Imagine for a second that today is a day in 1980.
If you were to pay for a service, you will need to carry cash with you for that transaction. Fast forward to today, you can simply pay with cards, bank transfers, USSD, airtime billing, wallets, and even crypto-currency.
All this happened thanks to innovative payment companies and other financial technology platforms. The impacts of these platforms have reshaped how several other businesses now deliver their services. Take, for example, eCommerce is riding on the fact that people can pay for the goods and services they purchase online. Other sectors like education, wealth management, insurance, etc are leapfrogging with fintech.
All these innovations have made life easy for consumers. But who are the people that made these things happen?
The faces behind the fintech innovations in Nigeria
That’s my goal.
In this article, I explored three major developments in the Nigeria fintech space. You will discover the major fintech institutions and the people behind them.
Ready to meet them?
Ayo Arise: the man that turned a plastic card into cash.
The debit card (popularly called ATM card) is one of the first “digital” channels used for transactions in Nigeria. It was introduced by Ayo Arise, CEO of Cards Technology Ltd (CTL) in 2000. This ATM technology changed the landscape of payments in Nigeria.
Before 2000, most Nigerian banks had just a few branches and bank customers could only withdraw from the bank’s branch where the account was domiciled.
This would mean that as a bank customer, you would need to visit the branch where the account was opened before you can withdraw your money or make any request.
Ayo revolutionized this. His company partnered with Mastercard and Visa with the aim of promoting a cashless society. For his innovation, he was recognized by the Central bank of Nigeria as a value-added service provider to promote electronic commerce in Nigeria.
Mitchel Elegbe: the man that “switched on” online payment
The name of Mitchel Elegbe is synonymous with electronic payment switch in Nigeria.
As the story goes, he had an encounter with an ATM in Scotland where the machine seized his card. It was then he conceived the idea of developing an infrastructure that would enable the electronic circulation of money. On his return to Nigeria, he established the company, which later evolved to be the first payment switching company in Nigeria. Today, InterSwitch has reached unicorn status after hitting a valuation of $1 billion, following an investment from Visa.
Mitchel has won several awards including the CNBC/Forbes All African Business Leader (AABLA) for West Africa and Ernst and Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award among others. He is also an alumnus of the IESE/Wharton/CEIBS Global CEO Programme.
Ojikutu Adeleke & co: The men that made online payment accessible for all.
History has it that Leke Ojikutu deferred NYSC for 4 years so he could pursue his entrepreneurial dreams. One of the ventures he went on to build is VoguePay – an online payment engine that offered SMEs the opportunity to accept payment online. He was joined by two other co-founders living in London who were frustrated by the lack of credible online payment options that could make it easy for them to send money for purchases made from Africa.
Together, these four co-founders, Leke Ojikutu, Michael Femi Simeon, Geoffrey Weli-Wosu and Quam Ojikutu – launched a payment gateway for the local market in Nigeria.
Before VoguePay, payment API costs $1000, an amount most SMEs in Nigeria could not afford. By making payment API free for the first time in Nigeria, Leke made online payment accessible for all. This changed the payment landscape in Nigeria as local businesses now have access to the international market using free plugins provided by VoguePay.
Today, what Voguepay pioneered has become an industry standard.
What’s the next innovation in fintech innovation?
All these growth is made possible by building on the works previously done by the innovators highlighted above. And as the fintech space expands, new leaders are also emerging; some notable ones include, FarmCrowdy, PiggyVest and loan platforms like Paylater (now, Carbon).
This informs the reason for VoguePay’s new latest product – VoguePay Digital – a borderless banking app that caters to the personal and business needs of users.
By working in partnership with banks, VoguePay Digital will enable traditional financial services institutions to introduce new products quickly—and spend less on IT maintenance. And most importantly, this means more choices, better products, and lower prices for consumers.