Why technology is crucial to inclusion, by Muga

Muga

Topyster Muga is the Senior Director, Financial Inclusion, sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), Visa. She spoke with ADEYEMI ADEPETUN, on the importance of technology to driving inclusion, connectivity in Nigeria and other SSA countries.

What is the importance of technology to driving inclusion?
Technology is crucial to development, especially when the need comes up to drive inclusion and connectivity. When you talk about financial inclusion, from the human perspective, it is really about bringing more people and businesses to having access to financial services.

So, if you look at the Visa brand, it is saying, “we want to be the best way to be paid to everyone, and everywhere”. We acknowledge the fact that we haven’t lived fully to the brand promise, we haven’t addressed everyone yet but we are putting effort to reach more people. Obviously, our default partner, traditionally are our clients, that is the banks. We are having 16, 000 banks around the world, 3.2 billion card holders, and 46 million merchants. Visa processed $10.2 trillion volume of transactions between September 2016 and September 2017. All these have been facilitated through payment technology.

Being a tech payment company, we connect consumer and businesses that want to make payment. Our financial inclusion perspective focuses on how we take these solutions to more people, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa and other emerging economies.

To get this done, we have adopted some measures. One of them is significant investment. We are investing in payment channels technology, people, and marketing with the focus of getting the services to people.

The second thing that we are doing from the financial inclusion stand point is that we continuously want to understand this segment, that is learning. These include people, who may not have, for example, bank account. We take the time to do research and listen to the people. We want to know their pain points and needs before we design products they would use.

We are also working with partners to get more people access to financial services, especially in the underserved and unreached areas. We also partner with other organisations that are quite keen on financial inclusion.

What is Visa doing about the increasing fraud cases in the financial sector?
From our business stand point, we take security extremely important. It is one critical thing we take into consideration when we are building our technology. We have put in place proactive measures to ensure that fraud doesn’t happen. We have taken huge risk to look at what are people doing. We work to ensure that our customers’ credit cards are not stolen. We are presenting what we call Visa talk and service. Using a token, you can hide the card number so even if you use your card number on Uber, you are not exposing it. Someone can’t steal from it. So, we constantly put in place technology that enables secured transactions. With the banks, we have given tools already as you know. Visa does not directly give the card, and we have given the bank tools to capture any suspicious activities. The banks too have up the process; they even ask for biometric capturing as they are all geared towards ensuring safe payment service.

Let’s look at technologies, how is Visa relating with AI, IOT, among others to drive businesses?
One example is Block chain. We invested in some of the block chain companies already and we are working with them. We want to know how we can embed this in each of the transactions we do, the traceability of where this transaction start from and where is it going. We have innovations centres around the world, one in Dubai, London, US. In this innovation centre, we work together with clients to solve specific problems.
For example, in Kenya, we are looking at the transport business to see how we can help make it seamless. Transport is one of the segments that have a lot of cash, especially the public service vehicles where people are paying cash, we come up with Visa. So we also do augmented reality. We make sure that people are able to get immersed into experiences to learn and continuously employ innovation centres.

Why is financial inclusion important to Visa?
Visa’s vision is to be the best way to be paid by anybody, everyone, and everywhere. As I mentioned earlier, Visa is in 200 countries with 3.2 billion card owners and that is very small compared to the opportunity out there. In Africa, Nigeria alone, there is a lot more we can do to have 200 million people, I mean everybody on the Visa technology platform. So what Visa is interested in doing in this space is to lead our brand promise, being there for everyone everywhere and we see this as many people think all financial inclusion as a charitable thing, we see it as a responsible way of operating in the market we operate.

I know Visa is working with the federal government, has it scaled down to the states?
Nothing at the moment, but discussion is on going on how we get beyond the national level. We are keen on decentralizing to other part of Nigeria. We are also in partnership with some banks to expand services across.

We also partnered with the local Fintechs. There are lots of financial technology startups here and we have been talking and engaging some of them. Nigeria is top priority market in Africa in offering these services because there is huge potential here.

Why did Visa sponsored the Nigeria financial summit?
For us, we are trying to understand what the Nigeria government aspirations are and how we can be of help. Being in the payment space, Visa, actually started business about 50 years ago and it was a way to make people make payment from their bank accounts with their cards.

The plan is to help government synergise their plans and move forward. You will recall that at the forum, the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, talked about leveraging technology to boost key sectors like the manufacturing, agriculture, there is always money exchange in any of this, for instance, when we talked about the rice farmers that needed to deliver their rice at the collection point, they pay for it and when this rice has been packaged for distribution, and it is moving across the value chain, there is payment across the board, so there is always an opportunity to do payment across and we quite keen on enabling the government in cash disbursement.

We have done some of these with some governments. For instance, the Egyptian government, we are doing something. We are in partnership with the Egyptian government and chamber of commerce, to enable them do more in government with our technology and we see the project progress, which is serving about 20 million people, so, that is one reason they are interested in working with us. And we have been able to see that financial servicing helps in stirring the economy productively.

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