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Nigeria: IBIC wants to help diaspora ‘get around’ naira transfer ban

By David Whitehouse
Posted on Monday, 28 June 2021 11:59

IBIC Investment Holdings CEO Yanju George
IBIC Investment Holdings CEO Yanju George. Photo supplied.

IBIC Investment Holdings aims to become the first Nigerian company to offer real-time money transfers from the diaspora back home in the fourth quarter of this year, CEO Yanju George tells The Africa Report.

The planned ‘PayLite’ app, built with help from developers in Belarus, will have a turnaround time of seconds, George says in Lagos. It will be a “disruptive solution which is different from traditional money-transfer platforms,” he says.

Nigeria’s central bank in 2020 halted diaspora transfers in naira as it seeks to encourage dollar remittances and stabilise the domestic currency. In March, Central Bank Governor Godwin Emefiele announced the introduction of an incentive of five naira for every $1 of remittance.

  • George aims to ‘work around’ the restriction by means of a platform where customers will open a wallet.
  • They will transfer dollars into this wallet and themselves make the conversion into naira.
  • The money would then be instantly transferrable into Nigerian bank accounts.
  • He says the central bank “does not have a problem” with the proposed platform, and he is working with them to secure final approval.

The only comparable service available in Nigeria comes from the Ghanaian-owned company Bitsika, George adds.

  • IBIC is seeking equity investors to launch the service. The venture will need $500,000 of pre-seed funding, of which about $200,000 has so far been raised, George says.
  • The service will start with diaspora payments to Nigeria, with plans to later add Ghana, Kenya and Rwanda.

The potential market is substantial. According to PwC, the Nigerian diaspora sent home about $25bn in 2018, or about 6.1% of GDP. The firm says the figure could be close to $35bn by 2023. Real-time payment volumes in Nigeria rose to over 70% of digital payment transactions in 2020, as Covid-19 sharpened the need for instant transfers, according to a report from ACI Worldwide in March. The growth will continue through 2022 before leveling off or declining after 2023, ACI Worldwide says.

Victoria Island hotel

George started out as an entrepreneur selling MTN recharge cards before setting up IBIC in 2012. The firm is a diversified holding company with investments in real estate, agriculture, digital currencies, facility management, and hospitality.

Investments include fintech company CoinNest Africa, CleanUp – a professional cleaning service company in Lagos – and IBIC Acres which has crop, poultry, snail and pig farming holdings in southwest Nigeria.

The company is also seeking $6m of debt funding for a planned new hotel in Victoria Island, Lagos. IBIC, which is currently debt-free, already owns the George Residence, a luxury short-let facility in Lekki which opened in 2020.

The firm originally concentrated on digital currencies but diversified as a way to deal with the volatility involved, George says. He is still the majority shareholder, though other institutional and individual shareholders have come on board.

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