Samuel Oladimeji is the MD/CEO of Fortis Mobile Money Limited. In this interview, he gives insight about the company’s project; Digital Finance for Rural Agricultural Development (DiFRAD), a digital agricultural initiative aimed at supporting smallholder farmers, especially in the rural and peri-urban communities in the North-central, North-east and North-west. Patience Ivie Ihejirika was there for LEADERSHIP Friday Mobile Money is still struggling within the Nigerian business environment as consumers still confuse it with Mobile Banking, why do you think that is?

It has been really difficult for the Mobile Money Operators (MMOs) to craft a value proposition that will address the real needs of their target market, of course, we know that target markets might differ across MMOs but conceptually speaking, Mobile Money target market should be the base of the pyramid customers who are often in rural or peri-urban communities. This gap has made most MMOs to compete with the banks for the same customers, thereby unwittingly forcing Mobile Money nuancing with Mobile Banking. So far, MMOs have been losing this competition. This looks a bit grim for the industry, is there a solution? We at Fortis Mobile Money have always believed in going the whole nine yards. We believe it should be done the right way. We have refused to take the short cut to immediate but fleeting profit. Of course, we know that we can choose to drive value through bill payments and wallet-to-bank transfers but then any sort of aggressive marketing of e-channels by the commercial banks would leave MMOs scrambling for market share in an already saturated market. What we have done is that we have consolidated our Base of the Pyramid (BoP) proposition with innovative products that is tailored to the needs of the BoP customers. These products include Mobile Microfinance, Cash Transfer Package and recently DiFRAD.

What is DiFRAD?

DiFRAD is an acronym that means Digital Finance for Rural Agricultural Development. It is a product we developed last year for BoP segment. Particularly, this product was developed for smallholder farmers especially ones in the rural and peri-urban communities in the North-central, North-east and North-west. This is a digital Agricultural initiative. The product was inspired by a first-hand encounter with some farming communities in Niger and Cross River States, during some of our Cash Transfer Programs. We discovered that most of our beneficiaries are actually farmers who are constrained by lack of financial services and sometimes, know-how. We immediately started toying with the idea of filling their gap by bringing the banks to them and linking them with Agricultural developers. To achieve this, we had to partner with microfinance banks, agricultural developers and insurance companies as we worked on a suite of products that will cater for the extensive needs of the farmers. We rolled out the project last year but will aggressively expand it this year.

What is unique about this product? What does it offer differently?

It may seem to be a variation of what the banks are already offering; well, this product focuses on the value chain instead of isolated financing. We, in partnership with the microfinance banks and insurance companies finance the entire value chain starting from provision of farm land, through its clearing to its harvesting, processing and selling. It is our passion to end the marginalization of smallholder farmers by buyers and even nature by providing knowledge and guidance as they journey through the digital finance value chain. Our package even extends to the provision of inputs and we have consulted critical expertise to look at the proposition and ensure that we achieve the desired impact. This is why the whole process is mostly digital. Going digital guarantees a level of transparency and accountability. Digital process is easily auditable.

What is inside this suite of offerings?

The farmers will be exposed to micro-loans, micro-savings, micro-insurance and knowledge sharing. We have negotiated a most clement interest rate for the smallholder farmers and have sought partnership with reputable insurance companies. This suite of offering includes exposing the farmers to competitive buyers for their products and trying the best to shield them from exploitation. The idea is to provide competitive alternatives for the farmers throughout the value-chain. We want to ensure that the days of farmers begging for buyers for their produce or looking for much needed finance or due to the lack of knowledge or connection to navigate through the value chain is over. What is the goal of this DiFRAD Project? We see ourselves, Fortis Mobile Money, as a socially responsible organization, and DiFRAD, to us, is part of the ways we give back to the community. The overarching goal is to reduce the poverty level in rural communities seeing that their most recurrent occupation is farming. EFINA 2016 reports opined that financial exclusion level has grown in the rural areas. We see these rural areas as predominantly farmers. Smallholder farmers are actually the providers of about 85% of the locally produced food in the circulation in the markets. So ensuring that their capacity is optimized would actually impact the economy hugely as we continue to climb out of the recession.

Is this an improvement on Mobile Microfinance, the product you mentioned alongside DiFRAD?

They are actually different but that will take a whole new interview. But summarily put, Mobile Microfinance concentrates on delivering microfinance products through the mobile phones to financially underserved customers. Through this product, we take micro-finance to BoP customers. What does

Mobile Micro-finance really mean to small businesses?

Steps to develop good savings, spending habits

Cultivating the habit of savings is a very important one; this habit can help you in many aspects of life.

A good saver can save out funds for business; a good saver is debt free; a good saver has already made a right and bold step to financial freedom and a good saver can reach certain goals that can’t be ordinarily attained with the limited revenues he gets.

According to, cultivating a           savings culture is always ideal, but it’s never easy. Savings entails starving yourself off certain wants and pleasures, and that takes a lot of discipline. Many people want to save, many people wish they could save, but just a few save at the end of the day.

Cultivating good savings culture will definitely affect your spending habit as well.

There are certain ways you can cultivate a savings culture.

  1. Assess your financial health

The first major step to savings is assessing your financial health; this would help you know the direction you’re headed and how to get there. You need to have a clear picture of your income and expenses; you need to know what takes the bulk of your money, and also try to ascertain whether you’re spending more than you earn. When you have this figured out then you can move to the next step.

  1. Have a budget

Having a budget would help guide you on what you ought to spend your money on and what you shouldn’t. With a budget, you would know your needs and wants and have a clear picture of how to cut down on spending on your wants. Wanting to satisfy your wants would make you unable to save. A budget would help you plan better, save better and cut down unnecessary expenses.

  1. Keep track of your spending

Your spending habits would determine if you would be a successful saver or not. Keep track of your daily lifestyle and what you spend your money on. After assessing where your money goes, look for ways you can minimise how much you spend.

  1. Have a target

The best way to save is having a target; saving without a target might not keep you motivated, but saving for a target keeps you motivated and focused. Have a realistic goal and save towards it.

  1. Be debt free

Try as much as possible to live a life free of debts. Manage your finances judiciously and avoid having to collect loans. Live according to your budget; this would help you in the long run.

  1. Save for emergencies

Emergencies happen all the time; this is something we have no control over. The best way to handle emergency is to save, so you won’t be left out of the dark. Set about five per cent of your income monthly to save for emergencies, so you wouldn’t be left in the dark when the situation arises. Your emergency savings should be different from your normal savings.

  1. retend you are paying off a loan

The best way to frame your mind-set towards savings is to pretend you’re paying off a debt. Continue making the monthly payments into your savings account. Even after you reach your set goal, never stop this habit.

  1. Set your mind towards saving

Having your mind geared towards saving would help you save better. Also, if you notice you still have money left at the end of the month, rather than spend it unwisely, the best bet is to save it. This would help you reach your goal faster.

  1. Set a fixed percentage

The best way to save is by setting a fixed percentage to be saved monthly. This way, when your income increases, your savings would increase as well.

  1. Try to avoid gathering and friends that would give your saving a setback

Friends are important, but when you have friends that won’t let you save, it’s best to minimise the way you see them. Gatherings and friends that prompt you to spend money won’t only kill your savings but might even push you to spend above your earnings.

Four ways to maintain proper savings culture

Most good savers have a good understanding of their expenses, know how to control them, are good at saving money, and know how to resist upgrading. Successful people usually follow four steps to prepare for and complete their goals. Let’s look at each step and how we can apply it on and off the long distance trails of life.

Know your expenses

First, you must know your annual expenses. Add up the amount you spend every year on all your major expenses, such as rent/mortgage, telephone, clothes, education, utilities, entertainment, transportation, fitness centre, and booze. There are software programs (e.g., Quicken and MS Money) that help you figure out your annual expenses, and for the frugal, there are free financial web sites (e.g., Finance Yahoo! and MSN Money) as well. The super frugal can get by with just a pencil and paper! It doesn’t matter what method you use, and you don’t need an MBA or a CPA to figure this out. Just get a rough idea. Are you spending N3m a year?; N5m a year?; N10m a year?; N20m a year?; or just N200,000 a year?

Continue to save despite the odds

Armed with that number, you can determine when it’s safe to summit. The more cash you have stowed away, the better you will weather downturns. How much cash is enough? The last recession in Nigeria lasted for 15 months. Therefore, saving a year’s worth of expenses will provide a sufficient buffer to weather nearly any recession. Once you have that level of protection, you can confidently adopt upgrades, as long as you maintain that one-year buffer. You can summit without fear. As a result, you will have the freedom to do what you love. Best of all, you’ll finally get to buy that deluxe barbeque set that your wife has been resisting.

If you live below your means and you control your desire to upgrade, you probably won’t notice recessions. Even if you are laid off, you won’t have to change your way of life. If you’re used to eating out twice a week, driving a Lexus, and schmoozing at the golf club, then you can still do that because you’ve saved a year’s worth of expenses. Although this will chew into your savings, you won’t have to tighten your belt (or at least far less than those who were overextended).

On the other hand, those who constantly push the envelope of upgrades and live on credit will have to retrench their way of life significantly. The process of cutting back is depressing for anyone. That’s why living beyond your means is so risky – you’re bound to get disappointed.

Resisting upgrades

Most of us don’t have a year’s worth of expenses saved. We feel pretty good if we have a month! Getting a year’s worth of expenses saved requires resisting every tempting upgrade until your life becomes highly inconvenient without it.

Always calculate nominal costs

Get into the habit of calculating the nominal costs of a reoccurring expense before committing to it. Figure out how much the subscription will cost you over a year, or even five to 20 years. When the next salesman tells you, “Hey, it’s only N500 a day!” remind yourself that it’s N182500 a year, and ask yourself if that extra N182,500 at the end of the year would be nice to have in the bank. Or you can suggest to the salesman that if it’s only a N500 a day, then why not just give it away?

23rd February, 2018