‘Nigeria needs startups with stronger, deeper skill base for economic growth’

Salami Abolore


Salami Abolore is the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Riby with over 15 years of experience. Riby is a finance technology company that offers simple and smart finance management platform for various segments of the economy. In this email interview with ADEYEMI ADEPETUN, he spoke on the conference the firm is holding today. He stressed the need for startups to have deeper skill base for economic growth.

In a fast-growing financial technology industry, what makes Riby stand out from the crowd?
We are focused on working with a segment of the market that has been neglected for a long time but yet has immense potential. The Cooperative & Credit Union system around the world manages billions of Dollars (tens of Trillions of Naira) in asset, savings and loans for their members. We strongly believe developing this system will allow a lot more Nigerians and Africans achieve financial stability.Our aim remains to enhance our users’ ability to generate liveable income, support them in securing a lifetime savings system and help them in the future secure a home. We consider these three things as the foundation of Financial Stability.

The Nigerian terrain is regarded as a very tough one. Moreover, there are claims that start-ups hardly survive five years here, what measures are there for Riby on the long term?
We have taken considerable steps to ensure that we are a going concern for a long-term, specifically, around the diversification of our revenue sources. We serve retail customers, enterprise clients and we do quite a number of collaborations with the public sector and non-government organizations. Essentially, our sector (Technology & Finance) is very well funded, very relevant to the basic needs of Nigerians and we believe we will be too for a long time.

For tech start-ups, what is the major challenge in this part of the world?
Talent, adoption and funding are major challenges. Customers are still very analog wherein USSD (Short code and SMS) are our most vibrant/most adopted channels but they have limitations. Talent and Funding go hand in hand. We need a stronger and deeper skill base in Nigeria.

With many startups going abroad to seek for funds, do we still have viable venture capitalists in Nigeria?
Funding for any business remains critical; either from investment, revenue or others; essentially cash in bank is king for any business to run. There is a huge funding gap in the Nigerian Startup ecosystem. The most funded tech companies you see in Nigeria today are indeed funded from global sources. However, there are now more local funding sources, most seed stage (below $1m) but some later stage fund have also now begun to focus on this market, but this is still far from sufficient.

For us at Riby, we have been mostly funded by revenue, followed by our 2017 seed-fund (raised from Nigerian Investors) and most recently, we were one of the Growth Stage awardees of a $2 million fund by EFInA (Enhancing Financial Innovation and Access, supported by UKAID and Gates Foundation). This and our partnership with banks (especially Sterling Bank) is focused on scaling up our retail business as we now look to onboard more trade groups, communities, cooperatives and associations across Nigeria, with a lot of focus on driving financial inclusion.

What is the reason behind the conference of today?
Cooperatives are an important tool that Nigeria must put special focus us on if we are to reduce the levels of poverty in our country. As a company that deals with cooperatives and community-based banking, we decided that it was important that we brought together all the major stakeholders in the space and our partners (banks, telcos, DFIs, payment companies, the regulators) to sit down and deliberate on the various ways in which we could make this an even more important part of the society. Cooperatives have been used to solve housing and feeding problems in developed countries, and there’s no reason we can’t do the same here and even better.

How do you intend to harness the outcome of the event for the betterment of the industry?
With over 150 cooperative administrators as well executives and senior officials from the Bank of Industry, the Cooperative Financing Agency of Nigeria and Sterling Bank etal all present at the event, we have gathered key individuals who can push for positive policies and create a welcoming environment for cooperatives to flourish. When we return for the second edition of the Conference next year, we hope to have seen a positive increase in the productivity and governance of cooperatives as well as improved access to finance and markets for our users.

As a pioneer company in creating solutions for cooperatives and groups, how large do you expect that sector of Fintechs to grow?
Very large! We think the Cooperative Sector can be at least a third if not more of the entire deposit in the Financial System rivaling other banking systems like DMBs and MfBs but working in close collaboration with them as they do with themselves today.SACCOs in Kenya contribute 30 per cent of deposits in the banking system according to recent reports, as a close indication. So we have a lot to do in Nigeria.

What is next for Riby after the conference?
We will continue to make our way towards being a leader in the collaborative and inclusive banking space. With the feedback and ideas that we gather from the Conference, we will improve our products and services to make sure they are of the highest standard and cater to all the needs of our customers and partners. Riby will become a force for good and a champion for inclusive banking.

In this article:
Salami Abolore
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