Chibuike-Ahuama: Sensitisation Key to Cashless Adoption

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Assistant General Manager at Intermarc Consulting, Davida Chibuike-Ahuama, spoke with Emma Okonji on the different payment channels that Nigeria could explore to achieve cashless transactions. Excerpts:

Intermarc has always had its yearly CardExpo, where it raises awareness on cashless policy and financial inclusion in a digitised economy. What are the plans for 2017?

We have already concluded arrangements to hold this year’s CardExpo  in Lagos from June 13 to 15. This is in line with our continued tradition to create awareness for a cashless economy, while buttressing its value, importance and benefits. With the theme: ‘Millennial in the Market Place-Lifestyle Riding on Payment Systems,’ we shall be showcasing several electronic payment channels, through our partners, that will further boost the cashless policy of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN). We shall also be showcasing trailblazers and culture influencers who will lead the people into the new disruptive technology that is currently driving global economies. It will be an opportunity for banks and businesses to take advantage of the evolving trends; observe the winning norms and adapt for the necessary change.

The focus before now was on card payment system, but you are thinking of expanding the scope to DigitalPay Expo. What informed this decision?

The decision to expand to DigitalPay Expo was informed by the need to keep Nigerians abreast of latest developments in today’s digital world, where virtually everything is done digitally, including financial transactions that are no longer limited to electronic card system. Today we have different channels of digital payment and we want to showcase these channels to Nigerians in line with the cashless policy of CBN.

What are the unique features put in place for the 2017 financial technology exhibition and conference that will attract Nigerians to attend?

The truth is that Africa’s payment landscape is bursting with enterprise and innovation and that energy has inspired fresh engagement among youths. The 2017 CardExpo is therefore planned to bring under one roof, for three days, a charge atmosphere where ideas are brewed in a most compelling way that can give e-banking business and payment services the necessary elevations they have been looking for. We have lined up financial technology experts that will assist Nigerians to identify developments across the market demographics and gain insights for business adaptation.

Who are your target audience for the CardExpo 2017?

Our target audiences are the millennial who are the digital natives, as well as the digital migrants that are trying to catch up with today’s disruptive technology in the financial sector. We are also targeting any bank or payment company that wants to own a part of the next frontier for eCommerce in Nigeria. Directors and managers running businesses that are on the part of disruption, insurance companies, telecommunications companies, eCommerce companies, payment switching companies, government agencies, card companies,  among others. The CardExpo 2017 is designed to take an unprecedented approach in incubating the energies and disruptive waves of our time and deliver it in applicable manner for commercial use.

In spite of the yearly CardExpo and the cashless policy awareness it is trying to create, Nigeria is still regarded as a cash-based economy where majority of transactions still depend on physical cash. How do you intend to change the cash culture?

It is true that Nigeria is still a cash-based economy, but the adoption of cashless and its growth rate are encouraging as more people are beginning to adopt the cashless initiative.

Majority of Nigerians were still skeptical about cashless because of its associated risk of online theft and unauthorised transfer, but the CBN is committed to raising the awareness level of Nigerians on the cashless policy, and we are also raising that awareness through our CardExpo.  The process of making Nigeria a complete cashless economy may be slow, but I think it has to be a gradual process to change that culture of spending physical cash on all financial transactions. This is because we are used to accepting cash in every business transaction. The aged ones in rural communities need  to be educated on the benefits of electronic transactions and that is what CardExpo is all about.

Intermarc Consulting has been creating awareness on cashless initiative  through its CardExpo platform that has been ongoing, but have decided to extend the expo to cover all forms of digital payment systems, hence it is organising the DigitalPay Expo this year. Cashless is something that has come to stay in Nigeria and we must all key into it.

Do you see poor infrastructure as hindrance to achieving the cashless policy?

 Poor infrastructure, no doubt could slow the speed of cashless policy because the whole initiative runs on infrastructure provided by telecoms companies. But one thing that is certain is that good initiative does not come without its challenges. Even in the developed countries where cashless is working fine, they also had their own challenges in the past and they were able to overcome them. The Digital Card Expo is a platform that will address all the challenges and further create awareness on the need for Nigerians to embrace cashless. There are different platforms available for financial transactions via mobile phones, using different codes and we will be showcasing all of that at the DigitalPay Expo.

The theme for this year’s conference is centred on the millennial who are the digital natives. Why the focus on millennial?

 The millennial are those driving today’s digital technology and they are highly technology savvy and they want to do things fast while on the go. Again, the current technology has made them multitasking in virtually all their activities and we felt a great need to further expose technology to these set of people and showcase to them new technology solutions that will help them achieve their digital lifestyles. The millennial are in a hurry to get things done and would not want to spend their precious time on queues at the banking halls.

With each passing year, more Nigerians are attracted to the possibilities of cashless payment channels, and this is particularly strong among the millennial that are under 33 years, representing 52.8 per cent of the Nigeria population and they are responsible for 62 per cent of cards, Point of Sales (PoS), and Internet banking transactions across board. This group represents a compelling market when it comes to adoption and usage of payment technologies. Over 50 per cent of the millennial prefer to go cashless and about 85 per cent of them own a smartphone.

They prefer doing all financial transactions on their mobile phones while on the go. So the DigitalPay Expo will further expose them to different payment systems that they could actually use to achieve their digital lifestyles.

The present system in the country seems to be slowing down the speed of the millennial who in a hurry to get things done, even when they make mistakes sometimes. So how do you intend to address the situation they find themselves?

At the forthcoming CardExpo, we have a session for FinTech startups, where the millennial belong to. The session will help those in the FinTech space to nurture their ideas and turn them into solutions and products that are commercially viable to make them earn a living. The session will further expose them to latest technologies that will address their digital lifestyles and at the same time, be at par with global technology trends and initiatives. The session will also attract seed investors like Angel investors who will come around to share technology knowledge with them and mentor them. Some, who will be interested in some ideas, may decide to fund the FinTech startups. This is the essence of creating that session for the millennial at the CardExpo 2017.

Aside seed investors, what plans do you have for technology startups, especially in the area of funding?

The session we are having for FinTech startups, will be organised in such a way that there will be room for pitching and at the end, three groups with the best ideas will be selected and we will offer them some incentives. We will not stop at that, as we are also working with some technology hubs on how to further train them through technology incubation for a couple of months in order to develop their innate abilities and technology skills.

Any plans for digital migrants?

The conference and exhibition offer opportunities for digital migrants, aside the digital natives. So it is a platform that reaches out to a whole lot of people. Those who are into business-to-business transaction (B-to-B), business-to-customer transaction (B-to-C) will all find a place of benefit at the CardExpo 2017.

In spite of the ongoing cashless awareness campaign, many Nigerians are still skeptical to go cashless because of the online fraud associated with cashless. How are you addressing this?

We are not disputing the fact that there is fraud in the financial space, but the system is beginning to address all of that through new technology solutions that are blocking all financial transactions loopholes. Even in the advanced country, fraud exists but that does not deter them from moving forward with their cashless policy. Security measures in the area of double authentication and others are in place and these technologies are actually mitigating fraud. So cashless has come to stay and those who are still skeptical must find a way around it and be part of the digital train, because there are lots of advantages attached to it. Technology experts are working at the backend to address the challenges.

How will SMEs benefit from CardExpo?

Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) have a lot to benefit from CardExpo. They will be learning a lot about new technologies that will drive SME business. Some of them do not know how to use technology to leverage their SME business, but by the time they participate in the CardExpo, they will be exposed to technologies at affordable prices that will help them scale-up their business fast and in a more profitable and efficient manner.  We are not focusing only on big companies, because we have place for the SMEs and how best to manage their small businesses, using technology that is quite affordable.

Big data analytics is currently driving the global economies. How will CardExpo key into big data?

We have a session with FinTech startups at the CardExpo that will be discussing the opportunities of big data analytics, and I am very passionate about it. We want to use that occasion to further expose FinTech  players to big data because that is what is ruling the world today, providing connectivity to virtually everything that human beings can communicate with.

For 17 years, CardExpo has been in existence. What are the success stories?

For 17 years, we were able to bring international and local entrepreneurs and technology developers and we were able to create a platform where new technologies were showcased. It has actually impacted on individuals and organisations in the last 17 years and the feedback we get shows that people are looking forward to experiencing CardExpo because of the technologies we had displayed on our platform in the past, that helped businesses grew faster.

What do you think government should do to further drive cashless policy?

Government must continue to create the cashless policy awareness and also support the CardExpo initiative and other initiatives that are channeled towards driving the cashless policy of the CBN.