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Fintech raises $13m seed funding to promote financial inclusion across Africa

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A fast-growing Nigerian fintech startup, NowNow Digital  Systems, said it had raised 13 million dollars in its seed round to improve financial inclusion across Africa.

The Chief Executive Officer, NowNow, Sahir Berry said this in a statement on Wednesday in Lagos.

Berry said the seed funding  would drive financial  inclusion  by providing financial services to the unbanked and underbanked in the continent.

He said that with the newly secured funds, NowNow would drive financial empowerment and introduce new products which would further enhance its already existing consumer banking, agency banking and merchant payment solutions.

According to him, the funding round led by NeoVision Ventures Ltd., DLF Family Office and Shadi Abdulhadi, heralds NowNow’s plans to scale and expand its service offerings across Africa.

He said that, equipped with a rapidly growing product suite and highly agile technology platform, NowNow “sought  to build the world’s best technology that digitises cash payments for Africans.”

According to him,  NowNow’s renewed commitment and vision is to include everyone financially.

“Today we announce that we have moved to the next stage of our commitment to drive financial access and empowerment for Africans at the last mile.

“With the secured funding, we  not only provide services that include everyone financially but also upscale our agile ecosystem which ensures that our multidimensional offering remains a market leader.

“The credit facility will also support our unique strategy to advance financial inclusion and independence through financial education,” he said.

According to him, the interest and backing of  investors will enable the organisation to grow world-class team as we would be unveiling innovative products and services.

Berry said that NowNow was focused on solving everyday financial challenges by creating the largest fintech ecosystem in Africa as well as supporting the financial inclusion goal in the continent.

He said that the innovative fintech platform was recently selected to participate in the Mastercard Start Path Global programme created to help later-stage startups innovate and scale.

According to him  a financial literacy report from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) shows that most Nigerians want training and information on financial concepts.

He said such trainings included long-term financial planning, budgeting, financial products and services, risk management, the financial security of their dependents, and insurance.

Berry said that while the CBN’s report revealed that there was genuine interest in financial literacy, it also revealed a significant knowledge gap.

He said that proceeds from NowNow’s seeding round would focus on improving Africa’s financial inclusivity and would help bridge the gap between the banked and unbanked in Nigeria.

According to him, the African B2B and B2C FinTech company, recently partnered with the Lagos Business School’s (LBS) Sustainable Inclusive Digital Financial Services (SIDFS).

The co-founder said that it was to initiate a financial education and literacy programme aimed at driving Nigeria’s financial inclusion growth.

The CEO said that NowNow would utilise SIDFS’s rich data, library content, and resources to provide financial and digital literacy tools for its customers to ensure smart financial planning.

He said that NowNow was on a mission to deliver best-in-class financial services to SMEs, banking agents, and consumers and to provide financial empowerment to Africans.

According to him, some of NowNow’s customers in Nigeria, have never had a bank account, so it is the company’s social mission to provide the proper educational support with the funding.

Berry said that NowNow aims to advance the introduction of other innovative solutions in the region to help create a more financially inclusive continent.

Gary Peters, Managing Partner, Capital V Ltd, said that one of the key elements that propelled the investment in NowNow was based on the founders’ tenacity to grow the company to a viable level, as well as overcoming many challenges and market cycles since its inception in 2018.

He said that its core business and vision of digitizing the African region through facilitating daily payment services,  was also another important element.

According to him, NowNow  leadership’s vision aligns with Capital V’s fund of funds strategy to back disruptive and high-potential start-ups, especially in emerging markets like Africa, the decision process becomes easier.

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LCCI advocates discipline, export to sustain Naira appreciation

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LCCI advocates discipline, export to sustain Naira appreciationThe Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) has emphasised the importance of maintaining discipline in the foreign exchange market to sustain the steady appreciation of the Naira.

The President and Chairman of the Council of LCCI, Mr Gabriel Idahosa, made the call in an interview with newsmen on Wednesday in Lagos.

Idahosa praised the efforts of the Central Bank of Nigeria in imposing discipline, attributing the recent Naira appreciation to curbing speculative activities.

“On the monetary side, the CBN is doing it. The primary efforts should continue to impose discipline in the foreign currency market.

“The abuses in the foreign currency market were prevalent and most of the fall in the value of the Naira in the last six months is not because there was any sudden calamity in the Nigerian economy.

“It was primarily because of very reckless speculations, that people were just speculating in the dollar, they had nothing to export, nothing to import, they were just buying the dollar for speculative reasons.

“And once the Central Bank started to impose discipline in the foreign currency market, we saw the value of the Naira rising very quickly by stopping speculation,” he said.

According to him, the strategies of the Central Bank, now, are designed to achieve a sustained discipline in the foreign currency market.

Idahosa highlighted the need to continue reducing the number of Bureau de Change operators, stressing that many operated without contributing to international trade.

He applauded the Central Bank’s move to enforce documentation and identification of buyers and sellers at BDCs, aiming to deter reckless speculation and curb illicit financial flows.

On the fiscal side, Idahosa urged President Bola Tinubu to prioritise a nationwide export drive, citing it as the key to bolstering the Naira and providing essential foreign exchange.

He emphasised the importance of fostering a culture of export among Nigerians across all scales of enterprise to reduce reliance on imports and strengthen the country’s economic resilience.

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Foreign reserves decline to $32.29bn

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The foreign reserve has depleted to $32.29 billion, which is a six-year low in the Central Bank’s course to save the naira.

This is the lowest level the reserves have been since September 25, 2017, when it was $32.28 billion.

The country’s foreign reserves declined by 6.2 percent, losing $2.6 billion since March 18, when the naira started its rebound from record-low levels against the dollar to $32.29 billion as of Monday, based on the latest available data from the CBN.

At the beginning of the month, the reserve was at $33.57 billion, then further dipped to $32.6 billion by April 12.

This comes as the CBN has attempted to save the naira through various interventions such as raising interest rates to 24.75 percent and managing foreign exchange trades.

It stepped up its intervention in the FX market with sales at both the official market and to BDC operators who sell dollars on the streets.

The apex bank, which sells $10,000 to each BDC every week, mandated them to only sell at a spread of 1.5 percent, which comes to N1,117 per US dollar.

The rate sold by the BDCs has set a defacto floor for the naira in the black market since the apex bank resumed sales to them in February.

Also, last month the CBN said it had cleared a backlog of $7 billion since the beginning of the year. That was built over the years as the central bank pegged its currency against the dollar, leading to a scarcity of foreign currency that deterred foreign portfolio investment. However, it’s unclear how much dollar debt the CBN retains on its books.

Akpan Ekpo, a professor of economics and public policy, said the CBN’s managed float system in which it is trying to ensure supply and curtail demand is not sustainable in the long term.

He said the CBN needs to be careful with how it depletes the foreign reserves as its main source is oil revenue.

“We need to manufacture non-oil goods and services, export them, and get foreign exchange and not depend on oil income,” he said.

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CBN expresses commitment to harnessing digital technologies

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The Central Bank of Nigeria says it is committed to harnessing the power of digital technologies to enhance financial inclusion.

CBN Governor, Mr Yemi Cardoso said this on Tuesday in Abuja, during a strategic institutions tour by participants of Senior Executive Course 46 of the National Institute of Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPSS).

Cardoso, who was represented by Dr Bala Bello, Deputy Governor, Corporate Services, said that digital technologies would also boost productivity and create an enabling environment for innovation and entrepreneurship to thrive.

According to him, the apex bank has already deployed robust digital technologies in driving most of its processes towards achieving optimal performance.

He said that NIPSS, as a foremost national policy think-tank, had made invaluable contributions to the socio-political and macroeconomic development of Nigeria.

“We are, therefore, not surprised at the apt and relevant choice of your research theme.

“The CBN and NIPSS have had a long-standing and robust working relationship since the establishment of the institute. This has culminated into positive mutual benefits for the two institutions.

“The CBN, on the one hand, has provided infrastructural support to the institute through construction of an auditorium and a hostel, in addition to the provision of technical support.

“On the other hand, NIPSS has supported the technical capacity of the CBN through the training of some personnel both at senior executive course level and intermediate course cadre,” he said.

The Director-General of NIPSS, Prof. Ayo Omotayo, said that the study visiting would be representing the institute in getting information from operators of the apex bank on the relevance of digital technology to developing jobs for Nigerian youths.

According to Omotayo, a lot of progress has been made globally in using digital systems to run the economy.

“The more of our activities that we can put in digital format, the more we get the opportunity of providing employment access to a whole lot of the 120 million active Nigerians.

“We at NIPSS always knock at the frontiers of knowledge, checking what is going to happen in the immediate future.

“We are working towards a system where we believe that almost every service can be delivered digitally,” he said.

The Acting Director, Monetary Policy Department of the CBN, Dr Lafi Bala Keffi, commended the NIPSS study group for its interest in the apex bank.

She urged the participants to explore the time-tested culture of NIPSS, which is to diagnose national, profer practical solutions and recommend ways of making such solutions realisable.

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