VISA is strategically reinventing its multi-channel payment platforms to suit the present and next generation of card users. In this interview, EMEZINO AFIEGBE, Visa country manager, explains the strategic thinking behind this and its plans for the future of financial literacy among Nigerian youths. He speaks with KELECHI EWUZIE. Excerpt:
What is your assessment of the level of e-payment awareness among youths in Nigeria?
The level of awareness for e-payment in Nigeria is constantly growing. I will say it’s very promising with regard to first of all the nature of the youth, they desire digital and are impatient. They need solutions that are within their hands, and that’s the reason why we have come up with a lot of solutions around mobile for the youths. If you look at youths from the late teens into the early twenties, they all have mobile phones.
We have about a 159 million mobile phones in connections right now in the country so we have very good penetration and a chunk of these connections are the youths who have mobile phones and affordable internet networks so these youths are able to use the internet on their mobile phones and quickly adopt technology.
At Visa we are able to respond to that with solutions that can easily give the youths what they want conveniently, with speed and in a secure environment so that their transactions safe.
How does VISA handle issues around financial literacy?
So, we’ve been in this business since 1958, we’ve been in Africa since 1968 and one core value that our founder has instilled in Visa’s service offerings is that whatever technology you are aligning with should speak not just to the now but also the future. So we look at the under banked and unbanked who usually fall within the rural areas, look into what kind of technology is part of the lives of these people, what are the challenges they face that we as Visa based on our experience over the decades can adapt to and be able to provide the solutions that will get those people financially included.
Now it’s a good thing you mentioned financial literacy and financial inclusion. They’re intertwined. The objective is to include people financially. Globally we are educating millions of consumers on the benefits of switching to digital payment accounts and incentivising their use to access financial services.
What would you say is the response level among for the youths and where do you see the payment system in Nigeria going in the months and years ahead?
Well, we’ve done well when it comes to electronic payments. However, there is still a lot to do. We believe that, among other things, because of the level of penetration of Mobile today and also recognising that the future of payments remains digitals leveraging channels and form factors such as – ATMs, POS, Mobile and Virtual solutions.
The “ceiling” for innovation is boundless. Visa enables the future of commerce within our region, using innovations such as mVisa, Visa Checkout, Tokenisation and robust risk management solutions, thereby driving the scalable and safe evolution of payment methods, channels and products.
As the “new-age” customers increasingly leave “brick and mortar” outlets to shop online, it is important for customers and stakeholders to embrace the shift from cash to electronic payments.
Nigerian youths are active on social media at the moment. What is Visa’s strategy for educating them financially?
Visa believes the most important financial tool is knowledge. We created the ‘Practical Money Skills for Life’ programme to help consumers of all ages learn the essentials of personal finance, and how to manage their finances through all stages of life.
Visa’s financial literacy websites receive nearly 90 million page views in aggregate each year, and hundreds of thousands of free resources and materials have been distributed.
We also endeavour to have presence in the popular social media platforms and even in this part of the world we want to use those platforms to pass on messages that will enhance the ability of the youth and others to comfortably test out financial services. Also, as those sites are interactive, youths can ask questions and get timely responses.
Through all these multiple fronts and more, we are committed to enlightening people, using any available channels on our own as Visa, and also in conjunction with our financial institutions to educate and transfer knowledge.
Financial literacy is important to us because we know that where there is financial literacy, there will be empowerment, and if people are empowered the economy will grow.
In what ways is VISA planning to support the realization of the theme for 2017 financial literacy week?
At Visa, our driving theme is to be the best way to pay and be paid by everyone, everywhere. With that as the underlying theme for our strategy what we are interested in is ensuring we have the right partners, in order to be able to proffer solutions that will reach out to as many people as possible.
All over the world we have thousands of programmes which are designed to educate and at the same time on board people. So, as we’ve done it globally we also want to do that within Nigeria. With the few programmes we have implemented here, we want to show that we can work with the right organisations to reach more clusters of people within the unbanked and under-banked section of our society and from there replicate successes and on board more people within that space.
VISA recently collaborated with one of our partners to lay the groundwork for development of a solution that would enable some persons who were previously under banked. These are initiatives which we have started, and are currently enhancing for the future.
How, as an organisation, is VISA ensuring transactions in the e-commerce platforms are safe for card users?
We are achieving this with two approaches. On one hand, with our financial institution partners we ensure that they are adequately trained and equipped with information about how the products work and can be safely utilised so that they can enjoy the experience and know that they are protected, and so on.
On the other hand, beyond our traditional partners, we are working with government agencies. We recently had the card security week, and within the card security week, what we endeavoured to do was to inform the general public about the key things to watch out for when it comes to protecting your electronic payment transactions and also informing them about some of the solutions that are available that they should also as consumers, end-users ask their respective banks.
We have a number of solutions that are designed to protect a typical payment transaction. We always seek to avoid a situation of flogging a dead horse. At Visa we endeavour to be forward looking and proactive and this means we are constantly thinking of what you can do before the fraud occurs to prevent it from occurring in the first place. Hence, we have solutions such as VISA Advance Authorisation, Visa Risk Manager and Visa Strategy Manager.
For all transactions, include those performed ‘online’, we reference and rigorously analyse data. We recognise that a growing number of consumers, particularly the youth, are heavy participants within the eCommerce space and as such we have a solution there, popularly known as Verified by Visa.
Though Nigeria is a developing economy with lots of youths, the issue of financial literacy is still not well enumerated. How can this challenge be overcome?
Our approach is three pronged. The first word that comes to mind is “education”. Education and just passing on more enlightenment to the general public. Related to education is also culture change. The challenge in Africa is lack of traditional payments infrastructure; cards, point of sale terminals, even bank accounts.
Secondly, there is developing technology. Mobile phones are enabling us to reach these people and we have developed platforms to offer secure, interoperable solutions to banks and mobile networks. Lastly, there is the need to deepen partnerships with financial institutions, merchants, governments and other pertinent organisations. At Visa, our goal is to bring 500 million people globally into the financial system by 2020.
What is the statistics of new intake of your products and services between last year and today?
Leveraging our platform and the solutions we have, we set out to financially include about 20 million people by the year 2013. Interestingly, in 2012, we not only met that target but went beyond, doubling our goal – 40 million people were financially included. We have another goal we want to achieve by 2020.
We are partnering with various institutions that are aligned with the government’s vision so that we can provide solutions that make it faster to hit that goal to replicate our success in 2012. Looking at Visa globally, we have an excess of 3 billion visa cards and that number is going to grow as we include more people into the payments ecosystem.