› 20th March 2015

Disruption is not such a dirty word in Nigeria

Entitled ‘The Edge of Innovation’, MWC 2015 did not disappoint in terms of showcasing the latest in Mobile and Mobile-related Technology from around the world.

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In January, the FT’s John Gapper noted that in this year’s Digital-Life Design (DLD) Conference in Munich that “One notable absentee…was the word ‘disruption’”. And so it was with Barcelona. With Uber rumoured to have been banned from the city it seems appropriate that any language be toned down for fear of upsetting host cities and workers whose lives and livings are in line for said ‘disruption’.


Entitled ‘The Edge of Innovation’, MWC 2015 did not disappoint in terms of showcasing the latest in Mobile and Mobile-related Technology from around the world. So what about technology that makes life better without stoking fears of mass unemployment and a dystopian future of Artificial Intelligence?


Wearable Tech? The Internet of Things? New Devices (think Samsung S6)? – what did we find at the recently concluded Mobile World Congress 2015 that would be relevant to the Nigerian and larger sub-Saharan African marketplace?

Without getting bogged down in semantics, it is interesting to note that in their introduction to the conference the GSMA used the term ‘transformational’, referring to innovative products which change the way we do things.

In Nigeria, such ‘transformational’ technologies disrupt ways of going about one’s business that are among other things: outdated, time-consuming and expensive. Principal among these is physically going to the bank branch. Given also that bank branches have very limited parking and are situated on major arteries of towns and cities, these visits to the bank branch make an already bad traffic situation much worse. Witness traffic hell on the last Friday of the month when wages need to be paid!

Here at Vanso, we believe that our next generation of Mobile Banking Apps have put banking back in the hands of the customer – literally! You don’t have to go to the bank to make transfers, check your account balance or order a cheque book. Fine, you may have to visit the branch to actually pick up your cheque book or bank card and to see your account manager but even in these eventualities your banking app can make this easier. GPS functionality on your smartphone can be used to determine your proximity to a branch and Push notifications can alert you that your card or cheque book are ready for collection. Your account manager could even be notified that you are on the premises.


What’s next?

4There were a number of Mobile PoS solutions on show at MWC with an increasing array of VAS and interoperability options. These will add considerably to a Merchant’s payment/collections flexibility and possibly add other revenue streams. Contactless payments (Could NFC finally come to Nigeria?) and QR codes also offer exciting opportunities to usurp the clunky and frankly untrusted PoS machines currently in the market.

Perhaps the development we are most excited about concerned a technology that could radically expand Financial Inclusion as well as extending the reach of Mobile Banking beyond the smartphone realm. While estimates of current smartphone penetration in Nigeria vary there is no disagreement on the direction in which that trend is heading. As it stands now, however, our banking clients cannot afford to ignore the significant proportion of their customer base using low-cost feature phones.


Finally an alternative to USSD tenable financial services for feature phones?

5An established and tested Sim-Overlay Solution that is ‘live’ in multiple markets could be the ‘silver bullet’ for reducing Financial Exclusion. Whether low-end phone users have the appetite for Mobile Banking or Mobile Money or not, this simple and cheap technology allows them at least to be in the game.

There can be no doubt that to some extent Mobile Banking has cannibalized Mobile Money but with lower barriers to entry and the introduction of Tier 1 Accounts such as Diamond Bank’s Y’ello Account and other Agency Banking propositions in the market, this technology could be the ‘game’-changer!

To follow our progress in product evaluation and testing, follow us @vansocom.