If you live in Lagos and other developed parts of Nigeria, and are part of the banked minority (no one knows what the actual numbers are these days, but there’s more unbanked than banked adults), moving money from one place to the other is not high on your list of 99 problems. But for those who don’t have bank accounts, it (still) takes too much time, and costs too much money to receive and send cash.
Perhaps if the mobile money had thrived in Nigeria, the story would be different. But the promise of a cashless economy powered by mobile money was efficiently nipped in the bud by the regulators who weren’t too keen on letting a Safaricom-type scenario play out the way it did in Kenya where by 2014, about 43 percent of the country’s GDP flowed through MPesa. That means that people in rural Nigeria, where commercial banks do not reach are still denied access to basic financial services, and still have to travel or wait for incoming travellers to send and receive money.
It is based on this premise that Stellar.org, and Oradian, are launching a low-cost live payment transfer network among Nigerian microfinance organizations.
Stellar.org is a tech nonprofit that hosts and maintains the Stellar network, which it describes as “a free, open-source network that connects diverse financial systems and enables money to move directly between people, companies and financial institutions as easily as email” and that anyone can use the Stellar network to build low cost financial services for their target community.
Oradian, on on the other hand, is a Croatian fintech company. Its core banking application, Instafin, is said to be used by microfinance institutions all over Nigeria with a reach of 200 branches, which in turn serve 300,000 end clients.
The logic at work here is that unlike regular commercial banks, microfinance banks are much closer and accessible to rural populations, making them an ideal channel to deliver improved financial services. Integrating the Stellar network into Instafin will enable instant transfers between all the branches of the microfinance institutions that are powered by Oradian’s software. This also means that microfinance bank customers who are mainly based in rural areas will be able to send money to other microfinance bank customers in distant villages or cities, in real time, by simply visiting their local microfinance bank.
“We’re beyond excited to be working with Oradian…” said Joyce Kim, Executive Director of Stellar.org in an emailed statement announcing the launch and partnership to TechCabal. “With the Oradian integration, communities that primarily relied upon cash for money transfer in and out of their villages can now transfer money instantly and safely, regardless of their location. This is the first step towards creating a universal payment network for the unbanked, and brings us closer to fulfilling Stellar.org’s mission of using a universal platform to bring financial services to all.”
Obviously, it’s not quite as mobile as mobile money…but this could be a potential game-changer for the way thousands of people send and receive money in rural Nigeria.
On the heels of the Oradian partnership, Stellar.org’s executive team is currently in Nigeria, and is also looking to start a longterm conversation with local developers about using the free and open source Stellar network. Last week, it participated in a fireside chat about open source payments technologies, hosted by the iDEA Hub. And tomorrow, it will be demonstrating its APIs to developers at the CcHub. There is still time to register here.