial institutions is by offering solutions that connect the two. Mastercard’s technology enables our digital partners to take control of their consumers’ digital commerce needs, interactions, and experiences. By focusing on the provision of multi-use, omnichannel digital payment solutions, Mastercard is enabling its partners to improve their operational efficiency, diversify, future-proof their revenue, and transition seamlessly into digital commerce.
We continue to invest in those technologies, platforms, infrastructures, and the right fintech partnerships that enable us to provide single platform capability across multiple use cases to our partners, as we have done with the traditional banking industry for over 50 years.
With the acceleration of digital, driven by needs arising from the current pandemic, every institution in the financial payment space needs a Digital First platform and proposition and that’s what we are enabling for all our partners. As part of this proposition, we not only enable payment capabilities leveraging multiple Mastercard platforms, we are also facilitating the inclusion of capabilities offered by multiple fintechs.
What are the challenges of pay on demand adoption in Nigeria and Africa?
Some of the common challenges that stakeholders may need to address are barriers to internet access. Another is the slower speed of internet data in Africa compared to other continents. Factors such as the high cost of 4G-enabled devices and delays in assigning 4G spectrum to established service providers have been responsible for the low adoption of 4G. Along with speed, affordability, and availability of internet access which also affects use is key. Across Africa, the average cost for 1GB data is 7.12% of the average monthly salary.
On the supply side, Pay on Demand providers need to rely on many factors to scale and offer their products to more underserved populations. There are some challenges to this, irregular market conditions and unavailability of Pay on Demand solutions close to the customer results in slow consumer adoption. The overall infrastructure deficit has resulted in poor connectivity, which also affects Pay on Demand adoption. Compliance-related challenges, unavailability of effective payment solutions, and unattractive finance rates can all contribute to this.
In addition, with technology changing at a fast pace, Pay on Demand providers must continually adopt newer solutions. Ultimately, digital inclusion drives financial inclusion. The challenge is not that consumers or small businesses do not want to spend. The issue is related to the availability of funds to prepay for services for long periods at a time or invest in the full cost of a product or service upfront.
The availability of credit is almost non-existent in the absence of credit history. Hence the need for low-cost Pay on Demand solutions with small ticket values, just as 98% of mobile talk time and data worldwide are pre-paid in small-ticket purchases.
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To enable this, four major stakeholders need to work together – the device manufacturers will provide the capability to lock and unlock a device in real-time based on the status of payments – Payment service providers will enable consumers to use existing payment credentials to easily pay on demand in small values, while also being ready to lock or unlock a device in realtime – the device distributors, such as multinational organizations with a large market footprint need to make devices available easily to consumers – and Financers need to lend competitively and digitally.
At Mastercard, we have created solutions to address these concerns. We’re able to connect with device manufacturers to integrate real-time lock/unlock instructions on devices. We have also developed an inclusive payment solution that works on both smartphones and feature phones and allows for very small to large payments, auto-debit instructions, and cards that address consumer data connectivity issues and missed payments.
Also, we just launched one of such partnerships with Samsung, Airtel Africa, and Asante Financial Services Group. Through Samsung’s affordable pay-on-demand mobile devices and Asante’s insight as a leading provider of digital financial services, the innovative platform provides effective handset loans for consumers. Pay-on-Demand users will also be able to access digital payments through Mastercard’s virtual card and Mastercard QR functionality on their Airtel mobile money app, enabling them to make digital transactions across the face to face and online merchants.
Several Pay-TV subscribers still have difficulties in renewing their subscriptions using their mobile phones. Does Mastercard have a product that speaks to this?
Mastercard is driving growth in digital financial services through digital partnerships with telcos, fintechs, banks, and e-tailers.
We have developed several payment solutions that our partner financial service providers can adopt to address this. Mastercard’s secure technology enables our digital partners to confidently address their consumers’ digital commerce needs, interactions, and experiences, which is how we enable mobile network operators to also become non-traditional financial service providers.
By focusing on the provision of multi-use, omnichannel digital payment solutions, Mastercard enables partners to improve operational efficiency, diversify revenues, and transition into digital commerce.
Several SMEs were affected by the COVID-19 driven economic lull, as most of them still battle with payment. How well can they benefit from the ‘SME in a Box solution’?
The ‘SME-in-a-Box’ solution is a low-cost payment solution that enables small business owners to move their businesses online and accept a range of digital payments from their customers.
The unique offering enables business owners to access a wide range of financial services quickly and easily through a single intuitive app compatible with all Android mobile devices. The app’s functionality supports contactless payments, QR code payments, and has the ability to generate e-payment links for remote payments. Acquirers can also access a white-label app to rapidly take the solution to the market.
‘SME in a Box’ offers a low-cost acceptance service that can also run on smartphones and is powered by Mastercard Payment Gateway Services (MPGS). It also delivers speed and simplicity with remote digital onboarding services from Mastercard’s StartPath partners.
The ‘SME-in-a-Box’ solution is powered by Mastercard’s payment technology and that of its fintech partners, including payments and agency banking solutions company SmartPesa – a Mastercard StartPath partner. StartPath is our global startup engagement program and a springboard to help the best & brightest later stage startups maximize their opportunity for success. The solution will aid small and micro merchants across the region in expanding their customer base via digital platforms and enable sustainable revenue growth.
In addition, through its Simplify Commerce offering, Mastercard will enable SMEs with a plug-&-play e-commerce store builder with instant online checkout. These capabilities have been packaged as a bundled solution combined with special incentives to drive adoption and support business owners to tackle challenges during COVID-19.
Nigeria may never harness full development potentials in the Oil & Gas industry – Dr. Babajide Agunbiade
Dr. Babajide Agunbiade, Director of US-based National Oilwell Varco shares his views on Nigeria’s dependency on oil, PIB, among other industry issues.
The Nigerian Oil and Gas sector has been the lifeline of the economy over the years and this has been a source of concern to both local and foreign stakeholders.
In this interview with Dr. Jide Agunbiade, Director, National Oilwell Varco, Houston, Texas, the largest Oil and gas equipment manufacturing company in the world, he shared his views on the nation’s dependency on the sector, the Petroleum Industry Bill among other industry issues. Excerpts:
How would you assess the Nigerian petroleum industry?
An assessment of the Nigerian petroleum industry reveals that the NNPC is one of the inefficient government institutions in Nigeria, with heavy political interference, ambiguities, corruption and nepotism. Recent investigations and probes into government corruption in Nigeria reveals that a substantial part of government corruption, originates from the activities that relate to the management of the oil and gas proceeds, supposed to be channeled towards the growth and development of the nation.
Despite the monetary resources remitted to its coffers, NNPC has since been facing challenges in funding its upstream operations and obligations. NNPC has also failed to effectively manage the downstream sector, which is characterized by moribund refineries, scarcities, inconsistent and uncompetitive fuel prices. Despite the abundance of petroleum commodities in Nigeria, the country’s largest import is from the petroleum products, which increases the supply and reduces the value of the Naira in the foreign currency market.
What about its international goodwill?
Consequently, NNPC has lost its international goodwill, because of its inconsistency and political interferences, and this has caused doubt and high business risk in the Nigerian oil industry. Though an oil rich country, Nigeria is the world headquarters of poverty, which explains further the poor management of the oil resources in the country.
Furthermore, in recent times the Nigerian petroleum industry has also been negatively impacted by a number of external factors such as a surplus of global crude supply leading to global oil price decline, competition from renewable energy, the devastating impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the global oil economy, as well as the 2020 fracturing of the OPEC+ alliance (with Russia) leading to a sharp decline in oil prices in 2020. Many of these challenges though near to medium term have the potential to continue for the longer term.
In September 2020, President Muhammadu Buhari proposed the scrapping of the NNPC and the creation of NNPC Limited, in the new Petroleum Industry Bill 2020 submitted to the National Assembly.
The hope is that with the proposed scrapping and commercialization of the NNPC, this will mark a turning point for the petroleum industry in Nigeria and that the challenges that the sector has faced for many years will be addressed and remedied.
Former President Obasanjo decided to privatize the nation’s refineries but was reversed by former President Yar’adua. Today, the nation has spent hundreds of millions on them. If you are the President, how will you address the issue?
More than 55 years after Nigeria started producing and exporting crude oil and gas, the government-owned refineries — located in Port Harcourt, Kaduna and Warri, are sitting idle. Prior to their shutdown, the refineries were performing minimally due to years of neglect, mismanagement and pillage, leaving the country almost wholly dependent on imported petroleum products. Claims from successive governments, of turnaround maintenance and rehabilitation of these refineries have yielded no positive results.
The Government has deviated from her traditional role of providing social services, law and order etc., to conducting businesses. She has channeled her funds and energy into business ventures such as running the refineries which have led to spending hundreds of millions with no significant change. Since the de-privatization of the sector by Yar’adua, the nation has suffered a decline in oil-revenue despite the amounts been spent on running these refineries.
If you were the President of Nigeria, what will you do?
Relinquish government control of the operation and management of the nation’s refineries by divesting a majority of its 100 percent equity to competent, resourceful and experienced independent private refining firms with the requisite capital and technical expertise needed for the development and maintenance of the refineries.
I will also establish a governmental agency that would have a board made up of external and independent stakeholders, that would govern and regulate the activities of these independent private refining firms.
Privatizing the refineries, the government and the nation as a whole stand to gain several advantages which include but not limited to improvement in the efficient allocation of resources, for mobilizing investment and for stimulating private sector development; reduce corruption and parasite mentality of Nigerians towards government-owned sectors and infuse capital and modernize technology in our refineries, many of which have not seen any improvement for years among others.
What is your take on the PIB, have you observed any gap?
A major gap in the PIB 2020 is that the government’s continued control of the new NNPC raises concerns of a likely continuation of old practices such as corruption and weak accountability. Also, the PIB 2020 does not specifically require the government to sell shares in NNPC Limited and this may stifle the much-needed fundraising required for the growth of the sector. Furthermore, unlike previous reform proposals, the PIB 2020 does not set a specific deadline for when the privatization/commercialization will be completed.
Also, the passage of the PIB is being pursued without matching the goals and vision of the PIB and the country’s energy policies. Without linking the PIB to a clear energy policy direction that responds to the troubling issues of epileptic power supply, the security of local consumption of gas, reform of the downstream sector and refineries, enhancement of local content, linkages between the Oil and Gas (O&G) sector and local economy in order to unleash the industrialization potentials in Nigeria, Nigeria may never be able to harness the full development potentials in the O&G industry. And for so long, it is unlikely to free the sector from the instability that threatens the revenue peace in the Niger Delta.
What is your take on the alleged unbundle of the NNPC under the draft of the new PIB?
I believe the unbundling of the NNPC would make for a clear separation of powers, increased statutory and sectoral funding, operational autonomy, transparency in appointments and dismissals, and insulation from political influence, within the newly established governmental entities.
If unbundled, what structure do you suggest should be implemented to further block holes in the sector?
I believe the structures/new entities proposed by the PIB 2020 (as discussed above), should be adequate to block holes in the Nigerian oil and gas sector.
Globally, one key structure that helps block holes in the oil & gas sector is sustainable finance. International experience shows that NOCs need flexible, reliable options for accessing capital while maintaining checks and balances that prevent them from becoming states within the state. Of particular importance is developing a workable revenue retention model that allows the kind of medium and long-term planning needed for effective commercial operations. This can be achieved by publicly listing the NOC shares. If managed well, public listings can enforce market discipline. They have encouraged innovation and efficiency in Petrobras (Brazil), Statoil (Norway) and KMG (Kazakhstan).
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As a case study, Brazil partially privatized Petrobras in 1997 with the ratification of Law 9.478. At the same time, the state established a regulatory body, the National Petroleum Agency, to guide Petrobras through its transition to a mixed public-private entity, and in particular, to assist in the sales of its shares abroad (notably on the New York Stock Exchange). Proceeds from the sales then went back into the sector, principally in offshore drilling and exploration.
This exercise served Petrobras’s stated goal of increasing revenues in three ways. First and most obvious, the share sales raised cash upfront. Second, compliance with stringent U.S. stock exchange reporting requirements incentivized better, more efficient management, which in turn reassured investors when Petrobras went out to raise capital. Third, the share sale helped reduce fuel subsidy costs, which were ballooning Brazil’s public debt and inflation. By creating new and binding obligations to maximize Petrobras’s profits for shareholders, Brazil gave itself a fresh legal argument against entrenched interests around subsidies. Phaseouts were then done gradually to reduce political fallout, with price controls on products with smaller market shares (jet fuel, lubricants and kerosene) reduced ahead of the big gasoline and diesel subsidies. Within a period of years, Petrobras’s production levels, proven reserves and revenues increased substantially, and the company has further enhanced its skills and reputation as a world leader in deepwater exploration and production.
The Bill provides for a 10% Host Community Fund for inhabitants of communities hosting oil and gas resources but failed to disclose how the fund will be sought. Do you think this will create issues in the future?
The PIB 2020 states that the funds will be sought from contributions received from E&P companies operating within the community. The issue I foresee arising is how the payment of the 2.5% of the actual operating expenditure of these E&P companies will be enforced, in terms of if the E&P companies can be made to accurately disclose their actual operating expenditure for the preceding year. However, this may be resolved by ensuring they submit their audited accounts for the preceding year for confirmation.
That being said, the creation of PHCF is arguably not the solution to the Niger Delta crisis and it is indeed incredulous that so much agitation has arisen in this regard. Prior to the proposal and subsequent inclusion of the PHCF in the PIB, various government intervention has been put in place in addition to the allocation of derivation, such as the Niger Delta Development Board, the Oil Mineral Producing Areas Development Commission (“OMPADEC”), the Niger Delta Development Commission (“NDDC”), and the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs (“MNDA”). Rather than identify and address the root cause of why the various government interventions in the past have not yielded the desired result, there is a shift towards either placing an additional layer of responsibility on oil companies and/or creating another layer of institution which would likely be bogged down with the same problems plaguing the existing institutions.
Restructuring of an institution like NDDC such that a large portion of the funds accruing to them can be channeled towards creating a PHCF or a Fund with similar characteristics should be considered.
It has been suggested that a good way to prevent mismanagement of such a Fund would be to involve international agencies such as the United Nations (“UN”) in its management.
Such a partnership initiative would reduce the layer of corruption by ensuring that disbursements from the Fund are utilized for the specific community or regional development project it is earmarked for. The Federal Government also has a major role in ensuring that it meets its funding obligations as and when due.
Bill also allows the Agency to accept gifts of money or other property upon such terms and conditions as may be specified by the person or organization. Will this not affect the integrity or accountability of the agency?
This is a provision of the PIB 2018 (this provision may also be replicated in PIB 2020). The provision is replicated below –
(27) The Commission may accept grants of money or other property upon such terms and conditions as may be specified by the person or organization making the gift provided, such gifts are not-
- inconsistent with the objectives and functions of the Commission under this Act;
- accepted from persons or organizations regulated by the Commission. (2) Nothing in subsection (1) of this section or in this Act shall be construed to allow any member of the Board or staff of the Commission to accept grants for their personal use.
From the above exceptions in a) and b) as well as (2), I believe these clauses adequately limit the ambit of the Commission to accept gifts and also secure the integrity or accountability of the Commission.
What is your take on a modular refinery?
Modular Refineries are ideally suited for remote locations and are viable for investments by Public-Private Partnership (PPP) as a source of rapid production of primary fuel products and raw materials for Petrochemical Downstream Industries.
Establishing a crude oil refinery requires approval from the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) in Nigeria. Investors may need to apply for oil block allocation or partner with the government at different levels to guarantee investment and feedstock for the production plant.
No doubt, Nigeria’s refining sector holds great prospects for the future. There have been some government initiatives to increase local refining capacity to offset the continued growth of importing finished products for growing consumer demand. The goal is to provide lower-cost, steady supply of fuels and products on a local level.
This is very commendable as it will go a long way in increasing local security of supply for transportation fuels, local electricity as well as sustained use of LPG cylinders for cooking and heating fuel obtained in-country, benefiting from lower regional pricing, transportation, and other incentives such as local jobs creation.
Exclusive: Transport industry in Nigeria is facing new and unpredictable challenges – UBER GM
Ridwan Olalere, General Manager of Uber Nigeria chats with Nairametrics on the challenges in the transport industry, amongst several other issues.
With an ambition to be everywhere, especially in cities that have a need for safe, reliable, and efficient transportation; the operations of Uber Nigeria have been hit by two key events in 2020.
The unexpected outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, which led to months of movement restrictions and necessitated social distancing rules, cost transportation companies like Uber millions of naira in revenue.
Also, the recent #EndSARS protests which rocked Lagos, Abuja and other parts of the country restricted the full operations of Uber, as some routes like the Lekki Toll Plaza were blocked by protesters.
Recall, that the #EndSARS protests were hijacked by hoodlums who seized the opportunity to loot, vandalize, and burn public and privately owned properties, culminating in an imposed curfew in Lagos and other states. The Lagos curfew – now relaxed (8pm to 6am), continues to affect the optimal running of ride-hailing services like Uber.
Nairametrics interviewed Ridwan Olalere, General Manager of Uber Nigeria, and he walked us through some topical points, as Uber braces up for the ‘new normal’ including the plans for Uber Boat and Uber Eats in Nigeria.
How would you assess the Nigerian ride-hailing segment in the face of the ‘new normal’?
We know that the transport industry in Nigeria is facing new and unpredictable challenges. As the coronavirus continues to spread, cities begin to reopen, and the public transport sector begins to move again, it is important to proceed with caution and keep safety in mind.
The travel restrictions put in place by the government were done in order to flatten the curve. In doing so, it is the responsibility of the public transport sector to further understand the detailed guidelines, in order to ensure that measures are in place to put the health and safety of the community first.
Thus, it is imperative that we are all prepared to ensure customers are unaffected. At Uber, we are doing our best to support drivers and riders during these unprecedented times; and to limit the spread of the coronavirus, we adapted our safety measures.
In Nigeria, especially in Lagos, the government has introduced some levies on the ride-hailing operators. What is your take on this and does it mean your charges will further go up?
We are positively engaging with the Lagos State Government and relevant stakeholders on the proposed regulations. We are working to better understand how the regulations will impact the future of our business and network of driver-partners.
We will give an update in due course. However, we look forward to working in close collaboration with the government to develop workable and accessible regulations that will benefit all.
There is an allegation of ‘double charge’ against your brand by riders – A situation where the driver’s phone reads higher charge compared to that of the rider. What is your take on such development and your advice for riders?
This type of behaviour would be in clear violation of our Community Guidelines. Fraudulent activity undermines the trust on which Uber is built. That’s why we are constantly on the lookout for fraud by riders and drivers who are gaming our systems.
Uber has automated rules in place that warn and permanently deactivate any account or accounts associated with fraudulent activity. We have also put in place a transparent fare structure that is constantly monitored and we always examine consumer price sensitivities to ensure fares are correctly priced so that riders continue to take trips and drivers have access to more fare-paying passengers.
What is the update on your Uber Boat?
Uber Boat is the first high profile private sector investment navigating Lagos waterways. The pilot of the service lasted for two weeks after it was launched in October 2019, conveying travellers within specific routes.
We piloted this service because we are aware of the man-hours and productivity that are lost every day due to road traffic in Lagos state, and we are looking at ways to provide commuters with an easy and affordable way to get in and out of the city’s business districts.
What was your plan for the pilot service?
The pilot service focused on getting locals from point A to point B on popular water-based transportation routes, and created a positive conversation around alternative methods of getting around the city more effectively.
Given this was only a pilot phase, Uber is assessing the feasibility of this product in order to assess whether or not to extend. Uber believes the app can help build the transport systems of the future, and we hope that this product will bring that vision to light.
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When are you likely to bring Uber Eats to Nigeria?
While we are always looking at new features and products, this is not something we are looking at launching in Nigeria at this time.
If you won’t launch that in Nigeria now, what are the other areas Uber plans to invest in?
Uber’s ambition is to be everywhere – any progressive, forward-thinking city that has a need for safe, reliable, and efficient transportation, we want to be there. We are part of a broader mobility movement, establishing smart cities of the future. We are currently working hard to grow our business in Nigeria.
Each city offers its own unique opportunities, we have found Nigeria to be defined by agility, creativity, and adaptability. Uber is all about providing access to safe, reliable, and affordable rides at any time, whilst providing flexible economic opportunities for drivers who want to be their own boss.
How Citizenship by Investment is offering wealthy Nigerians new global opportunities
Chief Executive Officer of La Vida Golden Visas chats with Nairametrics about Grenada CBI Programme, the opportunities in the country and more.
As more Africans look to expand their horizons in pursuit of global opportunities, Nairametrics caught up with Paul Williams, Chief Executive Officer of La Vida Golden Visas, one of the world’s leading Citizenship by Investment facilitators, to understand the surge in demand for dual citizenship in Nigeria and across the continent. Discussion points include the Grenada CBI Programme, the Kimpton Kawana Bay resort and the opportunities that lie in wait for High Net Worth Individuals and investors in the country.
We have seen an increasing trend of Dual Citizenship across the globe and most especially from Africa. Why now?
Whenever geopolitical issues arise in any country, we tend to see an increase in demand for second citizenship or residency. With so much uncertainty currently in the world, people are often looking for a ”Plan B”. More than ever before, there is an increased awareness of such programmes which is also driving the demand. Ten years ago, there were just a handful of citizenship by investment programmes available, but the industry has grown substantially in the last decade and there are now more than 80 investor visa options available across the globe. Africa’s affluent middle class are also becoming wealthier, giving them the opportunity and motivation to take part in citizenship by investment programmes.
What are the current challenges with the Nigerian passport?
As a standalone passport, Nigerians have visa-free travel to just 54 countries and territories worldwide. Many are other African countries such as Ghana and Ethiopia. When you break this down, Nigerian passport holders, shockingly, have access to just 2.1% of the world’s GDP or 3.1% of the world’s travel popularity. For HNWIs and business people from Nigeria this is very limiting and could be holding them back from various opportunities, restricting them with business, education and leisure.
How can Nigerians step up their Global travel?
Investing in a quality government-approved citizenship by investment programme will enhance your visa-free travel access dramatically, and in turn, open up other opportunities. For example, if you pair a Grenadian passport with a Nigerian passport, one will gain access to 163 destinations worldwide, which includes the UK, EU Schengen zone, China and Russia. Now you have visa-free access to 58.7% of the world’s GDP, a huge improvement on the 2.1% that a standalone Nigerian passport offers.
How do you apply for Grenadian Citizenship by investment (CBI) and what are the benefits?
Grenada’s Citizenship by Investment (CBI) is one of the world’s top ranked CBI programmes and allows individuals and their families to obtain citizenship in Grenada. It offers a user-friendly second citizenship and a first-class investment opportunity whereby applicants can buy Government-approved real estate from USD220,000 like a unit in the Kimpton Kawana Bay resort, which is currently the most popular project. An application for Citizenship by Investment in Grenada is fast, has low family fees, and no interview, education, language test or management experience is required. There are no residency requirements and dual citizenship is permitted. Once your passports are issued, you have visa-free travel to over 140 countries. Grenada does not tax worldwide income, wealth, gift, inheritance or capital gains.
How long does it take from investment to citizenship?
The government processing time is between 60-90 days from the date the application is submitted. La Vida’s in-house processing team will assist applicants with the entire process from start to finish, providing investors with a seamless and stress-free service.
What is the Grenadian Citizenship by Investment project and how does it work?
Kimpton Kawana Bay is a new beachfront 5-star luxury resort in Grenada. Title deeded studios and suites are for sale for the minimum investment of USD220,000 through Grenada’s acclaimed Citizenship by Investment (CBI) programme, which allows purchasers to apply for Grenadian citizenship for themselves and their family in one application. The resort is ideally positioned on Grand Anse Beach, voted by CNN and Condé Nast Traveller as one of the world’s best beaches. The resort will be operated by an internationally recognised hotel brand – Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants, part of IHG (InterContinental Hotels Group), one of the largest hotel groups in the world.
What are the benefits for investors at Kimpton Kawana Bay?
Kimpton Kawana Bay offers hassle-free ownership with no annual out of pocket fees. There is a projected rental income of 3-5% through the transparent revenue-sharing model and personal accommodation usage of up to 2 weeks each year. After 5 years you can disinvest and recoup your initial investment. The hotel will feature an infinity edge pool overlooking Grand Anse Beach, state-of-the-art gym and spa facilities, exquisite fine dining restaurant, roof-top bar, beach bar, lounge with terrace, and water sports facilities.
What does it cost and who is this best suited for?
Asides from the $220,000 investment in the Kimpton Kawana Bay project, investors will need to budget for the government’s application, processing and due diligence fees. For a single applicant, the total cost, inclusive of fees will be $306,000, whereas a family of four would be around $320,000, depending on the ages of the children. A typical Nigerian investor taking part in the programme could be a businessperson looking to extend their global reach, or an affluent middle-class family who may want to broaden their global opportunities, both for business and education reasons. It’s rare that applicants look to relocate to Grenada, and the beauty of the programme is that there is no requirement to do so.
Why should more wealthy Nigerians adopt a second Passport?
Visa-free travel, increased global business and education opportunities, creating a legacy for one’s family and having a ”Plan B” are just some of the many reasons investors take up second citizenship. Grenadian Citizenship offers several added attractions that many of its competitor countries do not. Grenada is one of the only CBI countries which has visa-free access to China and Russia. Grenada is also the only Caribbean CBI country to hold an E-2 Visa treaty with the USA. This means, once Grenadian citizenship has been granted, there is the opportunity to then apply for residency in the USA through business investment, should one wish to do so.
What is the E2 visa and why does it matter?
The E-2 Visa is an optional and secondary application which is available as an extra service to those who may want to gain residency in the USA. Should investors decide to take this step, they need to budget for an additional investment into a US business. There is no fixed amount set by the government, but it is recommended that applicants invest a minimum of $120,000 upwards and become at least a 50% shareholder in the company. This route is fast becoming more popular than the direct EB5 programme to the US which has lengthy delays and requires a much larger investment of $900,000+. It’s important to note that the E-2 visa category is not affected by the recent immigration bans announced by president Trump.
How long does the E2 Visa take to process?
The timeframe for this is usually two months from the time the E2 application and business investment are made. Applicants will be issued with a five year US residency visa with unlimited renewals.
Living in Grenada – what is that like?
Grenada is an enchanting and unspoiled tropical island located in the Caribbean. Grenada boasts the quintessential laidback Caribbean lifestyle with lush landscapes, pristine beaches, and warm and friendly people, many of which have historical family ties back to West Africa. The official language spoken in Grenada is English and the population of Grenada is approximately 112,000 people. The magnificent environment with its safe surroundings and exquisite new resorts makes Grenada an alluring destination for tourists and investors. The country is one of the most open and business friendly economies in the region and continues to grow steadily. The island has an established health care system and is home to St George’s University, one of the world’s largest American accredited medical schools, drawing students and faculty from 140 countries. It is easily accessible with a number of daily direct flights into Grenada’s International Airport from major US cities, London and a number of regional flights from the surrounding islands. The airport also offers fixed-based operator services for private jets. Grenada is close to the equator, which ensures a year-round tropical climate. Its cooling trade winds make temperatures comfortable. Most notably it is located outside of the hurricane belt.
From your own perspective why is this a much-needed opportunity for Nigerians asides chasing the American or English dream?
It’s different in that this is about access, visa free travel and a Plan B. With the direct US and UK immigration options, applicants are usually required to reside full time in the country. Many Nigerians do not wish to leave their country and relocate, they just want more flexibility. Grenada’s CBI programme has no minimum stay requirement. As it is part of the commonwealth, Grenadian passport holders are entitled to spend up to six months per year in the UK too.
How can interested parties get started with the process through La Vida Golden Visas?
La Vida’s team of expert advisors offer a free consultation to any applicants considering proceeding with a Citizenship by Investment programme. We will provide a full quotation to each client and run through the specifics of the process. To speak with one of our experienced consultants, please contact us through our website or call us on: +44 207 060 1475.