One Global is applying the final touches on its service to launch soon in Nigeria. According to the company’s Chief Operating Officer (COO) Akeem Baiyewu, the first phase of the launch is targeting 1.5 million users of 20 million smartphone owners in the country, which has a population of some 200 million citizens. He highlighted the great investment opportunities available in the country and said that pioneers in the ICT sector keep coming back for these opportunities.
Daily News Egypt sat down for an interview with Baiyewu, the transcript for which is below, lightly edited for clarity.
Did you initiate the launch?
No, the app is found in the store. There are also deals, but have not been yet made available to end users.
When will the official launch be?
We are launching soon. We are looking at the end of the second quarter of this year or the beginning of the third quarter. Basically, we are now applying the final touches to the services.
The economic situation in Nigeria is unstable. Is it the right time to launch the product?
There is really no crisis in Nigeria. What you are reading is from the foreign media to paint our country badly. But you are now here in Nigeria and have been to several places here, would you say the same? I believe what you are hearing is media propaganda. Our economy is stable internally and the product would be used internally.
The oil price has dropped, but it does not mean this is a problem in Nigeria. There are many people like us doing business in Nigeria. There is an e-payment platform called Konga, which is a major platform in Nigeria. There are sales conducted on Instagram, many sales on Facebook, and even more across other apps. The huge population in Nigeria is also a great advantage for any business to thrive. Even if you make a few cents per user, the huge population will boost your income. We are launching with services that people use on daily basis. I am sure we will get it right. People in Nigeria like to do their business conveniently.
Even you will be surprised that Jumia is bigger in Nigeria than in Egypt in turnover.
A big South African supermarket chain came to Nigeria with a stack of products they believed would be enough for six months, but surprisingly, they ran out in one week here. Nigeria is such a great market for people who can understand it and get it right. But if you do not understand it, you will fail awfully. In Nigeria, you are either very successful or not at all.
Where were you working before?
I have been involved in many companies. I represented a Canadian company here that worked on backing up contacts and messages on SIM cards to data centres. Each time you save a new contact, it is automatically updated, so when you get a new smartphone, you can download your contacts again on the new SIM card. I was the technical director for that app.
What are the opportunities for growth in Nigeria?
Opportunities for growth are huge with more people acquiring smartphones and the internet being more accessible to more people. I am positive that Nigeria is more advanced than most countries in Africa and even outside it. The population here is close to 200 million; this is a huge market. Bill Gates was in Nigeria a few weeks ago. That was his 8th time to visit. He said it himself, “I do not know why I keep coming back to Nigeria.” I think it is because of the great opportunities here.
Another example is the founder of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, who visited several times. Nigeria is a country to reckon with in terms of growth opportunities.
What about the challenges?
There are challenges, of course, there is no place that is 100% perfect. There are some places that lack electricity, but many people use generators to produce their own electricity. It has become a common home appliance here.
The internet is also a challenge, but we are seeing great improvement. And I am sure that the launch of the internet balloons will speed things up sooner than we can imagine.
Moreover, the governmental policies are hindering growth, even though it is the private sector that is working on the upgrades of infrastructure. But things are moving. The government is liberalising the procedures to attract more people and investors.
I personally used to have a USB modem that I carried everywhere before ADSL existed. But a few weeks ago, a new company extended fibre optics to my area and now I finally have ADSL.
It is, of course, still challenging to cover the massive area and remote residential communities considering the huge population; but the return on investment is great in the long run.
What is your forecast for the first phase of launching the product?
We are talking with the group on launching a reward system or loyalty discount for clients to attract customers. By giving them cash back in a reward for using the service, you ensure they are loyal to you. We will also have a media campaign to announce the launch among others.
In the media, we hear about Nigerian cybersecurity problems. Is the app still safe to use?
One Global Wallet is 99.99% safe. You will be surprised how good the cybersecurity team here is. Furthermore, when users register their credit cards, the app sends an automated message to the user’s registered phone number to verify the transaction. The only time it does not ask you to verify transactions is if you use your card for three months on that platform without problems.
Do you have agreements with other companies?
We have agreements with all telecommunications companies in Nigeria as well as with the biggest electricity company here.
Are Nigerians ready to use this service?
Yes, they are.
What about the usage of smartphones in Nigeria?
I am sure it will be above 20m.
In the future, I think 1.5 million people will use our service. If smartphones are available to users, they can simply use our service and, as I said earlier, smartphone users are growing in Nigeria by the day.
Can clients use other payment methods?
They can use credit and debit cards. Clients can also use the card to recharge the wallet for extra safety. In the future, we plan to cooperate with banks to enable users to recharge their wallets through bank branches without having cards. And in the future, also through USSD for non-smartphone users.
There are 25 banks in Nigeria, but people exchange currency on the black market. Is there a problem with the exchange market?
The official currency for businesses is less profitable than the parallel market.
How many team members will you have in the future?
Eventually, we will need additional employees, maybe around two members in sales, two in accounting, and two in customer service, along with one in operations. They also have to all be Nigerians. It will be good financially and as they will know how to deal with the culture of Nigeria.
What are your transaction fees?
The bank takes 1.5% of the transaction amount, up to NGN 2,000, and our commission is 2-7%.
Are there competitors to your service?
Yes, there is a major company that does a similar business, but offline. All banks are also competitors. But people do not prefer to use banks, since it reflects directly on their accounts, whereas when they use our service, it could be easier to solve problems if any arise. We have another advantage since we provide a range of services for many segments and many areas.