Azimo, Interswitch Group Establish Strategic Partnership to Bolster Mobile Payments
Forty percent of Nigeria, at last report, is unbanked, or has no connection to a bank account of any sort. That spells opportunity for mobile payments providers, and a newly-minted strategic partnership between Azimo and Interswitch Group will allow unbanked Nigerians access to mobile payments systems for instant money transfers between the country and any of 23 different European countries.
Since Nigeria is also the largest economy in Africa, that’s double opportunity for the Azimo / Interswitch Group partnership to bear fruit. With this in mind, Azimo and Interswitch won’t just be stopping at instant money transfers, which will fuel remittances, one of the major segments of the Nigerian economy.
The companies also plan to bring out new mobile-based financial services, which will be made available to the entire Interswitch market of 25 million users, in not only Nigeria, but also in Uganda, Tanzania, and Kenya. Remittances represent 5.6 percent of the Nigerian economy, at last report, which adds up to around $20 billion received annually.
Azimo CEO and founder Michael Kent noted “A huge and rapidly growing population coupled with the explosion of smartphone ownership mean that Africa and in particular Nigeria is one of the most exciting fintech markets on the planet. We look forward to working with fintech leader Interswitch to build new digital low-cost financial services that drive inclusion and transform the financial lives of our customers in both the UK and Africa.”
It’s kind of a wonder that no one else stepped in already. Perhaps Azimo had been working on this deal for a while, to the point where Interswitch wouldn’t talk to anyone else. Given the size of the market and the likely welcome that improving remittances would have made—especially in a country that has very little bank account connection but plenty of active smartphones—it would have made a serious coup for some company. It’s also kind of a wonder that the mobile-only challenger banks aren’t making more of a play in the Nigerian market; that’s a market that’s tailor-made for mobile.
Still, regardless of the more speculative aspects of this play, one thing is quite clear: mobile payments and remittances will make a big splash in Nigeria…and likely anywhere else they show up.