The Managing Director of Ecobank Nigeria, Patrick Akinwuntan has disclosed that the bank is leveraging technology to push the frontiers of financial inclusion of the unbanked and under-banked population in the country.
Akinwuntan who said this in his keynote presentation at the Vanguard Economic Forum series on mobile money market and Fintech, with the theme, ‘Leveraging Fintech Innovation for Unlocking Growth and Competitiveness in Nigeria’s Mobile & Payment Ecosystem’ held in Lagos, pointed out that Nigeria which has improved financial inclusion from 47% to 63% in the last decade, remains a dynamic market with a lot of opportunities for digital financial expansion.
He stated that Ecobank has built an ecosystem that leverages digital technology to bring affordable, easy and convenient financial services to the people and businesses.
According to him, Ecobank is currently pushing EcobankPay, Xpress Agency Points and other digital platforms as key solutions to address the rapid shift to mobile payment and the adoption of digital channels across the country.
Akinwuntan described EcobankPay as a “a lifestyle scan and pay digital payment and collection service which accepts payments from other platforms – mVisa, Masterpass and mCash. Payment can be made with any phone by scanning the QR code or using USSD at merchant locations.
According to him, “It’s unique offering, is its interoperability, that is, all bank customers in Nigeria can pay through their accounts in other banks. It is free to set up, as the shop owner only needs his/her QR code and phone for notifications to start receiving quick and easy payments. Merchant QR can also be set up via Facebook Messenger as well as USSD payment for low-income phone users”
He noted that EcobankPay “is currently available at over 90,000 merchant locations across the country. This is in addition to over 6,000 Xpress point agent locations in the country.
“Also, we have over 8 million mobile banking subscribers across the Ecobank Group. Our Ecobank Mobile App is unique, as it is one universal app available in 33 countries where we operate in Africa. Furthermore, Ecobank has so far set up EcobankPay Zones in over 50 locations in different parts of the country.
“These are digital hubs enabling businesses within a location adopt Ecobank’s wide range of digital products for ease of payments for goods and services. The payment options at the zones include EcobankPay, Xpress points, Automated Teller Machines (ATMS) and Point of Sale (PoS)”.
The MD also pointed out that the banks’ strategy includes collaboration with Fintechs to surmount the financial inclusion and adoption of financial services challenge.
Quoting the Efinafintech 2018 report, he noted that “ there is an increased partnership with Fintechs as Nigeria is currently home to over 250 Fintechs and approximately 60% of them supporting payments and lending capabilities. The cumulative Fintech funding by banks in Nigeria has surpassed $250m in the past five years, he pointed out.
“Ecobank hosts an annual Africa Fintech challenge and we are providing support infrastructure for Fintechs that excel at the challenge. “At Ecobank our vision and mission focuses on providing Africans affordable and easy to access financial products and services. We believe innovation and technology could help remove barriers to 24/7 access to financial services through the use of self-service applications.“
He also noted that increasing mobile phone penetration has been a key enabler whilst the positive regulatory regime of the Central Bank is driving financial inclusion and seamless payment services initiatives in the country.
While commending Vanguard newspaper for organizing the event and choice of the theme and the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN)’s various initiatives targeted at promoting and creating enabling environment for mobile banking to thrive in the country, he made case for collaboration of all stakeholders to achieve the desired result.
Deputy Director, Payment System Department, CBN, Musa Jimoh, in his goodwill message at the forum said: “Cost of service is one of the reasons why people refuse to use some banking services including mobile money.
“So we came out with a guidelines to bank charges to make sure that we regulate the charges and we have also come out with some other initiatives under the cashless scheme to see how we can bring people to the digital channel and reduce the high cost of operations in the bank. “There are several initiatives that CBN is pushing to ensure the mobile money operators grow and help us deepen financial inclusion.”
Earlier in her presentation, Professor Olayinka David-West, Academic Director, Lagos Business School, LBS, explained that financial inclusion is the access to unleash affordable financial services to the huge population of the unbanked and the under-banked in the society. She stated: “Affordable financial service is important because not everybody can afford to pay for account maintenance of N500 a month.
“To address financial inclusion, innovation is important because it will help us address the easy access to financial services. It has nothing to do with literacy; it is about how do we design it knowing the capabilities of the people we are trying to serve.”