Emma Okonji writes that the opportunity given to SystemSpecs by the federal government to use the Remita software solution as a platform for e-payments and e-collections for all government finances, has opened a vista for the firm to showcase the ingenuity of local software within and outside Nigeria
Necessity has always compelled people and nations to look inwards while seeking solution to address immediate challenges. Such was the case with Remita, an indigenous software solution that was developed by SystemSpecs, a Nigerian company designed as a platform for e-payments and e-collections.
The technology solution that makes it possible to send and receive payments and being in control of national cash assets, came into limelight in 2011, when the federal government suddenly realised that Nigeria was losing huge sums of money because the country’s accounting system was porous to the extent that billions of naira were not accounted for.
The huge financial losses became a source of worry to the federal government in 2011, a situation that compelled government to look inwards in order to address the national challenge. In seeking solution to the financial challenges of the country, SystemSpecs was approached and its managing director, Mr. John Obaro assured government of addressing the situation through its locally developed software called Remita.
Today, Remita, which is an indigenous payment solution, is able to process over $30 billion worth of transactions every year in Nigeria, and the company has come out to say that the software solution could address financial issues beyond Nigeria and Africa.
Speaking at the just concluded Gulf Information Technology Exhibition (GITEX) in Dubai, United Emirates (UAE), the biggest trade show on the ICT circuit in the Middle East, the Executive Director, Strategy at SystemSpecs, Mr. Deremi Atanda, told investors that Remita has come of age to address financial leakages in Africa and the rest of the world.
Remita, which predates Nigeria’s Treasury Single Account (TSA), is not a specialised software for TSA, but a software for all electronic payments and collections of funds that addresses financial leakages. Having seen the importance of Remita, the federal government, in 2011, decided to use the software solution to block all financial leakages in government circles by applying Remita to TSA, which is all about process efficiency, and being able to account for funds from a single channel.
The federal government got involved with TSA because Nigeria was looking inwards to solve her financial challenges.
Before TSA, nobody knew the number of accounts operated by the Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) of the federal government. Before TSA, government could not give account of the net cash flow of the country. Also, government could not say which account any payment was going into, and could not transact business over the weekend because it had to be between working hours.
But with the application of Remita to TSA, government discovered so much huge financial leakages and lapses, which include remittances of government monies to illegal accounts that were not accounted for, which led to the closure of 17,000 bank accounts that hitherto spread across different banks within the county, as at the last count.
So the success of TSA is the victory of Remita, a technology solution developed by an indigenous company, SystemSpecs, in solving everyday financial challenges.
Myth about local software
Speaking on the myth of local software in addressing global financial issues at the just concluded GITEX exhibition in Dubai, where Nigeria was well represented, Atanda convinced foreign investors to invest in the local software developed from Nigeria.
According to him, the local software has the potential of addressing global financial issues, especially in blocking financial leakages and setting up a platform for accountability and transparency that organisations could always rely on.
He said Remita is a product from SystemSpecs that is “transforming payments in Africa right from the app of Nigeria.”
“Talking about opportunities, the simple good news you will hear in the payments space is that there is a model of payment for the entire Africa coming from Nigeria, a one-stop payment gateway overlaid with payment applications for enterprises, multinationals, governments at all levels, SMEs, corporates as well as individuals. So at every point you want to touch payments across the entire ecosystem, Remita is the product to do that,” Atanda said.
“Right from Nigeria today, Remita, which is an indigenous payment solution, processes over $30 billion worth of transactions every year, and that’s just within Nigeria. There’s a roadmap to take this to Africa. So if you have a vision to be part of revolutionising payments in Africa at whatever level, even if you are thinking of driving financial inclusion at the national level, driving savings, micro-savings and micro-transactions, we have got IPs in that space with quite a number whose patents are pending. We have solution that you can adapt into your own environment. We have got process flows across the entirety of government, and the Nigerian government has given us the opportunity to solve a national problem,” he added.
Speaking further, he said: “The first opportunity was in 2006 when Nigeria had the payroll challenge and there was an international World Bank bid. As a Nigerian firm, we won that bid and completed the project in a record six months. The next time was in 2011 when the Nigerian government was going to begin the process of properly taking charge of its national cash assets and introduced a Treasury Single Account (TSA) initiative. It was something that made Nigeria to look for the best in the whole world. And after evaluation SystemSpecs came forward again. Today, the TSA success story is because a Nigerian company is involved; that’s the story of Remita and the myth of indigenous software.”
Atanda told foreign investors that Remita offers the single one point that aggregates all possible payment options.
“It aggregates cash, it aggregates mobile wallet and payment schemes, it aggregates internet banking, it is connected to the national settlement platform, it is connected to any payment touchpoint you can think of. So if you are thinking of transforming payments in any way, it is not only about government but also goes to micro-credit, driving financial inclusion, accountability across all touch points,” he added.
Remita mobile version
During its participation at this year’s GITEX forum, SystemSpecs announced the planned launch of the mobile version of Remita before the international audience. The mobile version will enable millions of people to make payments from any of their commercial or micro-finance bank accounts or through any debit or credit card to thousands of merchants and billers in Nigeria, while using their smart and feature phones.
SystemSpecs plans to release the mobile version of the application by the end of this year.
Atanda said: “Remita mobile app will enable any individual or organisation see in real-time the balance in accounts held across different banks on a single app. Apart from this first-of-its-kind feature on a mobile app, users will also be able to make payments using the latest scan-to-pay and tap-to-pay technologies.”
He added that Remita is conceived as a one-stop payment app that will easily address the diverse needs of customers who currently have to download and use many payment apps at the same time.”
While welcoming Nigeria’s Minister of Communications, Adebayo Shittu, Director General of National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), Dr. Isa Ali Ibrahim Pantami and the chairman, House of Representatives Committee on ICT, Mohammed Onawo and others to Remita’s stand within the Nigeria pavilion, Atanda said: “Remita has been around for about 10 years and currently serves over 1,000 merchants, billers, multinationals, SMEs, and governments at various levels.The uniqueness of Remita lies in its unique ability to serve as a one-stop payment platform that offers organisations and individuals the most number of payment and collection channels available on any single platform.”
Remita’s role in financial inclusion
Atanda explained that Remita was at the forefront of driving the national financial inclusion policy as it is currently in use by about 500 micro-finance banks to meet the needs of many Nigerians who do not have access to commercial banking services and to also empower them to extend financial services to large number of unbanked Nigerians.
According to him, Remita’s vision is to empower every Nigerian to easily make payments for any product or service you can think of in the easiest way possible. He said one of the areas of immediate impact of the Remita mobile app is that anyone will now be able to settle bills and make payments to all tertiary institutions and all federal MDAs without having to visit the bank as they will be able to easily generate payment codes, make payment and generate payment receipt all on their mobile phone.
MDAs will also be able to verify payments in real time and provide services to payers without the need for customers to queue in banking halls to pay or carry bank tellers or paper receipts around as evidence of payment before service can be delivered.
Also speaking on the company’s plan to take the solution beyond Nigeria’s border, he assured Nigerians and international investors that Remita was ready to roll out to the whole world, starting from Africa.
“Based on proven performance track record in the Nigerian market and especially on the national TSA project, we have been receiving great interest from other African countries to replicate the same model. While each country may have its own peculiarity, we believe we have developed a robust financial technology platform that can compete anywhere in the world. We are therefore very comfortable taking Remita out of Nigeria and become one of the indigenous organisations that can help our country become a net foreign exchange earner from technology,” Atanda said.
The Minister of Communications, Shittu who pledged government’s support for SystemSpecs’ quest to roll out Remita across African countries and beyond, said: “We will continue to support all your endeavours to take our country to the next level.”
Onawo on his part, explained that he was particularly excited about the fact that Nigerian software firms showcased their solutions at GITEX 2016.
“With what I have seen, it has encouraged me to take a lot of things back home. We need to encourage our Information Technology (IT) firms and technology start-ups so that more Nigerian companies can do what Remita is doing for the economy,” Onawo said.
The Gulf Information Technology Exhibition (GITEX) has become the biggest trade show on the ICT circuit in the Middle East. The event is a forum for technology experts to exchange ideas, and presents a strong platform for technology companies to showcase their products and services.
GITEX 2016 attracted over 150,000 participants from 144 countries, with over 42,000 exhibitors worldwide showcasing cutting-edge technological innovations.
The trade expo served as good leverage for SystemSpecs to position itself as a reputable technology company and prospective pan-African technology champion through its revolutionary payment software Remita. SystemSpecs’ participation at the event was strategically aimed at showcasing its technology to international stakeholders, thereby facilitating business development, possible partnerships and penetration into new markets.
“The event was a platform for Remita to gain more exposure to the international community, and created a meeting point between SystemSpecs and high-level government functionaries both locally and internationally,” Atanda said.
At GITEX 2016, there was the African Investment Forum, which was a break out session, designed to create networking opportunities for start-ups and highlight ICT success stories in Nigeria and other African countries. SystemSpecs was one of the companies selected to sensitise industry leaders and participants at the event on the uniqueness of its product offering and success stories.
Head of Service, Minister of Communication, business leaders in the technology industry and start-up founders attended the high-level global event and the African Investment Forum.