Ecobank Nigeria has joined numerous voices to canvass for a clear focus on power and employment solutions in the country, as a way to get the nation’s wheel of progress grind faster for the good of all.
The bank also noted that collaborative efforts would be needed to achieve this, pointing out that banking industry has had a fair share of the challenges of parlous infrastructure on its operations, as well as the ability of small businesses in the country to pay their loans.The Managing Director of Ecobank Nigeria, Patrick Akinwutan, while speaking with select finance journalists in Lagos, harped on focus on infrastructure, noting that in the last two or three years, a lot of emphasis has been placed on becoming self-sufficient, particularly in food production and the result has helped in moderating impact of inflation.
“We need to support more productive capacity, the real projects should come on stream, the power projects should keep improving so that employment can take the centre stage and get more people employed, more people engaged and therefore, the will of the economic progress can turn much faster.
“The focus in Nigeria should remain the fundamentals. One, infrastructure, power, railways to harness the significant potential in Nigeria and growth of the intellectual economy. I have commented about this and I will keep reiterating.
“Nigerians are very resourceful people, participating in services where you use your intellectual capacity, leveraging on the Internet and digital access available globally. Nigeria should continue to focus on becoming a top player globally,” he said.Speaking on the business environment and outlook for credit creation by banks in the year and impact of inflation, the banker said these cannot be exempted from the overall macro economic environment.
“The fact of the matter is that loan in itself needs to be situated within the overall macro economic environment. Inflation has a direct impact on interest rates. And interest rates have a direct impact on the total cost of operations,” he said.
Meanwhile, he disclosed that in a move to deepen contributions to financial inclusion scheme and service delivery, the bank is targeting 50,000 agent banking locations this year, such that in every neighbourhood, there is access to Ecobank Express Point to either do a cash deposit and cash withdrawal.They will also be equipped to become more convenient for customers to approach such banking location to open an account, get an instant card and to participate in the financial economy.
Akinwuntan pointed out that the lender has a customer-base above nine million in Nigeria, with a wide range of physical location- over 400 branches and currently, more than 4,000 agency locations.He said the bank has a common platform that connects the continent, with a mobile App that has all the countries of operations available, with full access.
“When we deployed a remittance platform, we deployed RapidTransfer, which enables people to send money home. But for remittance within Africa, within our various countries in Africa, we have now taken to the next level and put it on an App available to every Africa globally.“So, any Nigerian in Diaspora can download the Ecobank RapidTransfer App from any of the stores, attach his or card, say in Canada, UK or US and remit $50, $30, £30, £25 or £100 instantly to a recipient in Nigeria. And that recipient either has a bank account in Ecobank or a bank account in any other bank.
“Leveraging on the Nigerian Inter-Bank Settlement System, which has done a great job in bringing a common platform for all the banks in Nigeria, that payment will get to the account of that other receiving bank, because Ecobank has put together a global App available for all Nigerians globally to be able to send money home.
“And because we are able to do it per scale and because we know that when Nigerians work abroad, close to 7 per cent to 8 per cent of their sweat is taken as commission when they are sending money home, we decided to make the cost of sending free.“We want 100 per cent of the money made, the sweat and hard work of Nigerians, to find its way back to Nigeria, to support Nigeria and develop our economy in Nigeria. And that is why we made the RapidTransfer charges zero.
“Best exchange rate available. If you do the transfer today, if your cousin does that transfer from Canada today, or Paris, you will get an equivalent of N360 to a dollar instantly at no charge to the sender. So, the entire money made by your relation or your colleague or yourself abroad finds its way back to Nigeria to support Nigerians back home, which is why most relations go to work abroad,” he said.