By: Ruth Iselema
From the bustling streets of Lagos to the vibrant markets of Accra, the spirit of entrepreneurship thrives across Africa. Yet, amidst this growth, the challenges of cross-border remittances persist, hindering individuals like Mr. Lawal, a civil servant in Nigeria, from easily paying his son's school fees in Ghana. As he navigates the complexities of cross-border transactions, it becomes evident that African countries must join forces to create sustainable and efficient remittance platforms.
Over the years, Africa has experienced significant economic growth through the inflow of remittances. Last year alone, remittance inflows to Sub-Saharan African countries rose by 14.1 percent to $49 billion, according to the World Bank.
The advent of technology has revolutionized the way business owners, clients, investors, and founders move money, empowering them to conduct transactions with a simple tap of a button. However, this is no time for complacency. African nations must continue to bolster their efforts in building a robust infrastructure for cross-border remittances.
Empowering the unbanked population in Africa
In the past, sending money abroad involved arduous processes. Take Mr. Lawal for example, enduring long queues and complex paperwork at the bank is synonymous with cross-border transactions. Such cumbersome practices limited cash flow in and out of Africa, obstructing the growth potential of the financial industry. Fortunately, visionary leaders and founders recognized this untapped potential and set out to revolutionize remittance services in Africa.
The results were staggering. In 2018, the World Bank reported a remarkable 10% increase in foreign remittances to Sub-Saharan Africa, reaching an impressive $46 billion, compared to a mere $10 billion in 1995. While the desire for swift and frictionless cross-border fund transfers is palpable, several hurdles to remittance persist.
Thankfully, innovative fintech companies are emerging to address these challenges head-on. It's the same thing we're doing at Bitmama Inc, our product Changera is a venture-backed cross-border social payment company that allows businesses and individuals to transact and make payments globally. Changera has been recognised as one of the fastest growing fintech apps with 40,000+ users spread across Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya and Canada.
We have recognized the vast potential lying dormant within the large unbanked population residing in Africa's rural areas. By introducing online banking solutions and instilling trust in these communities, even the older generation can now access financial services for their cross-border remittances. Furthermore, the widespread usage of smartphones has played a pivotal role in this transformation. As Africans increasingly rely on their phones for various tasks, the convenience of fintech apps has captured their attention, enabling them to effortlessly send money with just a few taps on their screens.
Overcoming regulatory challenges
Africa's fragmented financial landscape poses significant obstacles to seamless cross-border transactions. Each country operates independent government systems, resulting in disparate economic policies that guide financial institutions. This lack of a central and uniform economic policy remains a major hindrance to the efficient flow of funds within the continent. Traditionally, payment infrastructures have remained fragmented and localized worldwide. However, the potential benefits, value, and impact of collaborations between companies across African countries are too substantial to ignore. With Africa's 54 nations differing in population, language, payment infrastructures, and policies, forging strategic partnerships becomes imperative.
Imagine a future where collaborations between African countries provide customers with accessible financial tools, fuel business growth, and contribute to global development. Such partnerships would ensure convenient payout options across the continent, fostering better integration between Africa and the rest of the world. Moreover, these collaborations would bolster financial inclusion, making financial services available and accessible to all. By breaking down barriers, businesses can expand their customer base across the continent, fostering effective communication between senders, receivers, and service providers.
Back to Mr. Lawal's story, collaborative efforts in remittance services would spare him the need to learn Zulu to conduct business transactions using South African Rands. Such synergy among African countries is not just a vision but a tangible reality that awaits us.
What's next for African cross-border remittance?
While Africa has undoubtedly experienced significant economic growth due to increased remittances, disparities in population, payment infrastructures, and economic policies still hinder cross-border transactions. Yet, these hurdles can be overcome through strategic collaborations among African countries. By uniting and fostering innovation, companies can create transformative solutions, empowering individuals as they ascend the economic ladder. Furthermore, these collaborations will propel global financial inclusion and ensure easy access to convenient payout options throughout Africa.
As we embark on this journey towards a future of seamless cross-border remittances, let us embrace collaboration as the catalyst for change. Together, we can unleash Africa's full economic potential and forge a new era of financial connectivity.
Changera is a venture-backed cross-border social payment company that allows businesses and individuals to transact and make payments globally. Changera has been recognised as one of the fastest growing fintech apps with 40,000+ users spread across Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya, and Canada.
With Changera, users access features such as local currency conversions, virtual Dollar cards, dollar, pound, and euro accounts to send and receive payments globally and hold their cash across several multi-currency wallets.
The fintech offers MasterCard and VISA-issued virtual & physical dollar cards that work on all local and international online/offline payment channels. The app is available for download on Appstore and Playstore. Follow @Changeraapp on all social media platforms.
About Ruth Iselema
Ruth Iselema is one of the pioneers and leading female leaders in Africa’s blockchain space. She is the Chief Executive Officer of Bitmama Inc, a pan-African blockchain startup offering crypto products in payments, trading, and investments, with footprints across Africa, Europe, and the US. In 2021, she launched Changera, a cross-border payments platform helping businesses and individuals to send and receive money globally. Before founding Bitmama, Ruth consulted other leading global exchanges and blockchain protocols on their product strategy and market entry into Africa, including Binance and CELO.
Fondly called the Bitmama of Africa’s blockchain space, Ruth has been recognized as one of top individuals shaping Africa’s blockchain space by leading media, CryptoAssetBuyer and received other recognition from the German and Austrian Missions in Africa.