Interview: Olugbenga Agboola
In what ways has internet connectivity in Nigeria impacted the payments industry and the adoption of cashless payment options?
OLUGBENGA AGBOOLA: Internet penetration in Nigeria is growing at a high rate. In 2020 Nigeria had 99.1m internet users, and this figure is projected to grow to 131.7m by 2023. Internet connectivity in Africa and Nigeria specifically is growing at a rapid rate, and the payments industry has a lot to gain from this. The industry depends on the internet to power our operations, and users access our services mainly through the internet. With the growth in connectivity and mobile penetration, the reachable market for the payments industry keeps growing, offering freedom to innovators to build products and services for the local and international markets. This environment also adds value for up-and-coming startups – a win for the country’s tech ecosystem. We are not only creating services for Nigerian users, but for international ones as well. This is because internet connectivity in Nigeria is able to support our infrastructure and the activities of Nigerian users on our platform.
From your perspective, how do regulators contribute to the growth of financial technology industry?
AGBOOLA: The regulatory environment has been largely conducive to the industry’s operations. Regulators want to see stakeholders in the ecosystem thrive. Problems occur, however, when organisations do not follow established processes and standards. Even so, the authorities have always been willing to engage with all stakeholders – including financial services players and consumer rights groups – to find common ground.
How does intra-African payments infrastructure compare to infrastructure between African countries and the rest of the world?
AGBOOLA: It is important to address the difference in efficiency and cost effectiveness between intra-African payment processing and payment processing between African countries and the rest of the world. Previously, it would take more time and resources to transfer money from Nigeria to Rwanda or from Uganda to Kenya because the funds would first need to be transferred via SWIFT in Europe or North America before being transferred to its final destination in Africa. Now, thanks to cross-border solutions, payments are much more simplified. Today intra-African payments using digital tools can be instant, and this is the same with payments from Africa to the rest of the world.
To what extent has the Covid-19 pandemic caused a shift in consumer and retailer behaviour around the adoption of digital tools?
AGBOOLA: The pandemic has caused a significant shift in consumer behaviour. During the worst months of the pandemic many consumers turned to e-commerce for the first time amid lockdowns. While many of these people will return to shopping at physical stores after the health crisis, many will remain online. Indeed, e-commerce boomed during the pandemic. A lot of previously traditional businesses came online and their sales increased, and it is likely they will have both online and in-person operations in the future. As such, the shift in consumer behaviour has led to the adoption of digital solutions by more companies.
What impact do you expect remote work to have on the availability of qualified ICT talent?
AGBOOLA: Human resources mean everything when it comes to building a successful technology company, and we are lucky that Nigeria has an expansive pool of talent to support our operations. The rise of remote work means that Nigerians will have more options and more opportunities. This is a win-win for all parties if handled well, because existing companies within the tech ecosystem will have to offer new financial and non-financial incentives to make themselves competitive options for top talent in a remote scenario.