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‘Ease of access to low-cost financial services on a daily basis is very vital’

Oluwatomi Ayorinde, CEO/Cofounder of CrowdForce
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Oluwatomi Ayorinde, CEO/Cofounder of CrowdForce shares insight on the role his company is playing in including more Nigerians into the financial  cycle through its agent distribution network and how it recently enabled the creation of digital identities to over 1 million petty traders across Nigeria under the federal government’s TraderMoni project in this interview with Endurance Okafor.

Tell us about CrowdForce and how it is impacting Nigeria’s financial inclusion

CrowdForce is building Africa’s Largest agent distribution network for financial inclusion and penetrative market research. 94 percent of transactions in Africa are carried out offline and cash-based via retail outlets. By doing this, we are making it possible for businesses to deliver seamless services to the last mile and also providing an offline distribution network for businesses to thrive in Africa.

 As a global decentralised network of micro businesses, what are the means with which you plan to achieve the set objective of bringing the unbanked and underbanked population to the digital economy?

Micro businesses do close to $19 trillion in cash transactions every year. These small businesses are the bedrock of any economy. They are trusted and provide most of their services to the unbanked and underbanked. They already deal with volumes of cash on a daily basis. While their profits are marginal they are always open to making extra income. At CrowdForce we are leveraging mobile phones, blockchain technology and these micro businesses to deliver financial services to the mass market.

What is your view of Nigeria’s financial inclusion rate which is currently at 63.3 perecnt as compiled from EFInA?

I think the 36.7 percent financially excluded is still a very huge number. We also cannot say that people are financially included just because they have a bank account. Ease of access to low-cost financial services on a daily basis is also very vital.

 What have you done to financial include Nigerian businesses and individuals into the cycle?

We play our role by providing the infrastructure (agent network) for businesses and banks to deliver digital services to the last mile. We also recently enabled the creation of digital identities to over 1 million petty traders across Nigeria under the federal government’s TraderMoni project, where we facilitated data enumeration, trader onboarding and will also be carrying out loan disbursement. This was made possible due to our network of agents across Nigeria who are strategically located in every ward in the country.

What kind of businesses do you focus on, and do you have provisions for businesses and corporates in rural area, especially those in the northern part of the country, considering the exclusion rate is highest in those regions?

We focus on retail outlets that have been existing for 1 to 3 years and have a good reputation in their community. We however do not exclude corporates. We are not region specific but we understand the opportunity to provide more inclusive services in the North where the exclusion rate is highest.

What is your success level?

Today we have 7000 merchants on our network providing financial inclusion services and penetrative market research to FMCGs

What are the challenges that drag your objectives?

We deal with the same issues that plague most business in Nigeria. Poor regulations, low access to capital, hiring good talent and many more. We would like to see the government, banks and other huge businesses embrace innovation faster and support more technology-driven businesses like ours.

what can government do assist a firm like yours?

Continue to create regulations that enable businesses and banks prioritize mass adoption of financial services over short-term profits.

Going forward what are your plans in including more Nigerians into the financial space and are you looking at rolling out innovative products?

CrowdForce will stay true to her vision of leveraging blockchain to create a global network of micro businesses to facilitate low-cost cross-border payments and remittances. We will work with technology startups to help them deliver their digital services or collect payments from the mass market via our agent network.

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