By: Segun Lawal
First Bank of Nigeria Limited is out with a new service to make banking a continuallyrewarding experience for its customers. The bank has entered into as partnership with leading pay-as-you-go solar technology outfit, Azuri Technologies, in a unique partnership that will help deepen financial inclusion in Nigeria while making reliable and clean power to millions of Nigerians affordable.
Azuri’s solar home TV product will be co-branded under the partnership and co-marketed by FirstBank and Azuri. Pay-as-you-go customers will be able to pay for their solar via FirstBank’s Firstmonie agent network and mobile payment solution. Firstmonie agents are positioned within rural and semi-urban locations across the country and provide basic financial services such as account opening, cash deposit, cash withdrawals and bills payment More than 60 million of Nigeria’s roughly 200 million people do not have bank accounts and as little as 6% of people have a mobile money account. (World Bank figures 2018).
Speaking on the partnership, Azuri CEO Simon Bransfield-Garth and FirstBank CEO Adesola Adeduntan stated the partnership was a positive step in providing much needed energy and enabling access to financial services in rural, low-income areas.
“This partnership combines the reach of FirstBank with Azuri’s technology and pay-as-you-go solar expertise to bring next generation power to off-grid consumers in Nigeria” said Azuri CEO, Simon Bransfield-Garth.
“Azuri and FirstBank share the vision of a level playing field where all consumers have the ability to benefit from modern financial and digital services, regardless of where they live and this agreement is another step in making that vision a reality.”
According to FirstBank CEO, Adesola Adeduntan, “Financial inclusion is a priority with FirstBank and we are excited that with this partnership, our customers are able to access a wide range of services that address real problems such as access to power. With our over 16,000 Firstmonie Agents spread across the length and breadth of Nigeria, our customers are at an advantage in enjoying seamless financial services from the Bank that puts them first.”
From solar home lighting to solar satellite TV, Azuri systems are designed to deliver world class performance at an affordable price for all customers that experience irregular power supply. Customers make small weekly or monthly payments to unlock their system and power.
Pay-as-you-go solar is transforming lives by providing energy for lighting, phones and TVs while helping boost local economies with new employment opportunities and connecting off-grid households to financial and digital services that are helping improve productivity and increase income.
Google, UBA Collaborate to Provide Free Wi-Fi to Customers
Africa’s global bank, United Bank for Africa (UBA) Plc has collaborated with Google and ISP partner to launch Google Station in 11 key UBA branches in Lagos State as part of plans to roll out 200 stations in the country.
Google Station, a platform for providing free, high-speed Wi-Fi hotspots in public places, began in Lagos last year, and extended to Abuja in December in partnership with Backbone Connectivity Network.
This google-powered initiative would allow customers access to internet connectivity within the 11 branches and its environs, thereby facilitating their day-to-day businesses and activities, while ensuring unhindered connectivity.
The 11 branches where the hotspot will be located are: UBA Bank Road, 810-811 Bank Road, Daleko; UBA Matori, 21 Fatai Atere street; UBA Surulere, 152 Ogunlana Drive; UBA Allen, 13 Allen Avenue, Ikeja; UBA Tisco Plaza, Alausa; UBA Apapa, 11-13 Warehouse Road, Apapa; UBA Marina, 55 Marina, Lagos Island; UBA HQ, Broad Street, Marina; UBA Lekki Admiralty; UBA Oke Arin and UBA Aspamda Plaza, Trade Fair.
At the official launch which took place in UBA’s Head Office on Wednesday, UBA’s Executive Director/ Group Chief Executive Officer, Mr. Chuks Nweke, expressed UBA’s excitement over the collaboration, adding that the move will go a long way to present opportunities far beyond the imagination of both organisations.
He noted that the challenges of financial inclusion which the USSD platform has not been able to solve will be eased through the Google Station, as the financially excluded will now be able to access the internet and enjoy the services provided free of charge.
He said, “It is an interesting platform which will ultimately benefit everyone. It is a win-win for everyone. Customers will have ease of doing businesses, especially with the growing use of smart phones, and the 52 million Nigerians who have otherwise been financially excluded will now have access to data through this collaboration and can carry out their transactions with ease.
“Interestingly, SMEs, who previously had challenges with funding can now do other things which they couldn’t achieve before, such as accounting services and others. Also, UBA recently launched an educational app, and so, students will be able to use these Google Station platform to carry out their necessary research from the comfort of their homes, it is an awesome opportunity with benefits for everyone which we are presenting to our customers in line with our customer 1st philosophy.
Group Head, Marketing, UBA Plc, Dupe Olusola said in addition to the 11 locations, the organisations are looking to expand beyond the shores of Nigeria to other African countries where UBA operates. She added that by the collaboration, the initiative will help ease the burden off customers while also presenting them with opportunities to excel beyond boundaries.
Google Station is a simple set of tools to roll-out Wi-Fi hotspots, and aims to provide fast and reliable Wi-Fi in more places where more people spend time, such as bus stations, shopping malls, airports and public transit stations.
Specifically, the Wi-Fi service is available free of charge and partners leverage Google Station’s business model, which enables venues, system integrators, businesses and ISPs with access to fibre to setup, maintain and monetise their Wi-Fi networks.
Google Nigeria’s Country Director, Juliet Ehimuan-Chiazor noted that the institutions remained focused on providing internet services to users for free.
She said, “With the help of our partners, we are offering high-quality internet access in heavily-trafficked areas like airports, markets, malls and bus stations throughout the country, especially in areas where there were no internet connections before.
“Even with the amazing progress on expanding mobile internet, we are finding that public Wi-Fi remains a crucial step in getting free, high quality internet to everyone,” she explained.
Josh Woodward, Director, Product Management, who spoke generally on the benefits of the high-speed Wi-Fi hotspots in public places said the collaboration will aim to solve a basic need and allow customers access to connectivity to assist them in their day-to-day businesses and activities.
He said, “Deploying Google Station in collaboration with UBA and 21st Century is an important step to connecting the next billion users. As a result of the locations enables us to be up-and-running in no time. Even more, their WiFi signal ensures connectivity to Google Station hotspots so users can do a lot of things online and be constantly connected.”
FIRSTBANK PARTNERS AZURI TECHNOLOGY TO PROMOTE SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT IN NIGERIA
By Stellamarris Ashinze (NAN)
First Bank of Nigeria Limited, last Thursday signed a partnership with the Azuri Technologies to provide solar energy solution for the low-income areas.
The Deputy Managing Director of the Bank, Mr. Gbenga Shobo, said in Lagos that the partnership was aimed at proffering solutions to one of the major challenges facing the country today.
Shobo, represented by Tunde Owolabi, the Bank’s Group Executive, Retail Banking Group, Lagos & West, said that the focus is delivering power to millions of Nigerians; while at the same time enabling access to financial services in rural and low-income areas.
According to him, financial inclusion is a priority to FirstBank. “This is why we are excited about this partnership; because our customers will be able to access a wide range of services that address the real problem of access to power.
”This partnership with Azuri Technologies is one out of several of FirstBank’s partnerships. We have a track record of partnering with individuals and institutions to help meet the needs of our customers (children, women, youth, SMEs) and promote sustainable development in our host communities. Our partnerships cut across the Arts, Sports, Education, Health, among others; FirstBank has been at the forefront in ensuring ease of banking and convenience for its customers.
”Our Agent Banking Network (Firstmonie Agent) and digital banking offerings like Chat Banking on Whatsapp, FirstMobile app, Firstonline, and USSD banking, are some of the channels we have put in place to make this happen. We are therefore, very excited about the FirstBank-Azuri partnership and the positive boost it aims to bring to the nation’s economy through inclusive services.”
”Indeed, this is part of FirstBank’s 125 year-long passion for partnerships that are woven into the fabric of society,” he said.
Also, Mr Simon Bransfield-Garth, the Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Azuri Technologies, said that the company “is a leader in pay-as-you-go solar technology”.
Bransfield-Garth said: “Azuri brings affordable, modern consumer goods and services to the millions in sub-Saharan Africa without access to conventional power.
”Of the one billion people who lack access to electricity around the world, over 600 million live in sub-Saharan Africa. Pay-as-you-go solar power is connecting off-grid households to the modern digital world. From home lighting to satellite TV, Azuri-designed solutions deliver world class performance at an affordable price for customers who live away from mains power.”
”Azuri’s vision is to create a level playing field where all consumers can access and benefit from the digital economy, wherever they live” he concluded.
How Leo won a million hearts in 12 months
With ever-increasing customer expectations of quick service and near real-time transactional support, United Bank for Africa (UBA) committed resources to Artificial Intelligence (AI) a year ago, birthing Leo, a Banking Chatbot that helps customers carry out key banking transactions anywhere, using mobile devices and personal computers.
Leo can be accessed via Facebook or WhatsApp.
“Our customers are increasingly asking for mobile services that make their lives easier, and Leo is becoming a growing choice for his convenience and personal solutions,” says Austin Abolusoro, who heads Online Banking at UBA.
Leo combines the latest technology in AI; predictive analytics and natural language, to be a virtual financial assistant to customers, who can interact with it any way they choose, including texting or tapping options on their screen. Leo has proven to be an important financial assistant, helping users to search for transactions, view account history and balance, pay bills, as well as track spending trends. Leo is also developing interest in other aspects of users’ lives and currently helps them to check football scores and weather information. Leo will continue to learn and become more involved in the lives of users to better meet their needs and address their queries.
“As we continue to advance our work on AI-driven developments, it is important that we listen to our users today and further enhance Leo to align to client feedback in order to better meet and anticipate needs and even give them increased value as Leo clocks one,” Abolusoro adds.
This milestone reflects the bank’s continued focus on providing industry-leading digital capabilities as part of its high-tech, high-touch client experience.
Everything learnt over the last one year of Leo’s work will help UBA improve on its digital offerings, says Abolusoro, Head of online banking, who assured customers of “nothing short of the very best innovation in the coming months”.
Leo is set to become a financial control centre for its wide range of users, offering them accessible and intelligent ways to manage their money. It will also be recommending ways to save money and automatically switch to the best value products available to the user.
Leo who speaks multiple languages and is extremely user friendly, has become the preferred Banking Chatbot in Nigeria and the only available AI banking chatbot in 15 other countries across Africa, including Cameroon, Zambia, Cote D’Ivoire, Senegal, Congo DRC, Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda and UBA’s latest subsidiary, Mali.
In 12 short months since he was launched, Leo has won several awards, including the Euromoney Award which aptly validates his dominance in the digital banking space. Euromoney is a globally renowned organisation which appraises more than 20 global product categories, best-in-class awards and the best Banks in over 100 countries around the world, recognising institutions that have demonstrated leadership, innovation, and momentum in the markets in which they operate.
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