Y’ello Digital Financial Services (YDFS), a subsidiary of MTN Nigeria, has announced its partnership with gaming operators, Betway, BetPawa and Betmojo through its flagship mobile money transfer service, MoMo agent.
The strategic partnership will enable customers to cash their winnings and fund wallets conveniently at any MoMo agent outlet nationwide.
Chief Executive Officer, YDFS, Usoro Usoro,said the “partnerships are the fuel for progress within our communities. So, we are constantly exploring innovative relationships to help deliver cost-effective, fast, transparent, and reliable remittance services.
“Our customers deserve simple solutions making it easier for them to access financial services, no matter where they are. Our partnership with gaming operators helps deliver that,” Usoro added.
Speaking on the partnership, Lere Awokoya, Betway’s country manager said, “We are proud of our collaboration with MoMo. Our customers now have easier access to their Betway wallet guaranteed. Customers can also deposit and cash-out wins with their neighbourhood MoMo Agent.”
“We are committed to improving our customer’s experiences through a more personable, digital and sustainable approach. This partnership provides that. We look forward to a successful working arrangement that continually keeps the customer in focus,” added Segun Somefun, CEO, Betpawa
Betmojo customers can also take advantage of the partnership through the ‘Pick 3’ game on the platform to cash out on their winnings with MoMo. With an agent base of over 300,000 across the country, MoMo Agent forms a major part of the Central Bank of Nigeria’s financial inclusion drive to ensure that 95 per cent of adults are financially included by 2024.
The partnership allows customers to utilise MoMo’s widespread presence and reliable service to access funds. MoMo Agent services include bill payment, cash deposit and withdrawal, data and airtime purchase, and a bulk disbursement solution which enables public and private companies to make payment to beneficiaries anywhere in Nigeria without a bank account or ATM availability.
Amazon Will Discover e-Commerce in Africa Not a Tea Party
By Tarila Ben-White, Ph.D.
Feelers indicate that Amazon may now be ready to explore what the continent has to offer on the e-commerce front but the nous and experience of indigenous giants such as Konga will come in handy if it is not to stumble heavily in Africa’s biggest market
It is no longer news that global e-commerce giant, Amazon is all but set to extend its tentacles to Africa. Earlier this month, a South African court ordered a halt on the construction of Amazon’s new African headquarters, a massive 70,000 square metres (17.3 acres) structure. The ruling came after some descendants of the country’s earliest inhabitants said the land it would be built on was sacred.
As reported by Reuters, the Western Cape division of the High Court interdicted the project developer from continuing with works at the Cape Town site until there had been meaningful engagement and consultation with affected indigenous peoples. Among these are the Khoi and the San, two of the earliest inhabitants of South Africa, some of whose descendants had objected to the River Club development, arguing that it lies at the confluence of two rivers considered sacred, the Black and Liesbeek Rivers.
It is important to state, at this juncture, that Amazon has retained a presence in Africa for years. The e-commerce giant has several employees on its payroll working in data hubs located across Cape Town. Notably, the origin of Amazon’s current expansion into Africa began in 2004 when it set up a development centre in Cape Town. Incidentally, that centre eventually went on to build Amazon’s first cloud platform, known as the Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud which heralded its hugely successful cloud computing arm – Amazon Web Services (AWS). Today, AWS is responsible for the lion share of Amazon’s global operating income.
The firm’s adventure in Africa is thus intrinsically tied to its long-standing relationship with the South African city of Cape Town, the oldest and second largest city in that country after Johannesburg. As reported by fDi Intelligence, Amazon, in 2000, had gone ahead with plans to hire 3000 customer support staff in Cape Town. In addition, AWS, its cloud business, had plumped for Cape Town to host its first cloud region in Africa. Furthermore, nine of Amazon’s 19 projects in Africa are located in Cape Town, with five others in Johannesburg. The rest are split between Kenya, Morocco and Egypt.
The foregoing shows Amazon has established its cloud business in parts of the continent. But is it now ready to join the e-commerce race in Africa?
Although still a growing industry, the e-commerce space in Africa has begun to capture the attention and imagination of international investors. Research from Statista indicates that revenue generated via e-commerce in Africa was estimated to be around 27.97 billion U.S dollars in 2020, representing an increase of over $6bn since 2019. Correspondingly, e-commerce revenue in Africa is expected to keep up an upward curve, with estimates projecting the entire e-commerce sector in Africa to reach a value of over $46.1 billion by 2025.
Historically, Amazon is reputed to consider significant expansion into a region only when it becomes commercially viable for its line of business. But despite the fact that the promise of Africa still lies within the realms of potential rather than actuality, e-commerce watchers and analysts are of the view that a budding $46bn market in the next three years or thereabouts is more than enough justification for Amazon to throw its hat into the e-commerce ring.
Stanley Ugboaja, a Ph.D. student and e-commerce enthusiast, captures the prevailing mindset succinctly.
‘‘Africa’s population dynamics naturally makes it a frontier for e-commerce to explode in the next few years. The continent is home to the world’s youngest and second largest population. Digital literacy and numeracy is also on the rise here, same as internet penetration. Many young Africans are gaining useful exposure, either from flocking abroad for further studies or even from working remotely here for foreign firms or multinationals. When you throw in the rise in the number of fintech platforms further expanding the net of the unbanked and under-banked on the continent, you can see that the trends all tilt towards favourable conditions for e-commerce or online shopping to grow.’’
So far, on the e-commerce front, Amazon is only present in a solitary African country. That country is Egypt where Souq, an Amazon subsidiary acquired in 2017 for $580m, operates. Souq, initially founded in Dubai, UAE in 2005, was the largest e-commerce platform in the Arab world. With the acquisition by Amazon, the Egyptian site turned into Amazon.eg on September 1, 2021, officially marking the end of Souq.com.
But if, as anticipated, Amazon’s African adventure will now accommodate playing in the continent’s major e-commerce markets, Nigeria will be uppermost in its reckoning.
In addition to being Africa’s most populous nation, Nigeria remains the leading African economy in terms of nominal GDP in 2021, making up 18.4 per cent of the continent’s $2.7 trillion economy. According to the International Centre for Investigative Reporting (ICIR), Nigeria’s GDP, which measures how much a country produces in financial terms within a year, grew by 11.89 per cent from 2020 to 2021. Likewise, data from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) revealed that Nigeria’s GDP went from $429.423 billion in 2020 to $480.482 billion in 2021, making the country the highest contributor to Africa’s economic output/ GDP and the 29th in the world.
However, cutting it in Nigeria, Africa’s biggest market, will test the might and resilience of Amazon.
Currently dominated by Konga and Jumia, the Nigerian e-commerce market is a challenging ecosystem that has signaled the death knell of many promising players. Although Amazon – especially considering its roaring success in other advanced markets – cannot be placed in the same bracket as some of the startups that have quietly exited the market after finding the Nigerian e-commerce space a mountain too hard to climb, it is fitting to call to mind the instructive words of a globally renowned tech leader and Africa Chair for IEEE World Internet of Things (WIoT), Chris Uwaje.
Uwaje, who is widely hailed as the Oracle of the Nigerian IT Industry, had pinpointed the challenge in cracking the Nigerian e-commerce market as one that lies heavily in the approach or business strategy adopted by most players, many of whom fail to situate foreign business models, ideas and strategies within the culture of the people and Nigeria’s existential realities.
“Nigeria remains a fertile business environment, especially for online-focused ventures such as e-commerce companies. It is also a country with peculiar challenges and a very strong traditional approach to retail which requires a deep sense of local know-how and understanding by players. This is one of the biggest hurdles faced by e-commerce start-ups here. Many e-commerce ventures run with foreign concepts and strategies more suited to foreign climes, making it harder for them to survive the difficult terrain that is the Nigerian business space.”
But beyond the foregoing, the challenge of making a success out of e-commerce in Nigeria is one that is fraught with huge infrastructural and institutional bottlenecks.
The combination of a frustratingly underdeveloped public transport infrastructure network, absence of a proper addressing system across cities, the still-largely traditional shopping predilection of the average Nigerian and the mega-hurdle of logistics, among others, are not issues that having deep pockets alone or a popular name will solve. During the height of the COVID-19 enforced lockdown, the activities of overzealous state actors saw delivery vans conveying essential items to Nigerians delayed needlessly for days on end, or even sent back in some cases – a debacle which almost eroded the gains that accrued from the increased dependence by many Nigerians on e-commerce for safe, contactless shipping during the pandemic and which epitomised the sheer scale of some of the institutional obstacles e-commerce companies may encounter in Nigeria.
Konga, acquired by the Zinox Group from erstwhile majority owners, Naspers and AB Kinnevik, and which has become the first e-commerce company to hit profitability on the continent, may represent a fitting playbook for Amazon to study.
Considering its technology-driven status (a factor that would resonate with Amazon); a revolutionary composite fusion of online and offline which it pioneered and subsequently adopted by other players (including Amazon); the way and manner it has resolved the thorny obstacle of logistics; its massive physical assets strategically located across Nigeria (warehousing, delivery, nationwide physical stores/pick-up locations); penchant for customer service and the confidence it enjoys in the minds of shoppers, among others, Konga stands apart. However, it is in the magic of how it found a way to break the cycle of unprofitability which continues to dog other e-commerce players in Nigeria and Africa – transitioning from a business that once posted monthly losses of over N400m to emerging the first profitable African e-commerce venture – that Amazon would most admire Konga.
Most importantly, under its new owners, the current management of Konga boasts that keen understanding of successfully navigating the difficult terrain that Africa’s biggest market represents. It is a strength which has come to weigh heavily in its advantage, making the Konga template arguably the one to beat. Backed by entrepreneurs with over three decades of consistent success in the Sub-Saharan African technology space, Konga has not only thrived where others have failed or are struggling, but the business is now set, as feelers indicate, for a run across other African markets and a much-anticipated listing on major global exchanges, with a glut of external investors waiting.
Succeeding in the continent’s biggest market, even for a big name like Amazon, may mean seriously considering a partnership with Konga or at least, borrowing a leaf from its strategies.
Amazon would also have to decide if some of the unethical practices it has been accused of would unearth more dire consequences if they were exported to Africa. The e-commerce giant was recently accused of anti-competitive behavior by preventing third-party sellers from offering lower prices for their products on other platforms, including their own websites. The foregoing formed the crux of an antitrust lawsuit filed against Amazon by District of Columbia Attorney General Karl Racine, which was thrown out in court last Friday, according to a report by The New York Times. However, the suit was thrown out partly because Amazon faces a nearly identical lawsuit, in this case, a class action complaint that claims the company pressures sellers into selling products for an equal or lower price than what they offer elsewhere.
Also staring it in the face are allegations of tax avoidance which may land the e-commerce behemoth in hot waters here in Nigeria and elsewhere in Africa. Research reveals that Amazon’s tax behaviours have been investigated in China, Germany, Poland, South Korea, France, Japan, Ireland, Singapore, Luxembourg, Italy, Spain, United Kingdom, multiple states in the United States, and Portugal. According to a report released by Fair Tax Mark in 2019, Amazon is the best actor of tax avoidance, having paid a 12% effective tax rate between 2010-2018, in contrast with 35% corporate tax rate in the US during the same period. Amazon countered that it had an 24% effective tax rate during the same period.
Africa’s budding e-commerce lustre may represent an allure too difficult for Amazon to ignore. Nevertheless, it would discover that this ecosystem will tax its wits, determination, and sheer ability to adapt to their very limits.
But in Konga, Amazon can learn from a proven success story.
Tarila Ben-White (Ph.D.), an e-commerce researcher, writes from Bayelsa
CPN, Others Flay Proposed NITDA Bill 2021
The Computer Professionals (Registration Council of Nigeria) (CPN) has condemned the proposed National Information Technology Development Agency, NITDA Bill 2021 in its entirety.
CPN delegates, led by the president and chairman of Council, Mr. Kole Jagun were at the stakeholders’ engagement, recently organized by the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) to consider the proposed NITDA Bill 2021 which, among other things, aimed at changing NITDA from an IT development agency, to a regulator of the information technology industry ecosystem.
A statement signed by Mohammed Bello Aliyu, registrar of CPN stated that “it was obvious from the comments, suggestions and opinions expressed by all other stakeholders, at the meeting which held in Abuja on Friday 18th February, 2022 that the NITDA Bill 2021 arrogates powers of several other regulatory agencies to NITDA, which is an infringement on the statutory powers of other agencies of government like CPN, National Communications Commission (NCC), Galaxy backbone, Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA), the National Universities Commission (NUC), etc.
“Stakeholders who attended the meeting were unanimous in their opinions that several sections in the proposed NITDA Bill is an usurpation of the statutory powers of other Agencies of government that had been in existence before NITDA, and who have been performing their statutory roles.”
He said , for instance, Section 6, 13, 20, 21, and 22, which talked about NITDA’s power, licensing and authorizations, and offences and penalties, among others, raised some pertinent issues.
Section 6 arrogated new powers to NITDA, which included the ability to fix licensing and authorization charges, collect fees and penalties and issue contravention notices and non-compliance with the Act.
“All the agencies present during the stakeholders’ engagement were unanimous in their opinion that all the offending sections of the proposed NITDA Bill, giving NITDA powers to perform other Agencies’ functions should be expunged.
Aliyu stated that “CPN strongly believe that NITDA should stick to its role as an IT development agency and stop seeking Regulatory roles since there is so much that is yet to be done under Information technology development in the country.”
We Have Strategic Plan to Address Infrastructure Deficit in the Telecom Sector– Danbatta
Says, all 774 LGAs in Nigeria will enjoy broadband
There is a holistic, strategic plan being conscientiously implemented to address the infrastructure deficit in the telecommunications sector with the objective to bridge the digital divide which had undermined Nigeria’s march to a robust digital economy.
Professor Umar Danbatta, the Executive Vice Chairman and Chief Executive Officer (EVC/CEO) of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), has asserted, and emphasised that telecoms infrastructure deployment across rural communities in Nigeria is at the heart of every effort of Government towards ensuring the socio-economic development of Nigeria.
Danbatta made these declarations at the International Conference Centre Abuja, while delivering a keynote presentation at the 2021 national conference, exhibition, and annual general meeting of the Nigerian Society of Engineers which started two days ago.
At the conference, with the overarching theme “EXPANSION OF THE ENERGY MIX FOR NATIONAL ECONOMIC GROWTH”, Danbatta spoke focusing on a sub-theme, “Strategic Collaboration between the Town and Gown for Effective Rural Development”, at the 6th Roundtable Symposium of the Nigerian Society of Engineers’ College of Fellows.
The NCC CEO said that the vision of the Federal Government as enunciated in the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP), National Digital Economy Policy and Strategy (2020-2030) and the National Broadband Plan (2020-2025) is being vigorously implemented. Explaining the connection between these policies and NCC’s operations, Danbatta stated that the NCC’s Strategic Management Plan (SMP) 2020-2024, streamlined in the Commission’s Strategic Vision Plan (2021-2025) to enhance operational and regulatory efficiency, is aligned with the Federal Government’s vision for an all-inclusive digital economy.
Accordingly, to improve Nigeria’s broadband infrastructure, Danbatta reiterated that NCC has divided Nigeria into seven (7) Zones, consisting of the existing 6 constitutional geopolitical divisions, and Lagos constituting the seventh, considering the importance of Lagos as a strategic commercial and technological hub within the structure of the Nigeria’s telecom ecosystem.
“The NCC has proceeded to licence companies for each of the seven zones, to deploy broadband infrastructure that will ensure speed of up to 25 megabits per second in the rural areas. Each of the 774 Local Government Areas of Nigeria will have an initial access point of at least 10 megabits per second.”
To demonstrate NCC’s readiness to race at the same tempo with the Federal Government as articulated in the policy documents, Danbatta stated that the licensed companies, otherwise known as Infrastructure Companies (Infracos), have been directed to move to site to cascade broadband infrastructure to the hinterland.
The EVC affirmed that there is timeframe for the implementation of these projects, including the building of specialised technology centres in the rural areas to enable stakeholders to harness huge benefits of ICT.
The NCC CEO stated that the Commission is waiting to see the Infracos demonstrate creditable level of deployment in the cities and also discharge the burden of proof of the existence of access points in LGAs in the next five months.
Otherwise, he stressed that the Commission may have “to take firm regulatory decisions” in the interest of the Nigerian people and start-ups, who have been waiting for the deployment of rural tech solutions to make contributions to the growth of the economy by exploring derivable benefits that accrue from a digitised economy.
Prof. Danbatta said one of the benefits of digital economy that NCC has collaborated with stakeholders to bring to fruition, is in the area of digital inclusion, where NCC has been collaborating with stakeholders, including the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to ensure the target of 80 percent digital inclusion is achieved within the timeframe.
He said NCC will continue to collaborate with relevant stakeholders to enhance innovation, competition and participation in governance by the citizenry, which is one of the hallmarks of digital culture.
The EVC informed the enthusiastic audience at the Conference that Nigeria already has about 40,000 unique transceiver stations and their uniqueness is underpinned by their characteristics as enablers of 2G, 3G and 4G technologies. However, Prof. Danbatta asserted that this figure is inadequate for a country with Nigeria’s size and population. “The United Kingdom with less population, according to the EVC, has over 60,000 of such stations” he stated.
Besides, the licensing and direction given to the Infracos, Prof. Danbatta outlined NCC’s interventions to accelerate the bridging of the digital divide to include: construction of 250 kilometer of Backbone Transmission infrastructure (BTRAIN); 72 Rural Broadband Initiative (RUBI) projects; 1,334 School Knowledge Centres (SKCs); 192 Community Resource Centres (CRCs); Development and deployment of 218 of Local Content for E-Learning; 74 Information Resource Centres (E-Library); Clusters of Access Gaps Reduced from 217 to 112; Digitally Excluded Nigerians reduced from 40 million to 15 million.
Danbatta, whose keynote speech is titled, ‘ICT Facilities for Infrastructure Development’, recognised the imperative of ‘Town-Gown’ collaboration and admitted that as communities and universities confront the increasingly complex social and physical pressures, there is need for effective alignment between these two entities to maximize local resources, knowledge acquisition and efforts towards facilitating deployment of ICT infrastructure to the rural communities.
The EVC maintained that the provision of infrastructure in rural areas plays significant role in promoting entrepreneurship and economic progress for its dwellers and serves as enabler of better quality of life for rural dwellers through the diversification of the rural economy that digital culture enhances.
Danbatta bemoaned the level of ICT adoption and usage in the rural areas, declaring that it is low, compared to the rate of adoption in urban centres. This challenge, he attributed partly to inadequacy of ICT infrastructure, cost of ICT infrastructure deployment and challenge of energy (electricity).
Despite being Africa’s largest ICT market, and a dominant player in the sector, Danbatta affirmed that Nigeria still accounts for a sizeable percentage of the 1 billion world population of unconnected people. However, the EVC stated that NCC is driving the implementation of an ambitious infrastructure project to ensure that the unconnected population of the country are given the opportunity for digital inclusion. He said this reality explains NCC’s frontline role in driving improvement in communications infrastructure in the rural communities where majority of the digitally excluded segment of the population resides.
The foregoing according to the EVC, is the reason the Commission has also partnered and collaborated with all relevant stakeholders, as well as explored cooperation through several discussions with both state and non-state actors to give concrete expression to its commitment to strategic collaboration and partnership, which remains a defining matrix of its operational activities.
The EVC stated that the Commission will continue to engage appropriate stakeholders and explore necessary uptakes towards improving on all infrastructure that support digital economy particularly expansion projects in rural areas because rural infrastructure deployment is central to bridging digital divide in Nigeria.
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