Fintech is creating a worldwide movement of digitizing the way we handle money, whether that’s with cryptocurrencies like bitcoin and ethereum, or how we make transactions with companies such as PayPal, Venmo, and Cash App. Fintech has been especially exciting to see in many African countries, where the need for modern technological amenities such as internet connection and smartphones has resulted in innovations such as the M-pesa money transfer system in Kenya. This service allows users to make financial transactions using smartphones without the need for internet access, as it uses technology similar to that of text messaging. Now, Nigerian fintech startup Bankly is working to aid the nation to adapt to a fintech world in a largely cash-dominated society. On Wednesday, March 24 2021, Bankly announced that they have closed a €1.7 million seed round for their company which digitizes cash for those who don’t belong to a bank. Currently, those who are unbanked use an informal thrift collection system known as both esuso and ajo by citizens in Nigeria. The main advantage to these systems, and why so many people who either don’t have access to traditional banking options or choose not to use them, is that they work 100% offline.
These systems are far from perfect however, as there is much room for fraud and money laundering efforts. They work by having a thrift collector who disburses funds and saves cash for users, but this can result in many security issues if the collector goes missing or passes away unexpectedly, leaving no knowledge as to where these funds are kept. On top of this customers are unable to keep track of data as it takes place entirely online, so Bankly has made it their mission to consolidate the whole process in an easy to use and access way. Their system allows unbanked users to use their platform both online and offline, and is currently in the phase of building distribution networks to bring this service nationwide to those who need it most. According to TechCrunch, “Here, customers can deposit and withdraw cash with a Bankly agent any time. This solves the issue of access as there are thousands of agents in these cash-dependent communities.” On top of being a much safer and more reliable system than esuso or ajo, Bankly creates a community where customers can feel safe and engaged in saving their money with Bankly agents. This online banking presence in Nigeria will hopefully propel them into the rest of the fintech world where more opportunities await for this innovation.