IMTC Africa - Financial Experts, Fintechs, Others Discuss Money Transfers, Cross-Border Payments

By Ifeoluwa Adediran

Banks, Mobile Money Operators, Money Transfer Operators (MTOs), virtual currency experts, remittance companies, fintechs, financial aggregators, and regulators across Africa gathered in Nigeria for the International Money Transfers & Cross-Border Payments Conference, IMTC Africa 2019.

The three-day event held in Lagos, Nigeria from September 24 to 26.

The IMTC conference is a leading conference in the remittances and cross-border payments industry across the globe.

The conference focused on "Exploring the rapidly evolving border financial services and Fintech industry in Africa."

It was organized to discuss the development of the Fintech industry, and the growth of the remittance market in the African region.

The conference chairpersons, Leon Isaacs and Hugo Cuevas-Mohr, mentioned why it was pertinent to hold the conference in Lagos.

According to the speakers, aside from Lagos being Africa's leading and fastest-growing city, it is a major financial centre in Africa. Nigeria is also the 5th largest Remittance Market in recorded flows.

The pre-conference, which held on Tuesday, featured training sessions for participants. Zory Munoz, a Global Field Compliance officer for Xoom/Paypal, addressed participants on money transfer compliance, while Hugo Cuevas-Mohr, a money transfer expert, took participants through a remittances innovation forum.

Waiye Ajakaiye, the representative of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), while giving CBN's address at the conference, said that remittances are really large which is why the CBN has separate provisions for regulating fintech, putting up policies and compliances and another provision for bank services.

While highlighting the importance of remittances, the CBN noted that remittances inflows have become a relatively stable source of foreign exchange needed for most developing countries, including Nigeria's external finances.

"Nigeria is the largest remittance recipient country in Sub Saharan African. Nigeria received more than $24.3 billion in 2018. This is 6 per cent of the country's GDP," he said.

While highlighting the initiatives that the CBN would develop in facilitating remittances in Nigeria, Mr Ajakaiye said the CBN is committed to promoting and strengthening indigenous and International Money Transfer Operators (IMTOs) in the country through appropriate policy and collaboration.

He added that there is a continuous effort to liberalise the foreign exchange market and ensure liquidity in order to make foreign exchange readily available to low-end users.

"The CBN in August 2016, licensed 11 IMTOs to operate in addition to the existing three operators. Currently, there are 65 IMTOs in Nigeria, this development has significantly increased diaspora remittance inflows into the economy," Mr Ajakaiye said.

The Nigerian Postal Service (NIPOST) also had representatives present at the conference.

Mukthar Muhammed, the representative of the Postmaster-General of NIPOST, while giving an address at the conferences talked about the commitment of NIPOST to the facilitation of Nigerian remittances.

Making reference to the time remittances started, Mr Muhammed stated that the post office was probably the oldest remittance organization in the world.

"The Post has not been left behind, the post led by the Umbrella body called Universal Postal Union has been paramount."

He said the Post is generally catching up with the advent of technology in terms of remittances and fin-tech, not only in Nigeria but across the world. Upon getting its license as an IMTO, NIPOST is partnering with the private sector and other significant money transfer operators such as MoneyGram, Western Union and others, he said.

The IMTC Africa conference engaged participants as diverse panel discussions were held where experts and reputable organizations in the remittance, money transfers and fintech industry shared their expertise.

Part of the panel discussions included 'Major trends in the West African Remittance Markets', 'Perspectives from International Money Transfer Operators on why West Africa is key for the development of money transfer strategy', 'Regulatory developments in the remittance markets', 'Fintech development', 'Blockchain and Crypto', and other key discussions.

The panellists at the conference were speakers from Flutterwave, Ping Express, M-Pesa, Remitly, Small World, More Money Transfers, Thunes, Vogue Pay, Ark Tech, and Bitstop.

As part of the attractions for the industry in Nigeria, Bitstop, an international company that builds bitcoin ATMs for easy accessibility of bitcoins, has revealed its intentions to have a bitcoin machine in Nigeria.

Erik Halvorssen, the Business Development Manager of Bitstop said this during a round table discussion on blockchain and cryptocurrency. He said that the bitcoin ATM means that many Nigerians can exchange their physical cash for virtual money. The bitcoin ATM would also enable Nigerians to buy and sell bitcoin in a reliable and fast way.