TeamApt, a leader in Nigeria for payment infrastructure and digital banking, is working on tech for non-interest financing for small businesses in the north of the country.
“We expect to have banking partnerships to bring the product to life,” Tosin Eniolorunda, founder and CEO of TeamApt, told Salaam Gateway. The company plans to launch the product in the coming quarters after regulatory approvals.
Nigeria’s bustling fintech scene raised more than $600 million in funding the past five years. In 2019 alone, the West African nation attracted a quarter of the $491.6 million solicited by African tech start-ups and is now home to over 200 fintech standalone companies.
McKinsey’s “Harnessing Nigeria’s fintech potential” report, published this September, revealed these industry milestones.
Financial technology is seen as a huge enabler to improve financial inclusion and there has been a lot of regulatory as well as private sector focus on fintech. However, a lot more regulatory support seems inevitable or Nigeria’s Central Bank (CBN) won’t achieve its ambitious goal of having 95% of the population financially included by 2024. Financial inclusion was 63.2% in 2018 and as it stands, the goal of 80% financial inclusion this year is unlikely to happen.
“Many of these [unbanked] individuals are in the informal economy, often in remote areas that are not easily accessible,” said Eniolorunda.
“Fintechs and banks must be ready to adopt a more flexible approach to onboarding these individuals than what has been done to date.”
Fintech adoption is highest in Lagos and growing in the South. However, it remains nascent in the North, a region with a high Muslim concentration.
As over 53% of Nigeria’s estimated 214 million population are Muslim, this segment is underserved. This is the big gap that TeamApt is addressing.
Developing this underserved segment requires focused investment in digital ID growth, financial education, and telecommunication infrastructure, explicitly targeting Muslim demographics and geographies, Eniolorunda reckons.
Founded in 2015 and dubbed by a global fintech index as “a company to watch”, TeamApt designs accessible financial products for individuals and businesses.
“After collaborating with major Nigerian banks, reducing bottlenecks in their payment processing operations, and gaining in-depth industry intelligence, we recognized the need to extend our expertise to businesses and consumers,” Eniolorunda said.
In 2019, TeamApt launched its mobile money platform Moniepoint, designed for people who don’t have access to banking infrastructure in their communities. It has become the largest non-bank mobile money operator in Nigeria by value processed despite being the latest entrant, according to company data.
Through an agent network 30,000 strong, Moniepoint processes 13 million transactions monthly with a value of 197 billion Nigerian Naira (about $520 million). User growth averages 23% month-on-month.
Despite being a bootstrapped company, TeamApt ran profitably in its first three years.
“When we decided to evolve from servicing banks majorly and develop more consumer-facing products, we raised $5.5 million in capital in a Series A funding,” Eniolorunda said, referring to the fundraising in February 2019.
NIGERIA ISLAMIC FINANCE LANDSCAPE
Islamic finance is a nascent industry in Nigeria.
Jaiz Bank Plc became the country’s first standalone Islamic bank when it received a regional licence to operate as a fully-fledged non-interest bank in 2011.
In 2019, CBN registered the second regional, non-interest bank, TAJ Bank Limited. The privately-held financial institution opened its third branch in Sokoto State this August.
There are also Islamic windows at conventional financial institutions Sterling Bank, Zenith Bank and SunTrust Bank.
Takaful is also offered in the country, with companies such as Jaiz Takaful, Noor Takaful, Niger Insurance, Halal Takaful, Cornerstone Takaful, and Salam Takaful Insurance.
“More of Islamic financial institutions are needed,” said Muhammad Jidda, Head Shariah Audit and Product Development, SunTrustBank Nigeria Limited, in a local WebTV interview in early October.
“The lack of awareness of Islamic banking drives non-interest banking backward,” he added and suggested to organize more Islamic finance-related conferences, seminars, and workshops.
Jidda also sees the use of Arabic terminology for financial products as an issue. “You need an interpreter to understand all these,” he said.
The banker also stressed the need for standardization and harmonization.
“We follow the school of thought of Mālikī. So when a product is approved in Malaysia, following the Shafiʽi School, you can never use it here in Nigeria.”
Seeing the opportunities, Jidda declared, “It is the time for non-interest banking to engage fintech.”
In the current market, Nigerian fintech companies mostly offer payment and lending solutions to banked customers.
Despite the increased sector activity, the overall impact on Nigeria’s $50 billion digital financial services opportunity has been low. According to financial sector development organization EFInA, fintech activity accounted for about 1.25% of retail banking revenues in 2019.
Though, the country’s push for financial inclusion of its unbanked population powered by increased smartphone penetration and the roll-out of lending, savings, and wealth management solutions will drive future growth.
Events like the second edition of Nigeria Fintech Week, taking place from November 2 – 6, will continue to push the industry forward.
(Reporting by Petra Loho; Editing by Emmy Abdul Alim email@example.com)
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