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Innovation key to cheap, evolving rapid money transfer market


Patrick Akinwuntan

Nigeria’s population is not only creating market attraction domestically, but its rising Diaspora is fast gaining global recognition through yearly remittances.

Ranked among the top five countries that were destinations for $613 billion Diaspora remittances in 2017, innovative approaches to receiving the values, drive by technology, as well as competitive pricing, have set the money transfer market, dominated by banking partnership, agog.

The Governor of the Central bank of Nigeria (CBN), Godwin Emefiele, said that Nigerians in the Diaspora and other African nationals sent $72 billion home in 2017, while the World Bank data showed that remittances in the sub-Saharan Africa have sustained an upward trajectory since 2016.

Of course, the Diasporans have obligations at home and the evolving technological advances, now highly embraced by the banking industry, have offered huge benefits in meeting their needs. Money transfer services, with new innovations that have improved speed, processes and safety, have become a benchmark.

A retiree, who identified herself as Mrs. Salome Nwachi, told The Guardian that her son’s new method of sending money has eased her pains and stress. She also said the son told her that the charges were less than what it used to be. She eventually brought out a piece of paper and it was RapidTransfer.

Diaspora remittance forms part of the major financial inflows to developing countries and in some cases, it exceeds international aids and grants. The World Bank report noted: “As a recipient country, Nigeria tops African countries and is also ranked among the top five globally.”

The Director of Statistics Department of the apex bank, Mohammed Tumala, who represented Emefiele, at the unveiling of Remittance Household Surveys, noted that Nigerians in the Diaspora placed the country on top of the list remittances in the region.

“Remittances inflows contribute substantially to foreign exchange earnings and household finances in most developing economies,” he said.

But Ecobank Group Chief Executive, Ade Ayeyemi, said that the 2018 first quarter average cost of sending money was $200, representing was 7.1 per cent of the value, while remittance services in sub-Saharan Africa remained the costliest in the world at an average cost of 9.4 per cent.

The development is contrary to the principles of international Sustainable Development Goals, which aims to reduce the average transaction cost of remittances to less than three per cent of the remittance amount by 2030.

This is where innovative approaches, driven by technology, in money transfer services would be needed. The importance of the inflow of remittances into many African countries cannot be underestimated.

Already, Ecobank Nigeria, has introduced zero fees for all inbound transfers through its newly launched Rapidtransfer App.

Ayeyemi said: “Well, let me tell you the true Ecobank fashion of leading from the front and forcing our competitors to follow in our trailblazing wake. Our latest exciting digital innovation is going to reach that goal 12 years ahead of schedule.

“Therefore, I am delighted to unveil Rapidtransfer, our brand new dedicated mobile remittance app. This app will be a game changer for the market, dramatically reducing the cost to zero, to three per cent of the remittance, depending on which delivery option is chosen.

He said the bank’s vision of “My Money, My Africa”, will cement its differentiation from competitors such as Western Union and Transferwise, alongside four key messages like affordability, simplicity, digital and emotional connection to Africa and reach/frequency, adding that the bank’s mission is to consolidate a modern pan-African bank and to contribute to the economic development and financial integration of the continent.

The banker also noted that the bank’s mobile app Rapidtransfer optimises the user experience across ease of use and expediency and will be launched for mobiles with a web version.

“We know the difference your money makes when you send money home to Africa. The links between the sender and the recipient back home will be strengthened through continued innovation and digital disruption.

“We are harnessing its digital expertise and innovation to bring efficiency and convenience to the international and intra-African remittance markets, while significantly reducing the costs to send funds.

“The launch of the Rapidtransfer mobile app will enable Africans wherever they may be to easily and instantly send money to bank accounts, mobile wallets and cash collection in – and across – 33 African countries,” he said.

Explaining the benefits of the innovative approach, he said that it is intuitive, easy to navigate and multi-lingual with English, French, Spanish and Portuguese variants that provide simple and secure digital on-boarding.

Users can choose how and when funds are delivered to the intended beneficiary, with transparent foreign exchange rates prior to each transaction.

Charges range from zero to three per cent depending on the options the customer selects.

“Historically the cost of sending cross-border remittances in Africa has been far too high. Similarly, the process to send funds has long been inefficient and burdensome, with customers forced to physically go to an agent, and yet still have little or no clarity as to when the money will reach the recipient.

“The Rapidtransfer app remittance solution is a quick, easy and reliable digital solution that removes all of these issues. It is a game-changer for Africans with its sustainable and standout affordability.”

The Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer, Ecobank Nigeria, Patrick Akinwuntan, said the subsidiary is part of a highly respected digitally innovative institution of the Ecobank Group.

According to him, the group has an unrivaled network across 40 countries, about 19 million customers, over 7.7 million mobile App on-boarding, over 11,000 branch and Xpresspoint agent locations, over 2,600 Automated Teller Machines, over 11,000 Point of Sales, more than 60,000 EcobankPay merchants, Retail Internet Bank and other banking platforms.

He said the bank introduced zero fees for all transfers done into Nigeria on its newly launched Rapidtransfer app. “Ecobank is poised to ensure Nigerians in the diaspora get the best in class remittance service. We want to make it easy for Nigerians living abroad to send money to their loved ones at home instantly. Transfers on the Rapidtransfer app are at zero fees from now ‪till 31st January, 2019‬.”

Further, Akinwuntan reaffirmed that the Ecobank Rapidtransfer app, which follows a tradition of leadership in digital banking in Africa is designed to enhance remittances to Africa by drastically reducing cost, while also tackling the long, burdensome and inefficient processes Africans abroad face when sending money to their home countries.

He urged Nigerians to tell their relatives abroad to take advantage of this new and innovative means of remitting hard earned monies home.

“Many Nigerians work abroad and financially support their relatives back home. The app is a safe and secure low-cost remittance solution, which ultimately will put more money into the hands of the recipient as there are no charges deducted,” he said.

The Rapidtransfer app is touted to be a game changer for remittances to Africa. The app enables users to easily and instantly send money to any bank in Nigeria. Receivers also have the option of picking up cash at any Ecobank branch. The exchange rates are very attractive and the service is open to Ecobank and non-Ecobank customers.

The innovations are ongoing and the numbers are increasing. Currently, Transfast, a cross-border payments and remittance firm is partnering Access Bank to facilitate inflow of remittance to bank accounts and delivery in the form of cash pay-outs from any of Access Bank’s outlets in Nigeria.

Likewise, digital money transfer service, WorldRemit continues its rapid expansion in Africa, launching low-cost bank transfers to nine new countries across the region.

Nearly three million migrants living in over 50 countries can now send money directly from their phones to any personal bank account in the following countries: Botswana, Central African Republic, Chad, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Togo and Zambia.

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