One of the fallouts of the nationwide protests to end impunity in the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) was the cancellation and/or postponement of many public events.
One of those endangered public events was the annual interaction between the Nigeria Deposit Insurance Corporation (NDIC) and business editors and Finance Correspondence Association of Nigeria (FICAN) which was to be held in Lagos on Monday 19th to Wednesday 21st. For the past 14 years, it has been a much anticipated annual event whereby financial journalists meet with the top officials of the financial safety net corporation under the same roof and are updated on the current trends in the financial system.
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This year, with what the pandemic has wrought world-wide, and what we are witnessing under our very noses happening to many going concerns, there were many questions begging for answers from one of the key agencies in the financial resolution group. Fortunately, the digital revolution, that is radically changing every aspect of our lives these days, came to the rescue. The workshop successfully held via the zoom technology, with participants in their Lagos and Abuja bases interacting without let or hindrance.
This year, the theme of the workshop was, as expected, built around the pandemic and financial technology, the implications and opportunities they pose on the Nigerian banking and other relevant parts of the financial sector. We all observed the pervasive impact of the pandemic affecting all aspects of our lives, particularly the resultant disruptions to socio economic activities. For the NDIC, the worry would be on the threat to recession and the potential for an increase in non-performing loans which would put pressure on them as regulators to reassess their supervisory activities and strengthen their capabilities to address the challenges. This much was said by the Managing Director, Umaru Ibrahim, in his keynote address at the beginning of the workshop. The theme echoed through all the papers presented and discussed during the three-day conference.
I was privileged to be the chairman of one of the sessions where Dr Kabir Katata presented a paper titled: COVID-19 and Fintech in the Nigerian financial system. I have met Dr Katata in other fora before. He is a Deputy Director in the Research Department of the NDIC and I have noted him to be the kind of presenter who reduces the most complex subject to the level and understanding of his listeners. Earlier, Dr S. A. Oluyemi, Director of Research, Policy and International Relations, in an introductory paper, had given us a broad sweep of the pandemic effects worldwide and how it had affected Nigeria as well.
Dr Katata built on that and went on to tell us that due to the modern financial technology deployed by the banks, the negative effects of the pandemic on many aspects of our lives were immensely mitigated. It was evident that teeming consumers of financial services could access their funds and also make other financial transactions despite the social distancing and containment measures. One would wonder at the chaos that would have visited financial transactions in the restrictive environment of the pandemic era without the use of ATMs, portals for transfers between accounts and other wonders of Fintech. One can imagine the queues that would have developed at the doors of the banks or grocery outlets whenever citizens were let out of their homes! Not that there were no queues at the banks during the height of the pandemic, but without the use of ATMs and such portals, it would have been sheer bedlam at their doors.
It had turned that the pandemic had facilitated the growth and expansion of the Bigtech firms that utilise advance technology to offer a myriad of other financial services. These firms that include global giants such as Alibaba, Amazon, Facebook, and Google have seen rapid growth since the pandemic started. I guess similar companies such as Jumia might not be doing badly in Nigeria too. Dr Katata told us that Nigeria is today home to over 299 fintech standalone companies and the opportunities for growth are unlimited. But as the expansion continuous, it behoves on the regulatory authorities to ensure that they have the proper data to monitor and study fintech and bigtech platforms so as to bring them into the fold of official regulatory reporting.
The workshop will continue in Kaduna this week and we shall pick up the conversation thereafter.
From my mail bag: Re-Appointment of the Emir of Zazzau.
AHMAD TIJANI: “One is confused as to where our columnist is headed in the above-titled narrative. To launder Governor El-Rufa’i’s imposition? For the inherently northern Muslim thrones, imposition is uncustomary and untraditional. It has never happened from the colonial era to the times of our leaders after independence. General Babangida and the governors he directed to impose 1st class emirs on Sokoto, Borgu, and Suleja are alive to tell how such impositions were quashed by the courts in favour of the kingmakers’ original selection. General Buhari is the only Head of State that never interfered with laid down rules as he had no selfish motives. However, his recent haste at congratulating El-Rufa’i’s Emir of Zazzau, puts a question mark on our perception of him.