Gbenga Okejimi is Country Manager of WorldRemit, Nigeria and Ghana,

Despite the uptake in the use of digital money transfer services as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, cash still dominates, Country Manager, Nigeria and Ghana, WorldRemit, a leading global digital payments company, Gbenga Okejimi has said.

The outbreak of the pandemic was widely tipped to propel digital money transfer into a new era of dominance over cash, but Mr. Gbenga in an interview said cash still remains popular.

“At WorldRemit, we pioneered digital Money Transfer and the pandemic has assisted in driving home the message we have been preaching over the last 10 years. In some of the corridors where we operate, we have seen a complete shift to digital means of transfer. However, it is too early to say what this means as cash is still king in many markets,” he stated.

Mr. Gbenga stated that notwithstanding, the pandemic has triggered a massive behavioural change amongst people with the financial services industry very much impacted in the way people send and receive money.

According to him, with the pandemic, banks have intensified the development and growth of their digital operations to discourage the use of cash which can harbour pathogens. 

“As an alternative to visiting banks due to social distancing measures in place, people have begun to embrace the use of digital technology which has encouraged the financial inclusion drive of the government. It is still too early to say that cash has fizzled out, however, the popularity of digital technology is set to increase long after the pandemic,” he reiterated.

The surge in the use of digital transfer services has led to increase in the risk of e-fraud, a development Mr. Gbenga believes is combatted by WorldRemit’s significant investment in technology 

“We have a robust Regulatory Compliance team with the necessary tools to monitor transactions and prevent consumer fraud. We regularly inform our customers of the dangers of e-fraud and have platforms with the highest security standards to ensure that your money is protected and arrives safely,” he explained.

Entrepreneurship drive

Following from the negative impact the coronavirus has had on the global economy, the online money transfer company recently launched an initiative to empower and encourage aspiring entrepreneurs to build or grow their businesses across Africa 

The 3-month entrepreneurship program, which is taking place between November 2020 to January 2021, is aimed at equipping selected customers in Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya and Zimbabwe with the right tools to start an idea or further develop their businesses.

To be eligible for the program, customers in the Diaspora are to send money (a minimum of GBP50.00 or its equivalent in another currency) to their loved ones between November 2 and December 31, 2020; one transaction equal one entry. 

“We will draw 100 winners each in November and December. Winners will have the opportunity to nominate an entrepreneur in Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya or Zimbabwe. The nominated entrepreneurs will receive a business booster pack with items to assist with the launch or growth of their business: a tablet, an external hard drive, power bank, T-shirt, notebook, pens, and stickers. 

They will also have access to a digital training course that will be loaded onto the external hard drive, to strengthen their entrepreneurial skills, in partnership with The Nest. To make sure we support entrepreneurs in the best possible way, we have partnered with The Nest, an incubation hub opened to all entrepreneurs across sectors, domains and industries, with a pan-African reach,” Mr. Gbenga explained.

Outlook for Ghana

Currently, Ghana is the second largest recipient of remittances in West Africa after Nigeria. 

According to the Country Director, government’s financial inclusion agenda aligns with the company’s own objective of pushing through digital remittances. 

“The financial inclusion objective of the government has taken full flight and every adult Ghanaian is in need of financial services. With the growth in mobile money services, we have formed partnerships with the major telcos in Ghana. 

We have also partnered with some banks and are looking to expand our network in Ghana. There is an increase in Bank accounts, so we expect an uptick in that area too.

We will also explore opportunities with Ghanaians in the Diaspora and hope more economies will reopen for business in the near future,” he noted.

Commenting on the challenges businesses like WorldRemit face in their operations in Africa, Mr. Gbenga stated that financial inclusion is best achieved through technology as can be seen with the growth of mobile money in East Africa and Ghana. 

Internet facilities, he noted, are limited in Africa and this inhibits the growth of financial inclusion. 

“The regulatory environment also lacks a consistent policy in key areas. At times it can be difficult to achieve the objectives of financial inclusion,” Mr. Gbenga added.