Victor Ani-laju is the founder of ePay, an electronic payment solutions provider and also the convener of Make Nigeria Great and HELP GROUP, organisations that groom leaders and entrepreneurs. The entrepreneur who recently participated in The Next Titan Nigeria, an entrepreneurial reality TV show, in this interview with Christiana Esebonu, speaks on his new project, designed to help the poor access funds easily.
You recently came up with an initiative called Welfare Card. What is it all about?
Welfare Card is a payment card developed by ePay in partnership with commercial banks, Interswtich, retail shops, manufacturers, service providers and government organisations, to provide welfare services for our people. This include government palliatives, discounted goods and services, free health care, educational grants, credits and loans, free skills acquisition and housing mortgage. It is also used for payment, cash deposit and withdrawal, to send and eeceive money via POS, ATM, online, banks and local agents.
You said it is targeted at the poor in society. You’ll agree with me that many of them are not information technology literate. How does this meet their need?
Yes, most of our people are not information technology literate but if they can operate mobile phones, then they can use the welfare card to access its life saving benefits. With the help of trained local agents in our communities, we will make it easy for our people to use the welfare card. The welfare card scheme will also create jobs for our people and increase their productivity level by providing basic healthcare, modern skill, access to capital, take good care of families and also create a platform for our people to sell their goods and services directly to final consumers.
What differentiates the Welfare Card from the traditional ‘ajo’ many of the poor people, especially petty traders are already used to?
Welfare card is designed to help our people save money like the ajo traditional system but with additional welfare benefits such as free health care, educational grants, discounted goods and services, free skill acquisition and house mortgage. You cannot get this welfare benefits from our traditional ajo system. Welfare card will also prevent our people from losing their hard earn money to thrift collectors who may abscond with contributors money.
Just imagine a petty trader who has been working very hard to grow her business and take care of her family, but when she falls ill, she cannot visit the hospital because she lacks the funds. With her welfare card, she can visit the hospital and have access to free or affordable medical care and her family will be taken care of.
So what really distinguishes it from other payment systems?
Welfare Card is designed specially to provide welfare for our people which helps them meet their needs and get them out of poverty. Other payment systems are out to make profit off the people. Welfare card initiative is more of giving back to the society than making profit. We want to eradicate poverty from the society and serve our people better to enable them become more productive to themselves and the society at large.
Will the card be distributed free and how will the card be funded?
Welfare card is free and will be distributed and funded by banks and local agents in our communities. The beneficiaries of the Welfare scheme will be encouraged to save money by way of daily, weekly, monthly or yearly contributions and in return get access to life saving benefits that can be accessed at any time without going through unnecessary stress.
Are there any other benefits that one enjoys by possessing the Welfare Card?
Yes, Welfare Card offers 100% benefits to users such as, government palliatives, discounted goods and services, free health care, educational grants, credits and loan, free skill acquisition and housing mortgage. It will also be used for payment, cash deposit and withdrawal, send and eeceive money via POS, ATM, online, banks and local agents. This will give the masses equal access to the facilities and infrastructure the rich enjoy.
At what interest rate can subscribers access loans and for what tenor?
The loan interest rate is almost zero percent, the duration of the loan repayment will determine the interest rate. Welfare Card offers up to 30 years repayment plan for housing project. The interest is very low, flexible and negotiable than that of the bank. It will be the lowest you can think of especially for the low or no income earners in the our society.
You’ll agree that due to cybercrime, a lot of people are skeptical of online financial transactions. What security features are in place to secure them?
Welfare Card comes with an auto theft security alert for unknown user and it has an insurance policy that covers missing funds. There are some secret security levels that are unknown to the public, to enable us trace stolen money from the welfare card. This is one of the most secured payment cards.
Does this card meet the financial inclusion goal of the CBN? If yes, are you working with the apex bank on the project?
ePay, which is in partnership with commercial banks, Interswtich, retail shops, manufacturers, service providers and government organisations designed the welfare card to meet CBN financial inclusion to help provide banking services with low cost and higher benefits for the unbanked people in our society. This people make up 60% of the total banking population and they are underserved but with the welfare card, we can serve them and help them meet their daily needs better.