Friday, 21st January 2022
Breaking News:

How MasterCard drives economic growth in W’Africa, by Adebanjo

By Dolapo Aina
06 July 2016   |   4:00 am
MasterCard really believes in Africa. We believe in the fact that there is tremendous progress that is ongoing in Africa and also that there is tremendous progress that can still be achieved in Africa.


Mrs. Omokehinde Adebanjo, is the Vice President and Area Business Head, West Africa respectively for advancing acceptance and issuance of MasterCard’s payment products in Nigeria and other English-speaking countries, West Africa region. She is an MBA graduate from the prestigious Lagos Business School; who had her undergraduate studies at the University of Ibadan, Nigeria. Previously, she was Head of Cards and Product Development, Guaranty Trust Bank (GTBank); Econet, now known as Airtel.Adebanjo drives MasterCard’s vision of a world beyond cash by introducing the benefits of a cashless society to Nigeria and the region, by focusing on building relationships with government, financial institutions and merchants. She spoke with
DOLAPO AINA at the sidelines of the World Economic Forum on Africa in Rwanda 2016.

What is MasterCard’s interest in West Africa?
MasterCard really believes in Africa. We believe in the fact that there is tremendous progress that is ongoing in Africa and also that there is tremendous progress that can still be achieved in Africa. To understand why we believe this; I need to tell you about what we do. MasterCard is a technology company and not a credit card company. We are into payment technology and we are very focused on financial inclusion because all we are geared towards is to see a world beyond cash.

All our efforts are aimed at digitising and electronifying transaction, such that, today, the commerce that is happening with cash, we can support with technology best practices to move those transactions to cashless transactions. So, if we look at sub- Saharan Africa, where I fall into, we would largely say that cashless transactions are less than three percent and that cash transactions are ninety seven percent. It is certainly true about Nigeria.

So, a company that is interested in moving from cash to cashless; that sees a society where it is mostly cash, generally we would be able to thrive in that economy. What we are saying is that we have tremendous work to do in Nigeria and West Africa and sub-Saharan Africa. The main goal is to move from cash to cashless. Not only because we feel like doing that but because we have seen from different studies revealing that when you move transactions from cash to cashless; electronic transactions are better for everyone from the user, the citizen, the West African and the government and the banking system. The quality of life improves when you move from cash to cashless.

To put it into context, let me use Nigeria. I always say that this is the best time to achieve our objectives. The reason for saying this is that, in the countries where I work and I would use Nigeria as an example, everyone seems to be working in the same direction, around the same time, for totally different reasons. Bu we all seem to be going along the same direction. We have a government that is focused on cashless Nigeria, not because of us, but because the Central Bank of Nigeria for the past decade has been looking into the costs of cash and has been making decisions on the cost of cash and has realised it is expensive to run a cash-based economy and it is not optimal for fiscal and monetary policies; therefore we want to go the cashless way. And they are putting everything in place to ensure that the country and systems are ready to go cashless (that is from the government’s perspective.) Then, you have players like MasterCard, who want everyone to go cashless and we are putting technology and our brand with the support and fifty year old company experience; into ensuring that it is going in the right direction.

We have a Nigerian citizen who has come to understand that cashless means convenience. And it was not easy to get here. A lot of work has been done by Central Bank of Nigeria and other Nigerian banks and other partners. I think the story in Nigeria, is more than the banks now; there is a lot of awareness about cashless and because people have actually seen the convenience, Nigerians are willing to adopt.

Invariably, it is a story of a populace that is willing to go in the same direction. Also, the financial institutions are going in this direction for a totally different reason. They are thinking of better customer service (reducing the time customers spend at their banks, at banking halls, thinking of optimising their efficiency via technology, deploying means of servicing their customers; giving them access to their accounts and funds without necessarily having to come to the bank branch. For four totally different reasons, everyone seems to be working in the same direction. So, there is a lot of synergy and energy, which is generated by people having alignment for totally different reasons. Even though, MasterCard has been doing business much longer in Nigeria, we opened our office in 2010. One of our goals has been supporting the Central Bank of Nigeria in achieving what her goals are, to align with our goals and certainly working so that, we can raise the profile of cashless in Nigeria. Also, we can put substance to that by making sure that everything we have including technology supports that. For the past five to six years, that is what we have been doing.

However, recently, we have had a focus on women, specifically women empowerment via financial inclusion. And there is a reason for this, which is that; from the studies we have seen, when a woman is empowered, there is a larger impact on the economy via her empowerment. During the plenary session at World Economic Forum on Africa in Rwanda; Graca Machel kept on saying, “leave no one behind.” Generally, amongst population in the world, it is almost an even split between men and women. If a lot of economic empowerment is happening on the male side and what you can see is that generally, women are less financially empowered than the men in some countries. In some societies, even if they are working, their revenues go to their husbands. While in some societies, they are not empowered enough to deliver their full economic potential. It seems as if almost half of the world (if we take the assumption that women are half of the world) is not as empowered as the other half of the world. If we want to increase our economic output, it is important we focus on women.

In Nigeria, MasterCard has different projects we are working on, not only on cashless as a whole but now, focused on empowerment of women to ensure that they are given what is within reach. And by empowerment (it is not necessarily giving these women money, which is not what we are about). It is making them business ready, working with partners to give them the skills that they need to manage their businesses better. A lot of them are already entrepreneurial but on a very small scale. And with certain skills which MasterCard partners like Youth for Technology Foundation can bring in, to train them about financial management and financial tools and with this, we can make them more empowered to take their space in the economy and definitely, raise the economy of the country.

How is MasterCard achieving this, since money is not been dolled out?
One area we have identified via our interactions with partners (Youth For Technology, MercyCorps and UN Women). Through our interactions with these three different partners working in Nigeria, one thing that was brought to the fore that was similar amongst the three partners was the need for identification for women. Because of their interaction, they were able to tell us tangibly, that a lot of these women are not part of the formal financial services sector because they do not have identification. MercyCorps did a research for adolescent females in Northern Nigeria and they discovered that thirty percent of these women did not have any form of identification (not even a birth certificate).

Now, I know that in Nigeria, the Central Bank of Nigeria has instituted a three-tier KYC (Know Your Customer) approach, where you can open an account with an identification card (all you need is your phone number and your name.) This is a welcome development as it is steps ahead of a lot of countries around the world. They have commenced a three-tier KYC programme; in the most flexible tier; you can open an account with your phone number and name. But you are restricted in the volumes you can do until you bring a formal means of identification and then you can conduct more business with your account. But at least you can enter into the formal financial services. You can open an account with your phone number and your name in Nigeria; which is a good thing.

Having said that, it is important to note that you need a formal form of identification to move to the next tier where you are able to do more business. So, identification is still very important (using the Nigerian example). Working with the partners mentioned earlier on, we decided to work with another partner that was working on identification. In 2013, MasterCard had signed an MOU with a parastatal of the Nigerian government (Nigerian Identity Management Commission.) We did that because even though they were focused on identity management; in 2009, had decided to set up a framework where identity management was their core. But they were going to give our smart cards to every Nigerian who was sixteen years and above but they did not want it to be only about identity because the power of the chip cards they were given out is the smart card.

The power on the chip card was so much that they could do a lot more than just identity. In the scheme, the card was designed by NIMC to be a card that could do many things with thirteen applications on the card. And one of the applications was a payment application. NIMC had been in search of a partner till Master Card met with them and we saw another alignment.

We were in a situation where we wanted Nigerians to be financially included and here was a government entity that was looking for identification but was going to get National Identification (but part of the package was a financial payment applet on their cards. From MasterCard’s perspective; almost hundred million Nigerians would get a payment applet on their card. We knew that we had an opportunity to start with them and get some to be MasterCard.

Eventually, a lot more people would join the scheme and hundred million Nigerians would have a payment card in their wallets, which is a very strong case for financial inclusion. At least, let the payment wallet go to them and then, we can look for ways to get them to use it; which was why we commenced the partnership with NIMC in 2013 and it is an on-going partnership.

Our partnerships are looking for identity for women. We have another partner that has identity as its core and is looking to enrol Nigerians. We posited that let MasterCard be the middleman and do what we do in a lot of countries. We see our role like a market-organised approach; where you work with different partners but stimulate synergy between the different partners. We reached out to the NIMC (with regards MercyCorps and UN Women) and proposed bringing in partners working in the same direction since our programmes with the people is not only about registration and giving them the cards. It is also about empowerment by training. One of our partners; Youth for Technology Foundation; has been going to different parts of the country; taking women entrepreneurs and teaching them about financial management and entrepreneurship. And giving them basic skills and tools that they need to run a business successfully. And merging that with teaching them to use electronic payment tools; ensuring that they are registered and that they have a form of identification.

Invariably, this avails the women the opportunity to step up into the potential that they really are; which is not fully realised. There is a video which MasterCard and Youth for Technology Foundation (YTF) released together and having watched the video (the woman in the video was trained by YTF in Owerri); it highlighted a lot of things that a Nigerian and African woman aspire to. It spoke about her dreams and aspirations, how she wants to a better person because she wants her daughters to see her succeed and for the daughters to also succeed. But more importantly, her training and interaction with YTF has enabled her to become an employer of labour. She came to Owerri with nothing but has about 33 employees in her beauty saloon. That is one Nigerian woman that has become an employer of labour.

This is a catalyst for other women because if she can empower 33 women and the thirty three women each empower thirty three women, it is a strong force. These are women that are able to use business tools and are from the onset going cashless. In the video, the message she delivered was stronger than what any advert would conjure up.