In this interview, the Co –Founder of Paga, Jay Alabraba speaks to Princewill Ekwujuru on the investment of the company on fraud prevention and other challenges facing the money transfer industry. Excerpts:
How did Paga start and what it is all about?
Paga is a payment and digital financial service company, we currently operate in Nigeria and our strategy is to be present in several key emerging markets where the kinds of problems we tackle also exists. On the payment side, any scenario where a person or a business wants to make payments or receive payments, there is a role Paga plays. On the digital financial services side, we provide channels that enable financial inclusion in the areas of savings, credits insurance for the mass market that are not less than 40 percent of the Nigerian population. In 2009, my partner, Tayo Oviousu initiated the idea and had a conversation with me to join him on this journey to build the business. Today, the story is beyond the two of us as there are 460 people in the company. In the last ten years, we have made impact on the employment landscape in Nigeria and we hope to replicate similar feat in other country we roll out to.
Paga recently partnered WorldRemit for International Money Transfer Operation, What does that partnership entail?
It is important to note that in addition to being licensed as a mobile money operator in Nigeria, Paga is also licensed by the Central Bank as an International Money Transfer Operator. Today our focus is on inbound transfer as we do not currently provide the service where people are able to send money out of Nigeria. It is primarily a receiving market for us.
Talking about Paga, first of all we have over 12. 6 million users of Paga across Nigeria and that implies that the number of people that use or engage with Paga are already large and when you think of remittances on the part of sender and receiver, there is convenience in that aspect as we already have a large number of receivers on our platform which makes transactions much easier. In addition, one of our key approaches to serve the market is that we have built an agent network, the agents are the regular convenience stores in Pharmacy, hotel lobbies, and so on, there are about 21,000 of such agents across the country. This creates an opportunity for people especially in places where they do not have access to bank branches or automated teller machines (ATMs) or other form of services. When people in such places receive funds in their Paga Wallet, they can go to the Paga agent to cash out or perform other services like payment of bills, money transfers, buy airtime and so on. Clearly, the agent network creates a great opportunity for cash out for people that receive fund. The service also makes it possible for anybody in foreign lands to just send fund to any phone number in Nigeria, even if they have not used Paga before, we have a seamless process that enables the locals receive the money sent to them and this is in compliance with the Central Bank’s regulation.
What is the basic knowledge a person who wants to make international money transfer or payment should know?
Let’s talk about it from the receivers end. One very key knowledge Nigerians should know is to be able tell their relatives and friends abroad that there is a way they can send money to them on their Paga wallet. On the sender side they should also look for the options to send funds into their relative’s mobile money wallet. The process is very simple. Take the WorldRemit scenario for example. On the sender side they should go to the WorldRemit website of the App and input the recipient’s phone number, and then go through the normal steps to send money, instantly the recipient receives the value of the money, both the sender and receiver can also transact in the same way on Paga. However, the main thing here is awareness. This option exists, its functioning very well. Thousands of people are receiving these funds on daily and weekly basis, so I think as the awareness grows more people will do it in a very safe way. People can send money to beneficiaries in Kaduna, likewise someone in London can send money to their recipients in Lagos, and it is not complicated.
How does Paga prevent fraud and ensure security in its aspect of money transfer?
Yes, I think any discussion around security and fraud is something we take very seriously. It is not something solved once and forever and it is fixed. It is about being diligent and keeping tabs on what is happening in the ecosystem. As a company we have invested very heavily in security both on the cyber side and on the user inter-face side. We are Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCIDSS) certified, which is the highest rated certification around security and fraud prevention, that is something that we take very seriously. We keep up with it from a consumer standpoint. I think the important thing to note is that transactions will only happen if you authorize them. So, the message to customers is keep your password or pin safe and we guarantee that your money is safe, and again this is just the basic facts, obviously there will be attacks that go beyond the basic clean checks etc, and these are things we have invested heavily on, on firewalls, in fraud detection and other challenges.
Aside money transfer, what are the other services Paga renders to customers?
We provide several services that are valuable to consumers such as money transfer to any phone number, or any bank account in the country, airtime top up or data purchases on all the telecommunications networks in Nigeria. If you go to any of the Paga channels, especially our website or our agent network, you see that all the major bills are paid there; for instance, electricity, Internet service provider (ISP), pay-TV, basically any bill, transfer and payment you want to make in Nigeria, you are able to do it on Paga. We are also working with Lagos State government on supportive payment. We are similarly working with the federal government on its transactions, Remita and Systemspecs; so state level payments are all supported on Paga as well. This is one of our taglines, making life possible. We figure out things people have to do to support their lives in making payments or receiving payments and the way for it to be useful in those scenarios.