Stellar featuring Cellulant – Banking the Unbanked Across Africa
Today we are featuring Cellulant, a payments and digital commerce service company based in Africa, with offices in Kenya, Nigeria, Tanzania, Malawi, Uganda, Zambia, Ghana, Zimbabwe, Botswana and Mozambique.
Tell us about your organization? What projects are you working on?
We are a payment Platform Infrastructure Service Provider. We provide payment infrastructure services to donors, governments, corporates, merchants retailers consumers.
We develop solutions that connect businesses, governments and donors to their consumers and vise versa through the use of our blockchain technology. An example can be seen with one of our products, Agrikore. This platform helps farmers get access to farm inputs, access to finance, funding, best farming practices and new markets. Agrikore also provides end to end management of Agribusiness activities in a way that brings transparency and control to the agricultural sector.
We are currently in the middle of officially launching our Agrikore platform which is geared towards bringing together all the stakeholders in Agriculture into a single ecosystem. Further, we are in the advanced stage of exporting this platform to the Middle East.
What markets/customers are you currently serving? Are you a more B2B or B2C focused organization?
We are a B2B2C company. As long as you need to be connected to a business or a consumer we are here to make it happen for you. We work at the top and bottom of the pyramid.
What problem are you solving for these customers? Why is it important?
We are providing them with an easy, simple, low maintenance tool to make and receive payments all the time at the lowest possible cost.
We are also focused on providing financial services to the people at the bottom of the pyramid using minimal KYC, giving them access to financial institutions and the services they render thereby making it possible for them to access loans, while giving them visibility and helping them connect to more customers.
For Agribusinesses, Government and donors, we provide them with the tools needed to give them total control and visibility over their businesses and projects, thereby eliminating corruption and promoting transparency.
What is the biggest barrier to providing financial access to these communities?
The biggest barrier is our view is access to service points. Nobody has attempted in Nigeria to provide a one-stop service point for banking and payments via an agent in a structured way. As a result, there is demand but the network to meet the demand does not exist.
What efforts are being put in place by Government and others in your region to drive Financial Inclusion? Are there regulations, targets, initiatives specifically geared towards Financial Inclusion?
The Federal Government of Nigeria (FGN) major effort is to make cash operations more expensive and to impose financial inclusion objectives on financial system participants. So far we have not seen this to be really working as the major structural issues in the market such as anti-monopoly regulations are not in place.
What is the most important problem militating against Financial Inclusion in your regions?
The major variable today is anti-monopoly regulations. You have a situation today in Nigeria in which everyone is involved in everything, which leads to an erosion of margins that are vital to the sustainability of the actors in the sectors. For example, we have switches in the country that are technically front end payment services providers and you have banks that are competing at every layer of the value chain. The lack of specialization implies that investments are diluted across so many areas.
What does financial inclusion mean to you? Why is it essential to the next financial infrastructure?
Today in Nigeria , you have just around 22 million unique Nigerians out of almost 100 million bankable adults holding a bank account. The number holding accounts at an MFI is also another 20 Million, which technically leaves 60 million out of view. FI to us means bringing in the financially invisible into visibility.
How will digital innovation expand access to underserved communities?
It is fairly straightforward. We believe digital innovation will lower the cost of service delivery and makes operations more efficient.
What role should regulatory bodies play (if any) in bringing new digital technologies (i.e. blockchain etc) into mainstream financial services?
The most important role we believe regulatory bodies need to play in bringing new digital technologies into mainstream financial services is to quickly license the key actors. This will help move everything forward at a more rapid pace.
Some say that true blockchain adoption is still years away, not because the technology isn’t there, but because it’s not a “disruptive” technology that can create sudden mass change to the world (e.g. smartphones, social media et. all) but rather a foundational technology that will see a more gradual adoption. What events do you think will need to take place for a mass global adoption to take place?
In our opinion, Blockchain is a technology ready for today’s market. The critical event is to find a use case that has mass adoption. Cryptocurrency is a very advanced use case today in Africa, but we think the ledger use case has more mass appeal and potential.