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‘Digital transactions set to change consumer behaviour for good’

(L-R) Richard Byarugaba, Michael Atingi-Ego, Salma Ingabire, Thembeka Ngugi, Joseph Balikuddembe and Patrick Ayota during the launch of NSSF Smartcard at Kampala Serena Hotel on June.15.

NSSF in partnership with VISA and Centenary Bank unveiled the smartcard for its member, a first in Sub-Saharan Africa. Thembeka Ngugi, Senior Director, Marketing – Sub Saharan Africa, Visaspoke to The Independent about the latest innovation and the digital transaction space.

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What does this partnership between VISA, NSSF and Centenary Bank in unveiling NSSF Smart Card mean to you and the users?

 The Visa-powered NSSF Smartcard has been unveiled in partnership with two credible institutions– National Social Security Fund and Centenary Bank. This partnership is a sign of trust in Visa as the leading payments partner for institutions in Uganda as well as the preferred partner for public and private sector payments.  The card is a first, not only for this region but for all of Sub-Saharan Africa and signifies positive strides and investment made towards financial independence for consumers and businesses in Uganda. This card brings great convenience and will enable consumers make instant transactions, track their savings, while enjoying a host of additional retail and lifestyle benefits.

One of the main hinderances to the signing up and usage of debit cards is usually insecurity and the fear of fraud. What is Visa as a global payments’ technology company doing about this?

The single most important advice to remember is: don’t reveal personal information in unsolicited communication. If you get a call, SMS or e-mail asking for personal or financial information, just ignore and hang up. If you think it was really your bank, your payment card issuer, or someone from the government trying to contact you, you can always call them back by dialing the relevant organization’s official number. This is what we constantly stress to customers, helping them to understand that they are the first line of defense.  Visa works tirelessly to meet consumers’ payment needs around security, reliability, convenience, and trust. Our success is attributed to intelligent technology we deploy and educational tools and communication platforms we create to educate consumers.  Visa’s Risk team operates with 24x7x365 vigilance to detect, prevent, and respond to threats in real-time. We have kept global fraud rates at historic lows—less than 0.1 percent —through a multi-layered approach of investing in human capital and technology like Artificial Intelligence.

Could you share some of your perspectives on financial inclusion, and the role that you aim to play in supporting inclusive growth?

Cash remains a significant challenge. In Sub-Saharan Africa: Nearly all personal consumption expenditure is in cash (91% of $1 trillion annually). Low-income consumers spend an estimated $240 billion on fast-moving consumer goods (FMCGs) annually, most at small businesses and most in cash. Cash is known, trusted, fast and perceived as free.  Visa fosters the social and economic benefits that stem from financial empowerment through its commitment to financial inclusion. So, we work through strategic partnerships to reach underserved consumers and small businesses, guided by our mission to connect the world through the most innovative, reliable, and secure payments network.  We have been actively engaged in supporting efforts to drive financial inclusion in more than 20 countries around the world because we believe everyone, everywhere has the right to have access to quality financial services, including savings, insurance, pensions and affordable credit. Financial inclusion is achieved when everyone, everywhere can use secure, convenient, and affordable payment and other financial services to meet every day needs and long-term goals. It is recognized as an important driver of poverty alleviation. Electronic payments, such as those enabled by Visa, are a first step to financial inclusion, which is why we are investing new ways to reach people at all levels of the economic pyramid.

The Covid-19 pandemic saw a rapid increase in the usage of cashless payments across Uganda. How did this impact your as Visa in your operation?

 On a global scale, the spread of COVID-19 accelerated the path to digital payments with rapidly increasing adoption of eCommerce, contactless payments, and P2P transfers across Central Europe, Middle East and Africa. We witnessed changes that we typically see over a period of years take place in just a few short months. What started as a necessity when people stayed at home and merchants closed – going online and embracing eCommerce has quickly turned to preference as people recognize the benefits of digital payments. These shifts in consumer and merchant behaviour, and government priorities, have reinforced the role we as Visa can play in supporting economic growth and financial inclusion. More than anything our business model needs to meet the changing face of commerce as people move to online platforms. COVID-19 has disrupted the global economy and affected communities in every country worldwide. It has changed the very way we live, work, and how we buy, while forcing millions of SMBs to find new ways to operate. This is no different for us here in Sub-Saharan Africa. Between March and April 2020, use of mobile payment apps increased by 71% and 18% in Kenya and Nigeria respectively  according to McKinsey Financial Insights Pulse Survey,2020. Some food retailers reported as much as a 400% jump in web traffic since March. We saw an explosion in e-commerce in SSA as consumers turned online to meet their needs. With more people spending time at home, online spending is only set to increase with digital payments being preferred as the safer way to pay in a pandemic, and this shows no signs of slowing post Covid.  In fact, findings from our Covid-19 Impact Tracker have shown 59% of people in South Africa, 56% in Nigeria and 66% in Kenya are increasing preference for contactless throughout the crisis. Digital transactions are set to change the future of consumer behaviour post-Covid-19, for good.

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