Fintech News

Interview with Omotade Odunowo, Entrepreneur & CEO of fets Ltd.

We had the opportunity to publish one of the most interesting articles on the African Fintech market on our website not long ago, written by Omotade Odunowo, CEO of fets Ltd. In this interview, Omotade speaks on the present state of the Nigerian Fintech Market and the opportunities available;

1) Hello Omotade, could you please tell us about yourself?

I joined fets as Chief Risk Officer in 2012, shortly after the company was founded. I worked my way up to Managing Director and am now CEO, providing the overall strategic leadership, direction and guidance for the growth, expansion and diversification of the company.

Before joining fets I spent nearly 20 years in the financial services industry, mostly focused on information protection, risk management and privacy roles in a number of Fortune 500 companies including one of Africa’s leading banks.

2) What are your focus areas and why?

Financial inclusion, unlocking Nigeria’s creative industries and delivering Nigeria’s cashless economy. An alarmingly large portion (as high as 80 million by some estimates) of the Nigerian population is unbanked. For the economy to grow, especially as the government seeks to diversify it away from oil, it will be essential to include these people in the formal economy. Mobile money services will be key here, especially in the more rural areas where there is a paucity of traditional bank branches and where suspicion of traditional banking is still high.

In recent years the government has started to pay particular attention to Nigeria’s creative industries as a means of growing the economy and as an alternative to oil. They even refer to these industries as the “new oil”. But a range of problems stemming from a lack of proper financial infrastructure are frustrating attempts to integrate these industries into the formal economy. Mobile money has an important role to play here too.

This all comes at a time when the government and the Central Bank are attempting to push Nigeria towards a cashless economy. There are numerous reasons for this including boosting financial inclusion and lowering crime levels. Mobile money, and particularly fets, will be a driving force behind this important initiative.

3) How did you get the idea of matching Fintech with Fashion?

Of Nigeria’s main creative industries, we see fashion as the one offering the most opportunity for growth. Firstly, of the three, it already employs the most people (87%) – by a significant margin. Secondly the economic potential is stounding. Euromonitor International projected the combined garment and footwear market in sub-Saharan Africa to grow to a value of some $40 billion over 2017. Exact numbers are hard to come by as there has been little definitive research conducted into Nigeria’s creative industries, but it is clear from its global presence that the Nigerian market makes up a substantial part of this.

4) What are the current opportunities for Fintech and Fashion in Nigeria?

Nigeria’s fashion industry really has the potential to be a world class business and fintech will unlock its value.
Potential growth is being stunted by a lack of financial infrastructure, including proper revenue collection facilities and the ability to pay unbanked suppliers and workers in a convenient and reliable manner. This is where fets will come into play, helping to integrate Nigeria’s fashion industry into the formal economy and see it actually reach its potential in contributing to economic growth.

Crucially, the service now accommodates not just transfers between individuals, but also corporate clients. This means that everyone in the fashion value chain, from suppliers to employees, can be paid in a convenient and timely manner. As it allows for quick and cashless revenue collection, it means that business can be conducted abroad as well. 

At the micro level fintech helps foster talent, by making it easy and convenient for designers and entrepreneurs to set up in the fashion industry. This frees up time for being creative, it allows you to take a job, and having the security of being conveniently and reliably paid.

5) Do you have any current projects in this Industry?

Fets’ work to unlock the fashion industry is a constant, ongoing project – we are very involved. We have sponsored Lagos Fashion week for two years running now. In 2017 all the models were paid via fetswallet and the food court was cashless, to demonstrate the potential role fets can play. Our brand ambassador during fashion week was Nigerian designer Orange Culture, who had recently been displaying his work at prestigious London department store Selfridges. He is a great example of what can be achieved when young entrepreneurs and designers are able to break out of Nigeria’s informal economy.

6) Can you tell us more about your business “fets Ltd”?

Fets Ltd is a Central Bank of Nigeria licensed mobile money operator. It is a Nigerian business, programmed and developed by Nigerians for Nigerians. We are particularly proud of our flagship product, the “fetswallet” mobile payment service, which has rapidly grown to be one of the most popular in Nigeria.

We are particularly focused on convenience, security, ease of use and trust. Our popularity is thanks to the very high level of trust we enjoy amongst security-conscious Nigerians. The USSD app is now available in five languages: the three main Nigerian dialects (Hausa, Igbo and Yoruba) as well as English and Pidgin. The multi-lingual update is the first of its kind in the Nigerian fintech sector and is available for free to all registered customers.

We have a number of other products, including a payment aggregation solution and a payment and goods monitoring system, and we are constantly developing new products to meet the needs of our customers.

7) What were some of the biggest challenges you encountered while working to launch your new initiatives?

We operate through an agent network in order to reach the more remote parts of the country that traditional banking cannot. The cost of agent development is very high. Secondly there is a lack of proper awareness and information about mobile money and a low percentage of government to people business channelled through mobile money companies. These together with high levels of financial illiteracy and suspicion throughout Nigeria have proved the biggest challenges for us to overcome. It is why it is so satisfying that we are now one of Nigeria’s most popular and trusted mobile payment services.

8) Where do you see the company in the next 5 years?

We see ourselves as a significant driving force in the Central Bank of Nigeria’s financial inclusion strategy 2020, which aims to reduce the financial exclusion rate to 20 percent by 2020. We have a number of exciting initiatives coming up in 2018 – I can’t go into too much detail here but watch this space! We are well on track to be the leading mobile money service in Nigeria, where in five years’ time we expect the name “fets” to be synonymous with the word “payments”.

9) What can you tell young women entrepreneurs who are pursuing their dreams?

Don’t give up! It’s still a man’s world out there, especially in fintech, but we are slowly but surely changing the status quo. Women are now a driving force behind not just Africa’s – but the world’s – ongoing fintech boom, and with your help this will continue!

10) What are you most excited about at the moment?

The Nigerian economy, particularly the creative sectors. Together with fets, these are going to see continued, rapid and exciting growth over the coming years.

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