The Financial Services Practice of Dentons ACAS-Law recently hosted a webinar with the theme “Open Banking as a Catalyst for Accelerating Nigeria’s Financial Services Development.” The event, which held on 22 June 2023, explored the challenges, regulatory considerations, and collaboration required to build an Open Banking driven financial ecosystem that nurtures innovation while safeguarding consumer interests. The welcome address was delivered by Ms Taiwo Afonja, Managing Partner at Dentons ACAS – Law, followed by Benedict Unaegbunam, a Senior Partner and head of Financial Services at the Firm, who set the tone for what turned out to be an insightful discussion.
Anchored by Josephine Udonsak, a Partner in the Energy and Project Finance Practice of Dentons ACAS-Law, the webinar consisted of two panels, each comprising distinguished panellists from the financial services ecosystem. Chiedozie Ogbu, an Associate at the Firm, moderated the first panel, which addressed the potential impact of the Open Banking Guidelines recently issued by the Central Bank of Nigeria (the “Guidelines”). The Panel comprised Chinenye Agwu, Vice President, Sales, and Sector Head for PSPs at Flutterwave, Segun Adeyemi, CEO/Co-Founder of Anchor and Malaika Demola Majekodunmi, Program Manager at Open Banking Nigeria and Head of Product at Lendsqr.
Chinenye Agwu highlighted that the Guidelines are crucial in establishing operational standards, enabling consumers to understand how their data will be used, and providing guidance on API usage. Segun Adeyemi, CEO/Co-Founder of Anchor, noted that the reaction to the recently released Guidelines has been positive and emphasized that the Guidelines serve to legitimize existing practices in the regulatory environment while offering a clearer sense of direction. According to Segun, the positives of these guidelines outweigh any potential negatives.
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Malaika Demola Majekodunmi expressed her belief that the Guidelines will contribute significantly to financial inclusion in Nigeria. She noted that by embracing open banking, more innovators and players can enter the financial space, introducing products tailored to the needs of every member of the financial community.
The second panel, moderated by Dr Sanford Mba, a Financial Services Partner at Dentons ACAS-Law, focused on compliance and regulatory issues in relation to the Open Banking Guidelines. The Panel comprised Gbenga Haastrup, GRC Leader and former General Counsel and Chief Risk Officer at Interswitch, Rasaq Kadri, Head of Compliance at Kuda, and Habib Akinpelu, Legal and Compliance Manager at Okra.
Gbenga Haastrup emphasized the need for a shift in mindset and comprehensive education about the benefits of open banking. He also highlighted technical integration as a time-consuming task and underlined the importance of data security and privacy, along with compliance with the National Privacy and Data Protection Act (NPPA).
Rasaq Kadri, Head of Compliance at Kuda, addressed risks from a compliance perspective. He identified privacy and data protection as the most significant concerns, indicating that many industry players have not yet achieved an acceptable level of compliance with minimum requirements. Rasaq also acknowledged the challenge of managing customer consent effectively. Habib Akinpelu, on the other hand, compared the Guidelines to the recently passed Data Protection Act. He noted that while the Guidelines are more detailed and prescriptive, the Data Protection Act appears somewhat fragmented.
The webinar was concluded with a Q&A session, during which participants had the opportunity to engage with the panellists. Mrs Omolola Coker, Partner at Dentons ACAS-Law, delivered the closing remark, highlighting the importance of collaboration and adherence to regulatory requirements in promoting a robust and inclusive financial ecosystem in Nigeria.
The webinar provided valuable insights into open banking’s potential to accelerate Nigeria’s financial services development. It is anticipated that by adopting the Guidelines, stakeholders can create an environment that fosters innovation, safeguards consumer interests, and promotes financial inclusion for all.