Mastercard has several plans in the works to target half a million people around the world who fall outside the realm of the formal financial sector, according to Carlos Menendez, president of Enterprise Partnerships at Mastercard. Its latest initiative is to partner with consumer goods giant Unilever and provide entrepreneurs in emerging markets with resources like digital payments capabilities. In an interview with PYMNTS.com’s Karen Webster, Menendez explored how Mastercard’s coinciding efforts to promote smart cities around the globe are part of the financial inclusion agenda.
SMEs Go Cashless
The Mastercard/Unilever partnership will begin in Kenya, where the companies will work with local entrepreneurs — with a particular focus on female business owners — to connect them to digital financial resources.
“What we feel these communities need is a better economic opportunity and to get rid of cash,” Menendez told Webster. “We’re starting in Kenya because there is particular interest in terms of women in the community getting better traction and control over their lives and what they’re selling.”
Linking them to digital payment technology is one way for them to not only strengthen their own companies, but expand that success outward. For instance, digital solutions heighten visibility into cash flow and, Menendez explained, inventory or product movement throughout the supply chain. A stronger business means stronger sales means stronger economies.
Reducing consumers and SMEs’ dependence on cash is one step in this direction. Just look at India, where demonetization may have emerged as an effort to curb fraud but is now propelling FinTech’s ability to reach new customers and promote the use of electronic payments. Working in Kenya will help small businesses similarly enter into a digital economy.
“Too many small merchants and micro entrepreneurs are stuck, like their customers, in a cash economy that doesn’t work for them,” said Mastercard President and CEO Ajay Banga in a statement announcing the collaboration with Unilever.
Starting with an entrepreneur in a developing market is just one aspect of promoting financial inclusion. Menendez told Webster that linking small and micro-businesses into a digital economy is also part of Mastercard’s smart cities effort. According to Menendez, buses are a critical component of a smart city.
“We focus not just on the established cities of the world when we talk about transit — not just the Londons and the New Yorks — but also what we do for the Mumbais and the Lagos,” he explained. Financial inclusion, he continued, is also about better transportation for citizens, so Mastercard has its eye on transportation and infrastructure.
“Within the smart city concept, and the idea of financial inclusion within the city itself and how people get along — and you can see this in developed countries — an economic footprint is limited by how long it takes you to get from one part of the city to another,” he explained. Consumers tend to shop within only a few miles of their home or place of work, Menendez added.
Transportation is critical to the financial health of a small business, too. If an entrepreneur is stuck within a cash economy, that small business owner will have to travel, often via bus, to some form of financial institution with loads of cash on their person. In some instances, individuals entrust the bus driver to carry that cash from one destination to another. This process raises loads of security issues, of course, and limits the time an entrepreneur has to focus on her actual business.
Bringing in these small business owners to the digital economy is one way to buck this trend. And smaller smart city efforts, like providing real-time updates on bus schedules to the individuals standing in line at a bus stop, can be a smart move, Menendez said.
“Smart cities are certainly a journey,” he added. “Any step in the right direction helps.”
He cited the now-famous quote of Gustavo Petro, former mayor of Bogota, Colombia, who stated, “A developed country is not a place where the poor have cars. It’s where the rich use public transportation.”
Digitizing public transportation and other infrastructure, Menendez explained, is critical to the well-being of consumers and small business owners — and to the economy as a whole.
COVID 19 Rebound: We are building Entrepreneurs and supporting financial Inclusion through Xpress Point Agents – Ecobank
Ecobank Nigeria has reiterated that its agency banking scheme, also known as Xpress Points, is building entrepreneurs and pushing financial inclusion to the large unbanked and under-banked population in Nigeria. The Ecobank Xpress Point enables eligible Agents to carry out financial transactions on behalf of Ecobank (www.Ecobank.com) and earn commission on every transaction processed. The consumer experience is very good as customers can do simple deposit, payment and transfers in their own neighbourhood rather than travel for hours to a bank branch. Ecobank Xpress Points is also a channel that can be used for the deployment of national social intervention programmes of the Government.
The aim of the Xpress Point is to let every Nigerian and household have access to Ecobank services within their neoghbourhood to provide easy banking services.
Speaking in Lagos, Nike Kolawole, Head, Agency Banking, Ecobank Nigeria, said unemployed and retired persons should avail themselves the opportunity to earn extra income by keying into services offered by the bank as Xpress point agents. According to her, the Ecobank Xpress point which are in various neighbourhoods across the country, are well positioned to facilitate basic financial transactions, with the process and services simplified to attend to a broad spectrum of the society.
She further disclosed that agency banking in general, brings about economic and youth empowerment by way of job creation and earning extra income, adding that small savers can easily do their savings at home or near their home. This leads to financial inclusion of the underbanked in the country.
For now, Ecobank has over 43,000 agents across Africa. The agents carry out financial transactions on behalf of Ecobank and earn commission per transaction processed. Xpress Points can also be used as a channel for the deployment of national social intervention programmes, especially at this time that we are fighting the impact of lockdowns due to the COVID-19.”
Kolawole listed the services offered by the Xpress point agents as; cash in, cash out, fund transfer, bills payment, airtime recharge, remittance and account opening, among others. She added that the services are available for “sole proprietors, partnerships, co-operative societies, microfinance banks, companies with large distribution network – like petrol stations, FMCGs, telecommunication companies, super agents, aggregators and unregistered businesses such as petty traders, hair saloon and others.”
Ecobank boasts of a bouquet of digital channels comprising solutions aimed at delivering convenient, accessible and reliable financial services. For instance, users of the bank’s USSD code, *326# carry out transactions without paying session charges. The USSD platform, *326#, makes it possible to open an Xpress account and Xpress Save account instantly. The bank’s mobile banking app, Ecobank Mobile offers the option of generating a virtual card; this comes in handy as customers are continually turning to web payments for their shopping and payments. The Ecobank virtual card offers the flexibility and convenience of creating a shopping card that is not linked to a customer’s account but is fully capable of carrying out online payments. The virtual card can also be shared with loved ones as a gift card for their own shopping.
UBA Foundation’s National Essay Competition 2019 to Reward Schools with Highest Entries
UBA Foundation, the corporate social responsibility arm of the United Bank for Africa (UBA) Plc, has commenced the 2019 edition of its annual National Essay Competition in Nigeria with a call for entries.
Now in its 9th year, the essay competition, targeted at senior secondary school students in Nigeria is organised annually, as part of UBA Foundation’s education initiative which is aimed at promoting the reading culture and encouraging healthy and intellectual competition amongst secondary school students in Nigeria and across Africa.
At the media launch which took place at UBA headquarters in Lagos, the call for entries was announced today. Speaking at the event, the Chief Executive Officer, UBA Foundation, Mrs. Bola Atta, said the essay competition, which is in its ninth edition, will provide an opportunity for students in secondary schools across the country to put in their entries and to win prizes in the form of educational grants to study in any university of their choice on the African continent.
Beginning from last year, the prize money increased significantly as the UBA Foundation emphasises that education remains one of the foundation’s key initiatives.
The first prize for the UBA National Essay Competition is a N2 million educational grant, while the second and third prizes are N1.5 million and N1m educational grants respectively.
Speaking to the students and participants at the event, Bola Atta said, “To us at the Foundation, this is our drive to improve the quality of education across the continent. It is also our way of giving back to the society. The competition is a key aspect of our investment drive in human capital, as we seek to improve knowledge base, allow students to express themselves and write creatively. We will continue to sustain the initiative because education is very important to UBA and we are more than committed to providing the necessary support for students in Nigeria and across the African continent,” she noted.
“We are driven by the mantra to do well and do good and we will not relent in our efforts to touch lives through our various projects, and initiatives,” Bola Atta told the excited students.
Explaining the modalities for the competition, she stated that entries received from students for the competition will be reviewed by a distinguished panel of judges made up of professors from reputable Nigerian Universities, who will then shortlist 12 best essays for further assessment.
Following this, a second round of the competition will involve the 12 finalists who will write a second supervised essay from which three best essays will be selected as the overall winners from the 12 finalists emerged from the first round of the competition.
Atta explained that the choice of essay for this year’s competition is one that helps promote creative and analytical thinking in students and helps them to be problem solvers. This year, the topic is “What do you think the government should do to control fraud in Nigeria?”
It is important to note that apart from Nigeria, the national essay competition has been taken to other African countries including Ghana and Senegal. More countries including Mozambique and Kenya will kick off the initiative this year. A unique component of this year’s edition is that, schools that turn in the highest number of entries will be recognised and rewarded a special prize by the Foundation.
Also speaking at the call to entries today, the Group Head, Direct Sales Agency, Ogechi Altraide, who spoke on the benefits of reading and writing essays, motivated the students to research into the topics and give it their best shot, adding that there is the need for them to focus on adapting themselves to happenings in their generation, and to have a growth mindset. This she explained, will ensure that they can apply themselves and conquer whatever challenges they are faced with.
According to her, reading and writing go hand in hand, and so it is important for students to keep abreast of how the economy can develop through reading and writing.
An English teacher from Holy Child College, Ikoyi, Mrs Ezechukwu Ngozi, gave the students tips on how to write good essays, and advised them to keep to the proper tenets of essay writing to come out tops in the competition.
As the CSR platform for the UBA Group, UBA Foundation embodies the Group’s CSR objectives and seeks to impact positively on societies through a number of laudable projects and initiatives.
Each year, the bank donates thousands of books to students in Nigeria and across Africa, under the ‘Read Africa’ initiative to encourage and promote the reading culture in secondary schools.
UBA Makes 20 more customers Millionaires, Doles Out N30m in 3rd Draw of UBA Wise Savers Promo
Pan African financial institution, United Bank for Africa (UBA) Plc, has again rewarded another 20 customers who have emerged winners in the third quarterly draw of the UBA Wise Savers Promo winning N1.5 million each, bringing the total amount won so far by 60 customers to N90 million.
The electronic raffle draw, which was held at the UBA Head Office in Lagos on Wednesday, July 31st, was witnessed by the relevant regulatory bodies including the National Lottery Regulatory Commission, Lagos State Lottery Board and Consumer Protection Council.
Lucky customers who emerged winners in the latest draw cut across all regions of the country. They are Yusuf Muhammed; Adebakin Anuoluwapo Elizabeth; Babatunde Temidayo Ruth; Christian Emetole; Nwabuife Ikeagu; Omoye Amiengheme; Ogechukwukanma Okoh; Akinyemi Abidemi Betty; Okoro Chukwuma and Chukwu, Patricia Nnenna.
Others are Adejoke Olarinoye; Fatoki Hassan; Nwokocha Ikechukwu Emmanuel; Owolanke kole Emmanuel; Ferreira Adesola Afolatomi; Emmanuel Omoigui; Uzoigwe Anthonia; Elesin Titilayo Oluwabunmi; James Suleiman Umar and Lawan David Nahinokan.
The ongoing promo, which commenced in September last year, is expected to run till September 30, 2019 and will see a final 20 customers from across Nigeria become millionaires, winning N30 million in the last quarter of this year.
At the end of the fourth promo, a total of N120 million will have been won by 80 customers.
Speaking during the event, UBA’s Group Head, Consumer & Retail Banking, Mr. Jude Anele, said that since the promo began late last year, the bank has been impressed at the level of response by its customers and the general public across the country, adding that the purpose of the campaign is to reward loyal customers while encouraging the savings culture.
He noted that there has been a remarkable increase in the number of participants in this edition compared to the previous one, adding that the bank’s objective of helping customers’ save for the rainy day is being achieved.
He said: “It is very easy to spend money but to save is a habit all must imbibe. Our key objective is to encourage our customers to save regularly. We are here to support our customers and to encourage them to save as well.”
Anele urged other customers to take advantage of the subsequent opportunities the last quarterly draw will offer.
The Group Head, Transaction and Electronic Banking, Sampson Aneke, who also spoke at the event said, “There is no better time to give back and delight customers than this challenging economic period where people need all the support they can get to make life more meaningful. With this in mind we decided to prioritise our customers as we always do at UBA by giving them plenty to cheer about and that is the reason why another 20 customers have been made millionaires today.
Aneke noted that the promo is consistent with the bank’s novel initiatives in prioritizing customers, and said it was necessitated by the invaluable belief the Bank has in its customers.
“We will continue to listen and give them nothing short of the best that they deserve. UBA will not relent, because we are impressed with the impact this has made so far and will continue to touch the lives of our loyal customers positively,” he explained.
The criteria for qualifying for the draw is to save at least N30,000 in a UBA savings account or in instalments of N10,000 each for a period of three months. Those yet to be UBA customers can open a savings account on any of the numerous bank channels, including Magic Banking (*919*20#) and LEO, or in any of the UBA branches across the country, and start saving to stand a chance of winning.
United Bank for Africa Plc is a leading pan-African financial services group, operating in 20 African countries, as well as the United Kingdom, the United States of America and with presence in France.
UBA was incorporated in Nigeria as a limited liability company after taking over the assets of the British and French Bank Limited who had been operating in Nigeria since 1949. The United Bank for Africa merged with Standard Trust Bank in 2005 and from a single country operation founded in 1949 in Nigeria – Africa’s largest economy – UBA has become one of the leading providers of banking and other financial services on the African continent. The Bank which was awarded the Best Digital Bank in Africa by the Euromoney awards in 2018, provides services to over 17 million customers globally, through one of the most diverse service channels in sub-Saharan Africa, with over 1,000 branches and customer touch points and robust online and mobile banking platforms.
The shares of UBA are publicly traded on the Nigerian Stock Exchange and the Bank has a well-diversified shareholder base, which includes foreign and local institutional investors, as well as individual shareholders.
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