Every day, fintech startups in Nigeria are seeking more innovative ways to make life easier and comfortable for Nigerians. From providing seamless payment services to encouraging people to adopt a savings lifestyle, these fintech companies are gradually dominating the Nigerian markets.
We had a chat with the new CEO of Nairabox, Adetokunbo Adetona where he talked about his dream of ensuring that Nairabox dominates the market by becoming a companion product for everyone.
Who is Tokunbo Adetona and what role were you playing before your appointment as the CEO?
Both my parents were chartered accountants. My dad was the head of Deloitte till he retired at 50 years. I always wanted to imitate him so I ended up being a chartered accountant. But I always kind of had a flair for technology so that was where my heart was. I also worked in Deloitte, then I worked in the banking sector for a few years, and then moved on to a real estate firm. I delved into entrepreneurship for some time where I provided printing solutions for banks. This new business dried up quickly so I started looking for something new. I looked into fintech and at the time, there was really no law or regulation surrounding it.
I quit my job and flew to the UK in search of a business partner. The kind of partner that would share the vision with me and I couldn’t find one. I met some white guys, they just wanted to bill me monthly. I finally met some Nigerian guys. They had the basics so it was a good shot. They basically had to run the company in the UK while I did the same from Nigeria.
I have known Jay, my former Co-CEO for 5 years and we were partners before he stepped down to become the CEO of Tremendoc. The first time we met, we realized we had the same vision for what we want Nairabox to be. The only competition we had at the time was Mobile Money. We were operating a close circuit payment system where when you add money on the platform, you can’t take it out. We onboarded merchants, had event ticketing, food delivery, and bill payments. Jay introduced me to Damilola Jegede the first CEO, the idea for Nairabox came from Dami. The original version became what Stanbic bank used for their mobile money. He rebuilt it to what came to be Nairabox.
I started as CFO, and our first office was at the back of a mall. A tiny office. We have been able to build a sense of connection and loyalty to the vision that is why we still have most of the workers that started with us. We signed a couple of artists to push the brand. Then we started partnering with banks. Now we currently have 13 banks partnering with us. Dami later left and went abroad. And is working in Silicon Valley.
At what point were you convinced that Nairabox will become a success?
Success is relative. Nairabox has always been a household name. we’ve gotten a lot of hits during Christmas because people are hoping to do Detty December, even when new movies come out people look to Nairabox to secure their seats. We are still a far cry from what I want us to do. I have always had a dream for Nairabox to denominate the market. I want it to be a part of people, like a companion product just like IG. That is when I will acknowledge the success in its entirety.
During the pandemic how did you manage your company?
It’s not the first time we have had challenges. We have had delayed partnerships, late payments that might throw us off balance. We have made ourselves more nimble so that in hard times we are able to stay afloat and not lack even when we are not doing any work. We started food delivery when cinemas and events closed. We keep doing things to adapt to change.
What will you say has been your greatest challenge since appointed the CEO of Nairabox?
Working remotely has been a challenge in terms of connecting with people and brainstorming in person but that notwithstanding virtual has been good in terms of getting things done
The second challenge has been trying to keep a smile on everyone’s face. 2020 had an emotional toll on people. Everything was slowing down; Christmas was always interesting with people calling all the time to book events.
As the new CEO, how do you plan to drive growth?
I started building towards the ideas I have had. We have started working on a few things like the new app that will come up this month. I started implementing a clear system of accountability, and we are accountable to one another.
How do you raise capital for your business?
Our capital has been seed funding from private investors. We haven’t had any crazy amount yet. We have done a lot of bootstrapping through strategic partnerships.
How do you make money on the platform?
We basically earn from our partners. We help our partners access a wide audience. We have partnered with 11 banks. We earn a percentage of what the vendor provides/charges. We have rates for cinema tickets, events, food delivery, etc.
How do you project Nairabox will be in the next five years in terms of revenue?
Nairabox is the only product of Jorge technologies for 5 years. Jorge is planning to expand its services. We have a new model of earnings that will drive growth, some brands are already interested in it. Jorge is planning to build new products; We want to create a line of products and push them to different audiences. We will have something like uber eats, and there will be something for the corporate angles and even individuals. The key components are that we are building companion products to fill the gaps in people’s daily lives
What challenges have you faced in the industry in terms of competition?
The competition is good. We have over 200 million people so there are a lot of people to serve.
I’m grateful for the position I am in and I hope to make some kind of impact. I want that mindset to be assorted with our brand. Over the next 11 months, we will be releasing a number of new offerings. But we are kicking off with our new apps, better user experience, and building loyalty points. You will get access to what you get cheaper.
Where do you project the business in terms of growth and scaling up?
I have shied away from seeking funding, till we hit a certain trajectory of growth before we can do that. I want to push back and expand from the shores of Nigeria. Experiences that will replace events will happen when you travel. Where you can watch a movie or pay for food in another country using the loyalty points you gathered. We are trying to create a connected community across Africa. We are trying to create an African version of a multinational lifestyle companion.
Unemployment, underemployment needs to be addressed with urgency in Nigeria – Jobberman
Femi Balogun of Jobberman Nigeria has highlighted some of the challenges employers and job seekers are currently facing in Nigeria.
Unemployment has been a bane of many countries, especially in Nigeria, as there are projections that the nation’s unemployment rate will reach an all-time high of 31.4% in 2021.
In this interview with Nairametrics, the Head, Research, Evaluation and learning efforts at Jobberman Nigeria, an online career portal, Femi Balogun, explained that not enough jobs are being created. In 2018, he said Nigeria only created about 450,000 new jobs while over 5 million people joined the labour force.
To him, limited interaction between employers and job seekers as well as policy and cultural constraints are at the core of the employment challenges the nation currently is facing. Excerpts:
How would you assess unemployment in Nigeria, especially with the second wave of Covid-19?
Unemployment has been a critical issue for the country and this has deepened due to the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), between Q3 2018 and Q2 2020, Nigeria’s unemployment rate rose from 23.1% to 27.1%, while the underemployment rate rose from 20.1% to 28.6%. Recent projections also suggest that, in 2021, Nigeria’s unemployment rate will reach an all-time high of 31.4%.
A number of factors contribute to this. Firstly, is that not enough jobs are being created – in 2018 for instance, Nigeria only created about 450,000 new jobs while over 5 million people joined the labour force. Furthermore, gaps within our education system also contribute to this challenge as World Bank data suggests that 18 – 20% of tertiary graduates will require training interventions for about 1 – 4 years to become employable. At the same time, limited interaction between employers and job seekers as well as policy and cultural constraints are that core of the employment challenge we are currently faced with.
The issues that mitigate such high levels of unemployment and underemployment needs to be addressed with urgency.
If Nigeria is home to about half of West Africa’s young people, what size of the population are jobless?
With a population of 200 million, young people make up half of the country’s population. According to PWC unemployment is highest amongst youth between 15-34 years (41% amongst 15-24-year-olds and 31% amongst 25 – 34-year-olds), and this group constitutes 35% of the country’s population – one of the largest in the world.
Data from the Nigerian Bureau of Statistics has also shown that the number of unemployed 24-year-olds [40% of the youth labour force] in the country has almost tripled to 14 million since 2014.
How would you assess skill gaps in Nigeria and what sectors are most affected?
Our evaluation of the jobs market shows high competency in digital skills at entry-level positions but as the skills required advance, there is a dramatic fall in qualified candidates and applications made. For instance, there is an overwhelming skills gap in three subsectors – Software Development, Digital Analysis and Network & Cybersecurity.
Within the Software Development cluster, our findings indicate that 73% of job seekers rate their proficiency at a beginners level across skills such as computer programming, cloud infrastructure, UI/UX, web design, mobile development and design thinking. Likewise for Digital Analysis and Network & Cybersecurity clusters.
This creates a demand gap for positions such as Security Engineering, Data Science, Cyber Security and Security Architecture with a demand scale ranging between 10% and 45%.
Within the Digital Marketing sub-sector, data suggests growing competencies in social media management and content development with proficiency ratings above 40% at advanced levels. Identifying a skills gap in Sales, Marketing Campaigns and Search Engine Optimisation with proficiency levels as low as 8.13% and no higher than 16.92%.
Based on your experience and available data, what are the factors responsible for this gap?
Although young people are described as digital natives, there is a digital literacy gap which excludes young people from harnessing the opportunities that the digital economy presents. This can be attributed to challenges such as insufficient access to the internet, dated curriculum and lack of career development courses.
This challenge can, in part, be linked to gaps within the education system that prevents young people from developing skills (technical and soft skills) and gain the required confidence to be employable.
This gap in human capital optimisation is at the core of the inefficiency in Nigeria’s labour market as Nigeria captures only 49% of its full human capital potential, compared to a continental average of 55%, ranging from 67% in Mauritius to 44% in Chad
What role do you think the government can play in addressing these issues?
The improved performance of the digital sector is, in part, derived from improvements in reforms and governance. In order to take advantage of emerging opportunities within the digital sector, the Federal Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy launched the National Digital Economic Policy and Strategy (NDEPS). This has helped to forge partnerships towards advancing an inclusive digital economy.
To achieve the goal of lowering the access barrier to digital tools for the citizens, the government has set a benchmark of 95% digital literacy rates to be achieved in the next ten years (2030) through States and LGAs support.
It is expected that through the policy, young people will be equipped with the necessary skills to acquire decent jobs while transforming Nigeria into a leading digital economy.
What precisely do you suggest government should do?
There are a number of things the government can do: One is to invest in Human Capital Development. The government can do well by strengthening education institutions and supporting reforms in education to develop industry-relevant curriculum for improved skills, while also galvanising support for digital skills and soft skills training especially for women and marginalised communities.
Another is to Create an Enabling Environment. A friendly regulatory environment is imperative for the digital economy to grow. Similarly, investing in infrastructure that enables ICT adoption (such as broadband internet and electricity) are crucial.
Support the Innovation Ecosystem: Courting public-private partnerships to stimulate and sustain the demand for the use of digital platforms as well as advancing policies that improve business climate will be useful in boosting investment opportunities.
What are the most sought after roles businesses are looking out for in the employment market based on the data from the Jobberman site?
We have seen an increase in roles in the technology sector since April 2020, when we ran our “Unity in Adversity” campaign. Technology had most of the new jobs with 18.79%, followed by banking, finance and insurance with 9.27% and education and training with 6.78%.
What can we do differently in our educational system to better prepare our graduates for the jobs out there?
A transparent jobs market which gathers live data about the various sectors, job demands and skills required will help to strengthen educational institutions and support reforms in education, as well as develop industry-relevant curriculum. Jobberman is striving for a 100% transparent market which will only be achieved when all jobs are posted online.
We are on the cusp of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, children in primary school need to be developing IT skills so they can make the transition from school to work.
What are the challenges you go through gathering data?
I think it’s mostly the availability of accurate information. Data capture and storage is becoming increasingly important on the continent but we are just starting to build. We had to go through extra effort to make sure that all the information we provided in the report was true and up to date.
COVID-19 has made it even more difficult to collect data both quantitative and qualitative. Now we have to conduct interviews and focus group discussions online. The pandemic has also helped us to realise that online data collection is a growing culture with a wide gap to cover.
How Gradely makes money by providing bespoke learning services – Gradely CEO, Boye Oshinaga
Gradely CEO, Boye Oshinaga talks to Nairametrics about the inspiration behind the learning platform.
From earlier centuries, practically every industry has undergone drastic changes to keep up with the times, except for the education industry which remained largely the same. For many, the tussle might have been how to preserve the individual relationship in teaching and learning, while also scaling along with the modern-day business model.
It appears that Gradely has figured out how to individualise the learning process while scaling.
Gradely is a learning platform for schools and students that uses data, from assessment to personalising resources and providing recommendations tailored to meet students’ needs. Unlike the typical classroom scenario where students are lumped together and taught the same content in the same way irrespective of their different levels of comprehension and capabilities, learning the Gradely way means each student can have video lessons, tutor sessions, assignments, quizzes, mock tests, etc. tailored to them.
Co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of Gradely, Boye Oshinaga, recounted during the Nairametrics Business Half Hour that the inspiration came after an encounter with a parent who complained bitterly about her child failing a particular subject repeatedly.
Obviously, the general teaching methods used for the class was not as effective for the child in relation to that subject. The situation called for what some might want to refer to as “bespoke teaching services.”
“I have had a lot of experience creating content and technology for education, so when I saw this problem, I knew there had to be a way learning could be tailored based on the child’s assessment to make him study more in his weak areas and improve subsequently,” Oshinaga said.
This definitely resolves a lot for both teacher and student. After all, why would a child want to spend same time learning his weak subject – Mathematics – as the child who has mathematics as her area of strength?
So how does this bring money to the company?
From the experience Oshinaga had gathered in his years in the tech space, and from the findings from their pilot study, he knew that he had to find a way to get the funds trickling in, otherwise the business would be reduced to a not-for-profit venture.
Gradely was structured to function on a subscription basis, where schools paid a certain amount to get their teachers access to the premium features including examination questions, lesson notes and others. Parents also got to pay a fixed amount of N1500 monthly to get their children access to the content and an optional N2500 fee for a live tutor session for the child.
“We plan to get to the point where we have millions using the product,” Oshinaga said, further emphasising that it is all about scaling.
The COVID-19 catalyst
Less than seven months after Gradely started operations, the COVID -19 crisis came into Nigeria and in no time, businesses and schools were shut down. When the lockdown stretched from the expected 14 days and seemed to drag on endlessly, more parents and schools started exploring alternate learning plans.
This was the right time for Gradely to experience an upsurge in demand for its products and it did.
“A lot of requests came for some products and some of them wanted it within the shortest possible time. Even though we already had plans underway, we could not meet up with some of their timelines, but we pushed through because now, we had excess demand for a product we had not even perfected,” Oshinage explained.
The business that had started in October 2019 gained traction in no time because people were looking for what could help children learn more as they were spending more time at home and needed a system that was compatible with the ‘new normal’ and the uncertainty of schools reopening.
Even with the lockdown over, parents are still in search of forms of online learning that may help children learn at home because students are obviously spending more hours at home now than they did a couple of years back. What many thought was a temporary fix for the lockdown may have become a definite addition to the educational sector.
There is the possibility of exploring a whole comprehensive learning online that could make physical learning complementary, and according to Oshinaga, this could chart the future direction for the company even as it expands to the rest of Africa.
Nairametrics | Company Earnings
- Custodian Investment Plc posts N12.69 billion profit in FY 2020.
- 2020 FY Results: Nestle posts N39.2 billion, as earnings per share prints N49.47
Nestle Nigeria Plc released its audited […]
- 2020 FY: WEMA Bank posts N5.06 billion profit after tax as earnings per share prints at N13.1.
Wema Bank Plc released […]
- 2020 FY: Zenith Bank post N230.6 billion profit after tax
Zenith Bank Plc released its […]
- Mutual Benefits Assurance Plc boosts post tax profits by 25.9%
Mutual Benefits Assurance Plc released […]