Founder and CEO, Zigzag Nation, Mr. Obafemi Giwa-Amu, in this interview with Emma Okonji speaks about how Zigzag Nation is driving financial inclusion, wealth creation, using digital mobile platform. Excerpts:
How will Zigzag Nation enhance wealth creation, and integration of African youths in achieving digital transformation?
Zigzag Nation has commenced the first phase of a systematic and rewarding empowerment programme for Nigerian youth, focused on skills development, job and wealth creation.
The initiative is an all-encompassing empowerment programme for Nigerian youths, spread in two-fold; job creation and self-employment. The two-fold training are forerunners that will be followed by programmes that will pivot on wealth creation, savings culture and financial independence.
The empowerment programme will subsequently be open to African youths as Zigzag Nation embodies a cross-pollination of different African people of positive vibrations under one nation.
Though global in outlook and orientation, the Zigzag Nation remains, for now, an African platform for people of different cultures to showcase their talents.
We have launched our Zigzag Nation Finance platform and will soon launch the Zigzag Nation Market place.
What is the motivation and how can Nigerians and the African youths benefit from the initiative?
We are motivated by the large number of over 200 million Nigerian population, and we are willing to empower Nigerians through our empowerment programme.
Recent statistics puts it that Nigeria has over 44 million bank accounts, of which 18 million are corporate accounts. From that statistics, more than 160 million Nigerians without bank accounts are excluded from financial ecosystem. Before a bank account is opened, the bank asks for utility bills and other documents.
Nigerians are excluded because they cannot open a bank account based on difficult bank requirements. Most students who school outside of their towns and states do not have utility bills because majority of them squat with their fellow students, and some have accommodation on campus.
But Zigzag Nation has made it very easy and simple to open a bank account, using the Zigzag Nation Finance platform by downloading the Zigzag app on mobile phones. The app gives the user, several options like the virtual card, e-wallet, the opportunity to transact within and outside the country, and it takes less than five minutes to download the app.
So the Zigzag Finance platform, enables people to open bank account in few minutes and begin seamless transactions, using the mobile phone.
So we are motivated by several factors to empower the Nigerian and the African youths.
Several years ago, between 1998 and 2006, I used to facilitate the movement of Nigerian students to study French language abroad. My experience at that time showed that Nigerians who do not have transactional bank cards like the Mastercard or Visa card, pay double the actual amount, when they want to pay with physical cash.
So, we were paying double because we hadn’t the financial instrument to carry out financial transactions. We could not rent a car because we had no card to transact financially, and it became a challenge for us at that time. As soon as I and some others were able to get our cards, we started transacting at the actual cost and life became easy for all of us.
In Nigeria today, there are several people who are financially excluded and cannot do basic financial transactions with any bank.
To address the issue, home and abroad, we created the Zigzag Finance platform that enables people get virtual bank cards in less than five minutes and transact within and outside of the country, using the virtual card.
What are the other benefits of the Zigzag Finance platform?
The platform also helps in giving access to loan among close user groups who are contributors to the fund that gives them access to loan. A member can apply for a loan and gets it in seconds, use the loan to transact business, makes profit from the business, and return the capital to the collective fund and smile home with the profit. With this, members could be empowered to do business of their choice and make profit.
So, the loan opportunity that no bank account holder can get from any bank, could be achieved on the Zigzag Finance platform for members of a close user group within the platform. If members of close user groups can be empowered this much, then millions of Nigerians can be empowered and also can be removed from poverty.
This is about wealth creation among a close user group and it supports a saving culture among members. Different group members can decide to save certain amount of money monthly on the platform and it is managed electronically on the platform, by the admin manager of the platform, who is also a member of the group. So the platform helps members to save money for investments purposes.
The good thing about it is that there is no risk taken because there is integrity among members. It’s about saving culture that exits before with different names from different tribes, but what we have done is to modernize it, using the Zigzag Finance platform.
In September this year, we will be launching the Zigzag Educational platform that will be loaded with training modules, through which we will train and empower Nigerians in various skills. The Zigzag educational platform will empower Nigerians to acquire special skills, own a business and grow their business.
How are you leveraging emerging technologies to achieve your goals?
We recognise the power of emerging technologies and we are leveraging Artificial Intelligence (AI) to drive our processes. At the bottom of Zigzag Nation platform is the embedded AI that drives the operations. There is poverty among Nigerians and the poverty rate is increasing, and we are saying that the offerings from Zigzag Nation platform can take Nigerians out of poverty, because the platform encourages skills development and saving culture that will help young men and women to have specific skills and access to funds to begin and grow a choice business. It will also address youth unrest across the country, by meaningfully engaging the youths.
You spoke about Zigzag market place. How does it operate?
The Zigzag market place is a place where everybody brings their goods and services to a single platform that is accessible to all. The market place is a platform that will help showcase the goods and services to the world such that goods from Nigeria could be sold in far away countries in Japan, France, Italy, London, America among other countries. It is an online market place where people trade on goods and services. With the platform, African Arts can be sold in far away Australia to people who value arts and sculptures. The same applies to other goods and services.
It has logistics services for the delivery of items purchased on the Zigzag market place. Once a merchant buys variety of goods from different sites on the platform, the merchant goes to the delivery section online, choose the delivery company closest and with better price offering, makes payment and the goods are delivered to the preferred location.
How do you bring people onboard the Zigzag platform and what kind of skills are available to empower them?
We are currently working in partnership with several companies for the empowerment programme, where Nigerian youths will learn specific skills in shoe making , soap making, generator repairs, and other trading skills, like fashion design, and leather work. After acquiring the skills, the platform also provides access to funding for the business to take-off. We have plans to bring courses like Masters in Business Administration (MBA) to the platform, and simplify it for those who are interested in the programme, and this will open in September. The MBA module will teach how to make money, how to access funds and how to manage funds for business. The Zigzag Nation platform also has a private placement opportunity were skilled people can be employed.
How would the training offered on Zigzag Nation platform help in bridging the skills gap and reduce dearth of ICT skills among Nigerian youths?
Our online training programs is a sure way to address dearth of ICT skills and at the same time, bridge the existing skills gap among Nigerian youths. Anyone on the Zigzag Nation platform can download the training modules free of charge, while those outside of the platform can also download, but at a fee. We are introducing ICT skills competition on the platform and that will encourage more people to acquire the skills and enter for the competition, where prizes will be won. Our platform offers solutions for total emancipation from poverty to wealth and we are beginning with Nigeria, before expanding to other countries of the world.
How will the Zigzag Nation empowerment programs help in enhancing the financial inclusion drive of the federal government?
We are empowering people and giving them skills acquisition and access to funds that will enable them transact electronically online, which is another means of bringing people into the financial inclusion ecosystem, as currently being championed by the federal government, through the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
With the Zigzag Finance platform, anyone can have access to electronic cash transaction and carry out savings without physically opening a bank account. So it gives people access to financial transactions, which is what financial inclusion is all about. We are giving everybody on the Zigzag platform a SIM card that will enable them have access to free phone calls to all Close User Group (CUG) members, after loading airtime of just N1,000 per month. Apart from the unlimited calls to all members, the person also get 1.5 Gigabyte data every month. The regular ATM debit cards that people have, will not enable them to shop with it in foreign countries, but with with the Zigzag virtual card, members can shop online in far away countries like China, Hong Kong, Dubai among other countries, an evidence of how to promote financial inclusion among Nigerians.
How will the empowerment programme help in diversifying wealth creation for Nigeria and make Nigeria less dependent on oil?
We are giving Nigeria and Africa a voice and an opportunity to diversify the Nigerian economy. People will be trained from our different modules to acquire different skills. It was a huge mistake on the part of Nigeria not to have diversified the Nigerian economy in the past.
The dependency on oil alone plunged Nigeria into poverty level because countries are no longer buying oil, since they have devised alternative to oil and gas. In 2023, there will be no more diesel or petrol cars in Europe. Cars will be powered by electricity and this will eliminate carbon emission on the roads. Europe gave 10 years notice on its plans to switch from petrol-driven cars to electric-driven cars. They had since invested in alternative power and Nigeria must not be left out.
What we are doing with the Zigzag platform is to help diversify the Nigerian economy, and generate other sources of income outside of oil.
To what extent can the Zigzag initiative contribute to Nigeria’s GDP?
Remember that our platform admits, are all open to various trades, including trading of farm produce. By the time we are able to pull farmers together to produce more farm products, and by the time we are able to train people to acquire specific skills, we will be helping to boost GDP growth of the country.
Nigeria looses so much on taxes because people do not pay taxes in the informal market, but with the Zigzag Nation platform where trade and financial transactions are carried out, it will be easy for members to pay tax on the type of business they do and in the type of transaction they do also carry out on the platform, thereby raising the contribution of GDP. With out digital platform, there is no hiding place. People will make money and they will be transparent enough to pay their tax.
How will you control everyone on the Zigzag Nation platform, to know what each person is doing in order to guard against fraudulent acts online?
In the digital world, there is no hiding place for people with wrong motives to defraud others. If there is any such wrong motive among members, the technology will detect and expose the individual.
Again we have three layers of authentication to access the platform, which of course, raises the security bar of the platform in order to protect every member of the platform at any given time.
What in your view will be the level of adoption of this initiative, and how do you foresee its growth in a few years time?
Nobody eats good food and goes back to poor food. So the platform is here to stay because of its growth potential that will make Africa and Nigeria, dominant force. The Zigzag app was built by Nigerians and the app is going places. In the next few years, I foresee a tremendous growth of the platform and I see it driving digital transforming across Nigeria at a very high speed. To get connected, Nigerians should download the app on their mobile phones, get an e-wallet and get started.