A number of experts have argued that, although, Nigeria may have millions of people on the internet, less than 5 percent of them are currently engaged in online transactions for various reasons. It is believed that one way to truly deepen the tech ecosystem is to get more Nigerians to receive and make payments electronically.
I recently had a chat with John Obaro, MD/CEO SystemSpecs and Remita, a payment gateway solution. He shared his thoughts on how to improve financial inclusion and strengthen online payments in Nigeria.
John stressed that, technology in Nigeria, is not where it should be, but it is certainly better than it used to be. “People are now getting used to using mobile phones and mobile phones are also getting more powerful, hence, to that extent, a lot of positive things are happening in the technology sector in Nigeria”, he stated.
John is of the view that, in order for us to better use technology to manage our economy in Nigeria, we need to, first of all, solve the issue of “Digital Identity”, once and for all. “Solving our Digital Identity issues will create a very strong multiplier effect. We need to know who we are dealing with”, he maintained.
He stressed the need for something to be put in place to ensure that something needs to be put in place to ensure that, in a not too distant future, we address who each person is, in Nigeria. He stated that the second thing we need to address to enable us use technology to effectively run our economy is the issue of “Home Addressing” in Nigeria. Homes, he maintained, needs to be well mapped out.
John stated that technology will be able to ride on digital identity and well mapped out home address to create a multiplier effect to boost the economy and this will make it easier for people to do other things with the data generated. John is of the view that a knowledgeable centre should take charge of the splinter databases that we have at the FRSC, CBN, INEC, etc., as these need to be coordinated by a central identity body which we can all revolve around. “NIMC, by the Act that established it, should be playing the role, but I don’t know how much support they have and what other issues and challenges they may be having, but they come closer to being able to make it happen”, he stated. That will solve the problem of individual identity, but he said he is not sure of which outfit should deal with the issue of home addressing.
John stated that, for digital identity, we have the BVN, which has succeeded, but it is not inclusive enough. He suggested a merger of INEC and the National Census project coming up next year, so they can work together to create a real usable national home identity database. John believes that, if the project is well put together, it will more than pay for itself. The government may put in the initial funding, but with the right data in place at the end of the project, businesses, in and out of Nigeria, will be more than willing to pay to offset the cost through patronage.
With payment collection being a problem in Nigeria, John stated that, although, he is not too sure that it is now as bad as it used to be, but there are a number of firms that have sprung up that are addressing the situation such that, businesses get their customers get their customers to pay, using cards, transferring directly from their Bank accounts, use of POS as well as walking to the banks to pay, whichever is convenient for them.
John stated that he is reasonably satisfied with the level of progress being made in the Startups ecosystem presently in the country. “A lot of positive things are happening and you have a number of young people who have taken their fate in their hands, so, many of them are now doing a number of things that are positive”, he emphasized. He further stated that he is amazed at some of the good ideas that some of these young people are coming up with and the interesting thing, he also noted, is that a good number of them did not even study Computer Science or any related courses, but just took an interest and they are unleashing their creative minds, hence, he sees a bright future for Nigeria in that respect.
On how we can ensure that Nigerian solutions are exported to other countries in Africa and the rest of the world, John stated that the first thing to do is to believe in ourselves as Nigerians by using these solutions in our country. After doing this, it will then become very easy for us to start exporting them to other countries in Africa and the rest of the world, he stressed. “Once a solution works in Nigeria, the challenges one will meet in other countries in Africa are relatively a pie in the cake”, he maintained.
On a final note, John encouraged Nigerians to use “Made in Nigeria” (products, services and solutions), because, the quality of or software and creativity are very good and we should not run down our own things, but think positively of our own, so, it will become easier for outsiders to respect us.
You can view the full interview here
CFA is the Founder, www.CFAtech.ng & Co-producer/Presenter,Tech Trends on Channels Television