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‘Zigzag Nation takes care of poor, rich, every colour, does not discriminate’

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Giwa-Amu

The Chief Executive Officer of Zigzag Nation, Mr. Obafemi Giwa-Amu in this chat with GBENGA SALAU spoke of the philosophy that gave birth to Zigzag Nation, which is principally to empower Nigerians and take many out of poverty.

How did you come about the vision, Zigzag Nation?
We have 200 million people or thereabout in Nigeria. Unfortunately, however, only 40 million accounts are operating. Out of this figure, 18 million accounts are for corporate people, which means that the remaining 22 million belong to individuals. Again, some Nigerians have more than one account. Therefore, about 120 million Nigerians may have been excluded from the financial ecosystem.

They do not have access to bank accounts, let alone VISA card. So, if they want to buy something, they have to pay with cash, yet we preach cashless society. How do we achieve that? I am not blaming the banks, but if you go there, the banks ask for utility bill and if you do not have one, you cannot have a bank account. So, they are excluded. Mind you, there are many students for example from Kano, Owerri and other places, who do not have a Lagos address. They may even be squatting in the university. So, how do they get utility bill?

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Also, we unconsciously criminalise people. In the bid to meet bank requirements, Nigerians go all out to engage in all sorts of transactions in the financial industry. But a simple membership of Zigzag Nation takes you into a new world, a global digital platform. For instance, with a VISA card, you can buy anything from any part of the world, as soon as you have your SIM card. Based on your SIM card, you are issued an e-wallet, as your SIM card gives you the right authentication, since the National Identification Number (NIN) is on your SIM card, which has a special International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI) number. In the whole world, that is the only SIM card having that number. It also has your special Zigzag Nation telephone number. At certain times, we ask you questions based on these numbers. That is enough security to give you an e-wallet.

Once we give you an e-wallet, you are opened up into the world of finance, as you now have a card. You can pay for your DStv from the comfort of your home. I can be in Kano and pay for my DStv bill in Lagos. I can pay for my child’s JAMB form, as well as pay for his ticket to travel abroad. I do not need to come to Lagos and pay cash to the travel agent. So, the 120 million Nigerians are no longer excluded, as they are welcome into the world of freedom, a digital world where their voices can be heard all over. In December, we are setting up our market space’ so we are not just giving Nigerians empowerment to borrow money for their businesses.

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We are also setting up modules on Zigzag Nation’s website. The modules are being developed by people from Lagos Business School. It will be almost like an MBA. I have said they should break it down, from Pidgin English to local language. Why did I say that? Microsoft came up with a programme for farmers in Kenya, where they could interact and be taught what to plant in different places and how to water their crops to get the best produce. It failed, until somebody there translated it into the local language and, today, every farmer in Kenya has been able to produce what could be exported abroad. So, to access the MBA modules we are uploading on our website, every one will have to pay a fee, except for Zigzag Nation members. This is because of the intellectual property that has been put into the project.

One of the ideas guiding Zigzag Nation is to first of all teach people how to respect money and use it wisely. To do this, you have to cultivate the habit of saving. When the individual does not have saving culture, he/she remains in poverty. On the other hand, if you have learned to save, even if you make five naira daily, like the fish sellers, or you earn weekly wages like the caterer or monthly, you can always save some amount. I leave the website to provide more insight on this. The site also teaches how to set up businesses and fund those businesses to enhance yourself and come out of poverty. In three years, a man that has been saving N5, 000 monthly would have amassed N360, 000 and can borrow about N1m from the Zigzag Nation platform on a daily, weekly or monthly basis. The idea is to bring people out of poverty into wealth, as we are creating wealth for people.

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We are also going to teach you how to set up a business, after one year of staying with us. We would teach you how to fund your business. For instance, a barber who has been with us for a year and wants to set up his barbing salon, we could give him a million naira, because we have seen him struggle. At the end, the panadol we are going to apply to his pain is that we would teach him how to put out a private placement and we would breakdown his one million naira into 100 people contributing ten thousand naira each. Nobody can buy two blocks, why because we already have your sim card, we know who you are. You cannot use the sim card to buy two blocks. Why am I saying that, I do not want someone to take over his business later. Therefore, each person is entitled to put in ten thousand naira, and the barber has a million naira. And at the end of every month, he takes 25 per cent to give to all those who have contributed for the business. So, someone can sit at home to say he does not want to work again, but just look for 20 businesses where he can invest ten thousand naira each.

The money he is getting every month is his salary. Is that not wealth creation. It is exciting in the sense that it is organic, it grows. People were wondering why did we call it a nation, it is a nation because it takes care of everybody, poor, rich, every colouration, it does not discriminate. It is governed, there are principles governing it. Those principles make it a nation. Not that you are looking to set up a kingdom. We have started with Nigeria because charity begins at home, but eventually we are going to go to other African countries.

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What is the idea behind the market place?
A member with N3500 per month would have a virtual market place on Zigzag Nation. My mother can go on the platform to see and have a real chat to buy fish, negotiate with the seller after seeing the pictures or video of the fish and Zigzag Logistics will pick it up and send to her son, who may be in Shomolu, with no food for the day. The same thing happens to all those in Alade Market, so that whatever is it that they have, the local market will thrive. It has a world stage, Alade Market is only for Ikeja people that goes there. I go to my local Oniru market, but on this Zigzag platform, it is a world stage. It will be same when we get to other countries.

What background brought you into this?
I was the first person who set up vehicle tracking company in Nigeria. So, this is telemetric. It is a digital world. I have been in this since 2004 and we were the first to pay for digital map of the entire country until Google Map came up and we now had a hybrid of my map and that of Google. We tracks Abuja and Bayelsa Taxis. We are tracking for Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC), Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and I am sure you may recall the women who lost N30m in Abuja in a taxi. She went into a super market but her taxi driver drove off, and my company was able to track the man down, arrested him with N2m in his hands and when he was asked to provide the balance, he said he did not know where it is. Guess what happened, we did a history download, we tracked him to where the car was parked for about two hours, his house and when they went to him, the rest of the money was found. We were able to track people kidnapped in Akwa Ibom State during Akpabio administration. So, I have been in telemetrics all my life. And we have a history of law and order in my family.

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What edge is your platform providing in terms of digital security?
I do not know whether visa has been hit by cyber crime. I do not know which bank has been hit by cyber crime. You may find that individuals may be loosing money. Not because the bank was compromised, so I can say that our security is tighter than all the brands I have mentioned. However, one does not tell people that in my house I have three guards and dogs. If you do that, you have given the secret of your security and criminals can come into your house with ease as they will plan against you based on the information provided. Our security is tight enough with backups.

In the Police Force, they say there is no crime without an insider. So, if I am attack, may be my driver has my security code, but we have a three-way authentication. It is usually not the system that get compromised, but the individual. So, people have to take care of their security not to get compromised.

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