When Tayo Oviosu started Paga in 2009, there were three gnawing personal motivations: he was frustrated with moving large sums of money around, the inconvenience and security risks were too real to ignore, and the intermittent card services could be bothersome especially when funds were needed urgently.
But those were not the only problems.
“I soon realised that a lot of Nigerians do not own bank accounts and the problem was much worse for them,” Oviosu told The Guardian in a tweet chat.
Thus began the journey that led to the birth of Paga, an indigenous company that has hinged its business model on a simple belief that the ubiquity of mobile phones can be leveraged to bring financial services to all Africans.
Using the company’s modest achievement as a basis, Oviosu believed that Nigerian tech firms are capable of creating ingenious solutions that could solve some of the problems banked and non-banked people face in the country.
Such companies will be at TechPlus Conference and Expo. The conference is Africa’s largest tech gathering where new technology comes to life, new products are launched and innovation converges. This year’s edition is expected to bring companies from around the world to showcase and learn how technology is evolving to meet the needs of a digital generation and modern business.
Today, Paga has about 6.5 million users and a vast network of 12,000 agents spread across Nigeria. But as huge as the number is, Oviosu’s dream is far bigger. His vision is to continue to tap into Nigeria’s huge number of mobile phone users which, according to data published by the Nigerian Communication Commission in May 2017, stands at 145.35 million.
“A core objective for us at Paga is to bank more than 70 million unbanked Nigerians,” he said.
Beyond that, Oviosu is positive that Nigeria is ready for a full transition to digital payment, which will see a massive growth in the person-to-person payment system. And in his opinion, the growth will be more organic as more people seek out more convenient ways of sending funds.
“Nigerian person-to-person transfers will be the next growth,” he said with an air of assurance.
This presents an opportunity for companies whose solutions can meet the needs of consumers. And Oviosu says Paga is ready for the windfall and will leverage digital platforms and its network of agents to provide people with a platform through which they can send money from any store of cash to anyone, anytime regardless of whether they use “dumb phone, smartphone, smartwatch or visit their neighbourhood agent.”
The target, he said, is to make Paga a reliable substitute for millions of Nigerians that do not have bank accounts and make it a compliment to bank accounts for those who have.