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Firstbank Reaches Milestone of 100,000 Firstmonie Agents, Pledge to continue Impacting Lives and Communities Across Nigeria 

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Dr. Adesola Adeduntan - FirstBank CEO

 

If you live in Lagos, Abuja or Port Harcourt, or you reside in any of the other state capitals, you probably take for granted that you actually live in the better of the two worlds that make up Nigeria when it comes to banking. Take Lagos, for example, you would find a bank in almost any corner you turn. You have many streets in business or commercial areas in the city that are lined up by nothing but banks in all their glory and magnificence. If a count is taken, it could be established that there are probably more bank branches in Lagos than any other branded business outlets or branded activity centres – if street stores and religious centres are excluded.

 

Many people in city centres somehow assume that this situation of banks being in your face in cities is the same reality that prevails in most parts of the country. They have no idea that there are parts of Nigeria, especially the hinterland, where people take the absence of banks for granted the same way city-dwellers take the preponderance of bank branches for granted. To get to the nearest bank, people in the hinterland who live this reality every day would have to travel many kilometers to get to their state capitals or some other large towns. These are the people living in the worse of the two worlds you find in Nigeria as far as having bank presence is concerned.

 

Imagine if the situation were reversed and city dwellers had to travel many kilometers to get to the nearest bank branch where they could do their transactions. It is not unlikely that such a situation would be accompanied by a ballooning of the stress levels in city dwellers, increased road rage on city highways and heightened frustration generally. How would people who spend multiple hours in traffic on a daily basis, work longer than counterparts elsewhere for far less remuneration, enjoy less sleep on their beds and less time with family and loved ones, cope with the additional burden of walking or driving endlessly in search of a bank to do their transactions? How? Just how?

 

So city dwellers should indeed be thankful for their world. And while at it, they as well as people in the hinterland, who live in the other world, should not be shy to extend appreciation to those working so hard and tirelessly to bridge the gap between the two worlds in Nigeria. The Central Bank of Nigeria’s (CBN) financial inclusion initiative geared towards bringing the unbanked and underbanked as well as communities in Nigeria’s hinterland into the formal financial ecosystem has been key to efforts to bridge the gap. The CBN’s mandate to ensure the availability of affordable financial products and services to all individuals and groups of people in Nigeria, regardless of location, literacy level, familiarity with technology or accessibility to modern infrastructural facilities, has been wholly embraced, supported and promoted by FirstBank.

 

FirstBank’s unmatched commitment to financial inclusion is informed by the bank’s undivided focus on making real impact across Nigeria. Hear Dr. Adesola Adeduntan, the Chief Executive Officer of the premier bank in West Africa and the leading financial inclusion services provider in Nigeria for over 127 years: “The key strength of our franchise is our ability to look at gaps in the society and develop products and services that [address those gaps].” Continuing, he notes that as an integral part of the bank’s strategy, “We believe that by significantly working with the Central Bank to improve the financial inclusion index of the country, we would, as FirstBank, be assisting [the] country to address poverty, to address hunger, thereby also promoting the security of life and property because when people are gainfully employed, the implication is that they think less of crime.”

 

It is therefore not surprising that FirstBank has driven the financial inclusion initiative much more vigorously than any other bank in Nigeria, with its Firstmonie Agent channel, which crossed the 100,000 Agents mark a few days ago, being among the bank’s many initiatives to expand financial access in the country. The 100,000 Agents feat in itself speaks volumes about the bank’s strides in the financial inclusion space. No other bank comes anywhere close to FirstBank in terms of the number and spread of agents in their agent banking networks. FirstBank’s Firstmonie Agents and the thousands of staff they employ are in all the 774 local government areas in Nigeria save two and, in 2020 alone, processed over 295 million transactions with a total value of N6.65 trillion and opened more than 196,000 accounts. However, for FirstBank, it is not about number or competition with others or even being the largest bank-led network in Africa, but the impact the Firstmonie Agents channel it is creating, as Dr. Adeduntan highlighted above. His deputy, Francis Shobo agrees, saying FirstBank is looking beyond numbers and considering the impact. He makes a bold declaration, “We are trying to make those Agents the center of the financial ecosystem in the country.” This probably explains why Firstmonie Agents are considered by the bank as community heroes that it is planting all over the nation. And this is the sense one gets in interviews with Agents and customers across the country.

 

Aiyetoro is a riverine community in Ilaje Local Government Area of Ondo State. It has no banks, according to Stephen Adeleye, a Firstmonie Agent serving Aiyetoro community. He recounts how Firstmonie has impacted his community. Adeleye says Firstmonie has provided easy access to banking ensuring that “people in the community now have this kind of savings habit” – a reference to the growing savings culture in Aiyetoro. One of his customers, Tina Farodoye, who operates a grocery store in the community says Firstmonie has helped her business to grow. She can now buy her stock in bulk all the way from Lagos where they are relatively inexpensive (even with transport costs added) compared to her community, all because she is able to transfer funds through Agent Stephen to the wholesalers in Lagos. This has improved her business profitability by increasing the profit margin in her business.

 

Ephraim Osinachi, is a Firstmonie Agent in Obehie, Asa Ukwa West, Abia State. He serves customers across all ages, including the very aged, as all customers are assisted with their transactions, unlike the use of ATM where the customer is practically on their own. He says market traders take advantage of his presence in the community to make lodgements at the end of the day’s trade. He and his staff wait until traders are done at the market (unlike your regular banks which shut their doors to customers at four o’clock, generally). The advantage this offers the people is invaluable. He cites a case where a customer’s house was raided by robbers in their absence and all the robbers could find after ransacking the entire house was fifty naira cash and old phones valued at N3,000. His services are enabling his community to avoid keeping bulk cash at home and the consequent risk of being robbed and traumatized by men of the underworld.

 

Orode Hesse, Firstmonie Agent in Ubeji, Warri South, Delta State is both emphatic and ecstatic about the impact Firstmonie has had on her life. She enthuses that it has really impacted and empowered her financially and enabled her to empower others, especially other women. She has six employees, five of whom are female. So she sees Firstmonie as a business or platform to employ and empower women. Interestingly, Orode is part of the 26 percent of Firstmonie Agents that are women, a fact that points to the important role Firstmonie is playing in driving women’s economic empowerment.

 

Abubakar Aki Bolaji, is a Firstmonie Agent along Karishi Road, Orozo in FCT, Abuja. He points out that the nearest bank to his community is 15km away. He is pleased that his presence as an Agent in the community has cut out the costs of transportation his people would have continued to incur in order to access banking services. His sentiment and delight are shared by the teeming customers he serves. This situation is very common in the North given its landmass and the dispersed nature of human settlements. Dr Adeduntan relates how a senior government official in Jigawa State highlighted how important the presence of Firstmonie Agents was when he informed him that all across a 70km stretch from Gumel, where there was the branch of a bank, there were no banks anywhere in sight. All he saw were at least two Firstmonie Agents in that long stretch of 70km, no banks. Without those two Agents, all the people in the settlements along that 70km stretch would be without access to banking services.

 

Another Firstmonie Agent, Mohammed Tatari, serving Tudun Wada in Bununu, Bauchi State, says his services are helping to drive commerce in his community as traders are now able to transfer funds to the wholesalers elsewhere from whom they buy. His services are helping traders to avoid carrying large cash with them given the dire security situation. He noted that the people used to travel elsewhere just to access banking services. His presence has changed all that now. He concludes that Firstmonie is changing his community (for good). One woman who would agree with him is Halima, a housewife and petty trader in the outskirts of Abuja. She discovered Firstmonie through her co-tenant, during the recent lockdown due to COVID-19, and was excited that she could access funds at the Firstmonie Agent outlet close to her and send money to her mother in far away, Maiduguri in Borno State. She had been unable to move to Garki where her bank branch was because of the lockdown.

 

Besides ensuring that individuals in the suburbs do not have to travel for long hours to the city for their banking activities, Firstmonie Agents are also bridging the gap between the tech-savvy and the low-literacy clients as the Agent network represents the convenient and comfortable alternative for customers that are unacquainted with sophisticated digital channels. And as Firstmonie Agents give their best, FirstBank, on its part, has been doing everything to encourage the Agents. In its inaugural Firstmonie Agent Banking Awards, FirstBank rewarded 37 leading Agents that have promoted financial inclusion in the country. Thirty-one (31) Agents each won the sum of N250,000 at the state level while five Agents won the sum of N1,000,000 at the regional level. At the national level, the grand prize of N2,500,000 was won by Zayyanu Hassan Ishaq, an Agent from Abuja (North Central), who described it as a miracle and noted that it would spur him to work harder.

 

As further encouragement and to promote the business activities of Firstmonie Agents, the bank announced the provision of loan facilities of up to N1,000,000 to the Agents. This new credit scheme, which they can access 24 hours a day, can be processed in less than two minutes. The scheme means more empowerment and business expansion for Firstmonie Agents. And the expansion can go beyond Nigeria as Dr Adeduntan says FirstBank is looking beyond Nigeria to other African countries where FirstBank operates, like Ghana and DRC – a country with over 80 million people – to promote financial inclusion and begin to address poverty on the African continent through the Firstmonie platform.

Business

GLOBAL SUMMIT: ZENITH BANK GMD, ONYEAGWU ADVOCATES IMPACT INVESTMENT FOR AFRICA’S DEVELOPMENT

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EBENEZER ONYEAGWU

 

 

The Group Managing Director/Chief Executive of Zenith Bank, Mr. Ebenezer Onyeagwu, has called for increased impact investing in Africa for the continent to attain its full potential. He made the call during his keynote address at the Africa Investment Risk & Compliance Summit 2021 organised by the Emerging Business Intelligence & Innovation (EBII) Group which held at the prestigious University of Oxford, United Kingdom, on Friday, July 30, 2021. Mr Onyeagwu delivered his keynote address after the special keynote address by His Excellency, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, President of the Republic of Ghana & Commander-in-Chief of the Ghana Armed Forces, who was the Special Guest of Honour. Her Excellency Dr Amani ABOU-ZEID, The African Union Commissioner in charge of Infrastructure and Energy, also delivered a keynote address at the Summit.

 

Delivering the keynote address with the theme “Leveraging Impact Investment Opportunities for Growth in Africa”, Onyeagwu described impact investing as an investment that yields optimal returns for investors, value for all stakeholders, and guarantees continued sustenance and existence of humanity. He decried the shallowness of Africa’s financial market as depicted by the fact that no African exchange is among the Morgan Stanley developed markets index, only two African exchanges (Egypt and South Africa) are in the MSCI Emerging Markets Index, and just six African exchanges are in the MSCI Frontier Market Index. He noted that although the International Finance Corporation (IFC) estimates that the global investors’ appetite for impact investing could total as much as $26 trillion, only approximately 8% of the assets of impact intent funds are focused on Africa. According to him, this is not significant enough, and Africa appears to be in the room but not on the table, considering that Africa is in dire need of investment and the continent’s 1.3 billion people represent about 17% of the global population of about 7.8 billion.

 

Citing the immense opportunities in Africa that represent enormous investment proposition for discerning investors, including the huge population, large market and active labour force, and the rich natural endowment, Onyeagwu described Africa as “the new frontier” for global growth. He made a case for increased impact investment in Africa, noting that investment opportunities on the continent cut across agriculture, healthcare, housing, infrastructure, electricity, and the creative sectors.

 

Onyeagwu exuded immense optimism on the coming into effect of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) initiative, which would create a single, continent-wide market for goods and services, business and investment as being in one country on the continent grants investors access to the entire continent. He also called investors’ attention to Africa’s rich natural endowment, which includes 60% of the world’s uncultivated arable land and 9% of the world’s freshwater bodies, noting that Africa holds enormous potential for organic food production. He, therefore, implored investors in the agribusiness value chain to focus attention in Africa for organic food production instead of genetically modified food in other climes. 

 

Onyeagwu also noted that as a socially responsible organisation, Zenith Bank continues to promote impact investment in Africa. For example, the bank has maintained strong advocacy for investment in Africa through its flagship sponsorship of “Inside Africa” on CNN for 16 consecutive years, which is helping to highlight the immense creativity and talent that abound on the continent and the enormous investment opportunities on the continent of Africa. He also said that the bank leverages its in-depth knowledge of the African market to guide investors and hedge their exposures. According to him, the bank has been on a steady Environment, Social and Governance (ESG) investment journey, which started with ESG integration as a business strategy as well as being a signatory to the Nigerian Principles for Sustainable Banking and the United Nations Environment Programme Finance Initiative (UNEP FI) Principles for Responsible Banking. For its efforts, Onyeagwu noted that Zenith Bank received recognition as the “Best Company in Promotion of Gender Equality and Women Empowerment in Africa” at the 2020 Sustainability, Enterprise and Responsibility Awards (SERAS).

 

In his call to action, Onyeagwu called for a paradigm shift, noting that Africa is a work in progress, and leaders in the public and private sector should not despair. He encouraged leaders to champion the changes they want to see, pay close attention to responsibility and accountability in leadership. He also called for the de-risking of Africa through reforms, improved ease of doing business, respect for the rule of law and sanctity of contract, and human capital development. Onyeagwu expressed satisfaction with the several reforms of the Federal Government of Nigeria, including the Road Infrastructure Tax Credit Scheme (RITC), the establishment of the Rural Electrification Agency’s (REA) Rural Electrification Fund (REF), Infraco Plc, and several other development finance initiatives of the Central Bank of Nigeria. He also noted that several African countries, including Ghana, Kenya and Rwanda, are recording massive improvements in the ease of doing business, leveraging digital technology to simplify government processes and deepen the financial system. 

 

He implored Africans to see themselves as brothers and sisters, say no to xenophobia, and speak with one voice and not with discordant tunes. Onyeagwu implored the rest of the world to look at Africa as an investment destination that guarantees optimal returns. He noted that Africa has profound talent that abounds across the world and contributes to the development of these climes, and this should be reciprocated. He encouraged Africans to imbibe the spirit of UBUNTU – “I AM BECAUSE YOU ARE” since we are all connected in humanity. 

 

Zenith Bank is Nigeria’s largest and one of Africa’s largest financial institutions by tier-1 capital, with shareholders’ funds in excess of NGN1.1 trillion ($2.64 billion) as at December 31, 2020. The bank is a clear leader in the Nigerian financial space, with several firsts in the deployment of innovative products and solutions that ensure convenience, speed and safety of transactions.

 

The Emerging Business Intelligence & Innovation (EBII) Group is an independent specialist compliance and global risk management consultancy firm offering education and expert consulting services to entities in the West seeking opportunities for diversification and growth in emerging markets and Africa. The Group supports African entities and governments with their risk management and compliance requirements and delivers practical and genuine support to firms by providing a comprehensive and relevant assessment of risks, enabling them to successfully navigate their risks and ensure adherence to their compliance requirements.

 

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Business

Half-Year Performance: Transcorp Plc Shows Powerful Growth as Profit Leaps by 713%

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Transcorp Hotels

Transnational Corporation of Nigeria Plc (Transcorp) has released its unaudited results for the half-year ended June 2021, recording significant improvement across its major income lines.

The Conglomerate with strategic investments in the Power, Hospitality, and Energy sectors, recorded a profit after tax of N6.5bn, rising by 713% up from N0.8bn recorded in June of the previous year. Other key highlights of the result include the following:

  • Revenue rose by 53%, from N35.0bn in June 2020 to N53.3bn in the period under consideration.
  • Gross profit grew by 60%, from N14.7bn in June 2020 to N23.5bn in June 2021.
  • Profit before tax rose by 689% from N0.9bn in June 2020 to N7.1b in June 2021.

Commenting on the performance, Transcorp’s President/Group CEO, Mrs. Owen Omogiafo, reiterated the Conglomerate’s commitment towards producing long-term value and sustainable impact. “We are pleased to see the sustained growth in our group performance, which was achieved as a result of the improved performance across all the sectors we operate in. The revenue achieved in our power business grew by 48%, as a result of improved gas supply and increased generation capacity”, she stated.

Commenting on the hospitality sector, Omogiafo stated that the company’s strategic actions have resulted in a growth in revenue of up to 84%, despite the ongoing impact of the COVID-19 epidemic on the Nigerian and global hospitality industries. She expressed confidence in the company’s recovery strategies, citing the recent official launch of Aura, the company’s digital hospitality platform, as a testament to that confidence.

On the Group’s capacity to sustain its performance, Omogiafo said, “We do not plan to rest on our oars. We will continue to sweat our existing assets and explore new frontiers, as we continue to deliver on our purpose of Improving Lives and Transforming Nigeria.”

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Opinion

Rethinking safe-haven assets and building resilient portfolios with Xend Finance

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As with most things in life, feeling overwhelmed as a newbie is simple, and this is especially true in such a volatile market as the world of cryptocurrencies. Regardless of the uncertainty and worries, the world of cryptocurrency has the potential to have a unique and substantial impact on anyone’s financial stability.

Government Bonds, treasury bills, and other forms of fixed income investments are undeniably considered as safe haven investments due to their low risk, but with inflation on the increase, the question arises how safe is money locked up for a specific period of time?

It is therefore important to build a resilient portfolio able to minimize risks and mitigate volatility, diversity into multiple unrelated investments, deliver steady returns and also able to recognize changing market conditions, new opportunities and respond accordingly.
Enter the world of Stablecoins. A less volatile cryptocurrency asset pegged to a cryptocurrency, fiat money, or to exchange-traded commodities (such as precious metals or industrial metals).

Compare to other forms of cryptocurrency assets like bitcoin, or altcoins the advantages of stablecoins are stabilized by assets that fluctuate outside of the cryptocurrency space that is prices are pinned to real-world assets.
Most stablecoins are pegged to the US Dollar as they are an easy way to get exposure to the crypto space without having to worry about volatility.

You can build a resilient portfolio with stable coins by having a good foundation on which you can build and protect your investment portfolio. This is necessary to provide a buffer when the markets are volatile or things go south.

These stablecoins also provide diversification as Investor Phillips Hodges mentioned in an interview emphasized the importance of balancing factors affecting the returns you can get across the different than the classes themselves. Stable coins also provide the extra diversification a portfolio needs to stay afloat in a stormy market, minimize losses due to their low volatility.

Be rest assured as an investor that your portfolio can only said to be strong when you have investments that can stand the test of time. Inflations and rickety market conditions.
If you’re a fund manager looking to get exposure to the crypto space through stable coins, send an email to [email protected] and someone would be in touch with you.

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