Back then in my grandpa’s compound, we would sneak into his room to seek ‘treasures’ from his archives. It was a pleasant treasure hunt experience for my cousins and I – although we end up returning them back to grandpa. He just has a way of knowing something is missing from his room even if we re-arrange everything back in place as we met them. Moreover, who else would take these ‘treasures’ other than his adventurous but mischievous grandchildren from the city.
Of the many fascinating things, we found while on holiday at grandpa’s, the cowries interest me the most. Why? I wondered and wanted to understand how these small brownish-white shells could hold so much value, so much so that it was used as a means of payment and regarded as a symbol of wealth and power.
But the payment system in Nigeria didn’t start with cowries and certainly has moved passed it. From trade by barter to cowries, then the coin shilling, cash, and eventually, the invention of technology-enabled cashless payment systems like the ATM, POS, and more instant payment solutions such as mobile transfers, QR codes, etc.
The banking and payment industry really doesn’t respect traditions but inventions, and despite the tremendous growth recorded, the industry is constantly changing in line with modern realities because of our need for fast, reliable, and optimal payment options. The most reliable vehicle for achieving this is through technology and digital solutions.
This need has led to a unique marriage between technology and financial services, birthing a new ecosystem called FINTECH, which is currently flourishing globally and Nigeria isn’t taking the back seat.
Financial technology has now moved from just digital payments within a confined geographical location (within Nigeria for instance) to the creation of payment gateways that allows one to make payment from anywhere and of course, digital currencies otherwise called cryptocurrencies.
While Nigeria has recorded a progressive trajectory in modern payment solutions, the system is still largely untapped. For instance, the adoption of cashless payment is only widespread in urban regions as more transactions are being carried out via cash payments in rural areas.
Needless to say, the FINTECHindustry in Nigeria is volatile at the moment due to new innovations coming from within and without, leaving the financial regulator the Central bank of Nigeria uncertain and a bit rigid with regulatory policies. This uncertainty has its impacts on the growth and stability of FINTECHin Nigeria.
What then becomes of this sector with enormous potential? Already the sector is growing exponentially. In 2021, Nigeria had 3 unicorns in the sector, each valuing over one billion dollars, generating a wave of excitement and a reference point for many more startups. Given the momentum currently, the ecosystem is expected to blossom further.
However, the next wave of fintech revolution in Nigeria will need flexible regulatory support from the CBN, because fintech has gone beyond core payment to embracing and revamping subsectors such as insurance, healthcare, travels and logistics, SME Financing, digital currency especially cryptocurrency – which is bound to play a central role in the new era of fintech.
The speed and intensity with which the ecosystem blossom is now dependent on how flexible the regulatory policies are, as this will pedal the easy adoption and growth of the various to springing from the industry.
Despite the uncertainty in financial regulatory policies, global statistics reckons Nigeria is a force in the bitcoin market. There is no doubt that the country is a hotbed for financial innovations and more unicorns are expected to spring up in the coming days, creating employment opportunities and adding significantly to the country’s GDP.
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