The financial sector across the world was disrupted by the advent of financial technology (fintech). This can be deduced from the adoption of digitalized features most traditional financial institutions (banks) have infused into their services. Fintech apps use technology to provide financial solutions. The fintech ecosystem in Nigeria harbors businesses offering services and products for mobile payments, digital banking, merchant solutions, and personal finance.
The finance industry witnesses shifts in trends every year, especially as technology and its applications continue to develop. Personal finance apps are fast becoming one of the favorite innovations of fintech. Their features are classified into either investment or budget & spending or payments. Some apps are universal, possessing all classifications of personal finance.
Nigeria has the largest population in the Middle East region of Africa. Half of its 213.4 million residents have access to the internet. Hootsuite reported in 2021 that, over 90% of that population have mobile connections; 10 to 20% have smartphones while the rest use traditional mobile phones. Access to finance apps is within reach of at least 20 million young and old Nigerians.
Progress Of Fintech Over The Years
Nigerians were used to the traditional banking system that little fusion of technology and automated processes. Finance issues and services were always dealt with in banking halls. Paper trails and long queues were the norms. Digitalization became somewhat inevitable and any bank that didn't catch on would be left behind. In the same vein, fintech companies were not having an easy ride gaining customer trust and sensitizing consumers on the possibilities that came with the digital financial processes.
Traditional banking infrastructure has not been reliable. Nigerian consumers only needed alternatives and the fintech innovations began to present them. Soon, the idea of having financial services on your smartphone was more enticing. Traditional financial institutions could not risk losing consumers to modern tech facilities. Many commercial banks rolled out digital applications to expand their reach to customers and to gain a competitive advantage with the presence of digital banking. The competition between startup fintech companies and banks was clear.
A report from Pulse in 2018 captured the Top 5 finance apps at the time for Nigerians to choose from. They included Wally, Unsplurge, Mint, Pocket guard, and Level Money. None of them were Nigerian-owned but it showed that other parts of the world had begun to tap into the possibilities with financial apps. Two Nigerian-owned finance apps, Flutterwave and Piggyvest which were founded in 2016, did not make the Pulse top 5 list. Digital penetration and trust in digital apps were low in Nigeria before the Covid-19 pandemic. Personal finance apps started gaining momentum in 2019 but were not popular. There were however a few Nigerian-owned fintech companies existing, trying to break through in the finance market.
Level Money one of the top money management apps in 2017, had raised only 700,000 users before they were dissolved. This number is a far cry from the millions that finance apps began to gain years later. The company wrote on its blog that there weren’t many tools to help people manage their money in 2013 when they started. “We saw an opportunity to fix that—reinventing the banking experience to make managing money easier and more intuitive,” they said.
In 2017, many Nigerians had not gotten on board with using smart devices to access financial services and products. Social media apps had a lot of attention from consumers in Nigeria. But, the mere existence of Piggyvest, Flutterwave, Interswitch, Paga, Paystack, and Jumia pay, which are some of the trailblazing Nigerian-owned fintech companies, showed that there was more to come for personal finance solutions in Nigeria. These fintech companies aimed to improve financial inclusion through innovative financial services and products.
Fintech revenue in Nigeria was pegged at $ 153.1 million in 2017 by Frost and Sullivan and was projected to increase by three times that figure in 2022. Since the fintech industry was not getting a lot of attention yet, they did not reach the projected $ 543.3 million revenue.
During the Covid-19 Pandemic
By 2019 /2020 when the Covid-19 pandemic hit, Nigeria's biggest fintech players began to witness an upward shift, although they were still sharing much of the attention of users to trending social media apps. DataReportal said that between 2020 and 2021, the number of Internet users in Nigeria increased by 19 million, or 22%. A growing number of consumers were using financial apps to manage their finances according to their statistics.
According to a FactMr report, downloads of Personal Finance apps hit 1.3 billion in the Q2 of 2020 and they also recorded high app usage frequency. Recall that during this period, most in-person banking services were halted to reduce virus spread. More people avoided the physical exchange of money during the pandemic. Downloads of personal finance apps grew by roughly 90%. Foreign Finance apps like Mint, Prism, and EveryDollar which provided money management features, were what people were looking for. Their popularity went through the roof. Some adverse effects of the pandemic were the financial crisis and layoffs, leading people to turn to use lending apps. This benefitted the market for personal finance apps. Loan apps like Carbon, Okash, and Fairmoney, became popular with Nigerians.
Some of the biggest personal finance app players in 2020 include Carbon, Paga, Bamboo, Cowrywise, and Kuda.
Post Covid-19 Pandemic
For personal finance apps, the COVID-19 pandemic pushed existing trends toward digitalization, availing a conducive environment for new technology players. The economic uncertainty created by the pandemic drove people to seek strategic management of their finances. There was a shift towards digital platforms and apps for online bookings, digital payments, and transfers. It was expected that the Post Covid-19 effect would bring an increase in revenue generation for the finance app market.
In 2021 Loan app installations in Nigeria by 43.4%, financial services by 34.6%, and Investment apps, by 20.3%. Ghana had the highest growth in the African fintech ecosystem, 200% increase in finance app installs for the year 2021/22.
In 2021 Nigeria’s finance industry recorded over 200 fintech companies, including key stakeholders, funding partners, and enablers like banks, telecom companies, the government, investors, research institutions, and incubators. Flutter wave, and Opay got their spotlight more recently in 2021, despite existing for some years before. These startups hit a USD1 billion valuation, attaining unicorn status. Notably, Flutterwave attained a USD3 billion valuation in February 2022, ranking as one of Africa's highest-valued start-ups. The upward review in valuation indicates more interest from the public in their products and services.
Flutterwave is a payment platform that has been a contact point for businesses to transact, anywhere in Africa. Their tools have enabled seamless and secure payments worth over $20 billion and 100 million transactions. Flutterwave's payment infrastructures have anchored a lot of fintech companies. Although some still leverage Paystack tech for receiving payments, Flutterwave made an easy path for them to build infrastructure. They enable collecting and receiving payments among other things. PiggyVest, a savings and investment app, reported that N242 billion was paid to 3.5 million customers in 2021. These numbers further highlight the growing interest in personal finance platforms.
Nigeria recorded the highest number of fintech installs in Africa for 2022, growing by 160%, according to Nairametrics. In a document signed by the President of, the FinTech Association of Nigeria, Ade Bajomo, it was revealed that in the year 2022, Nigerian FinTech startups raised $1.37 billion out of $4 billion total raised by African startups.
By the middle of 2022, Lagos, Nigeria was seen as a hub of fintech companies. Fintech Times referred to Lagos as a renowned hub of fintech startups. They reported that Nigeria was ranked 63rd out of 100 countries worldwide for tech. Behind South Africa and Kenya, Nigeria is considered to be the third-best country for tech in Africa.
Half of Nigeria’s population is under 19 years of age, and over 65% are under 35 years. This demographic of the population makes up the Genz and Millennials. These generations are known for being born in the "digital age", and have been found to be more concerned with wealth management from an early age. And with a lot of young Nigerian co-founders and founders of fintech initiatives, Millennials, and Gen-Z have become influencers in the personal finance sector.
The older generations were accustomed to using financial advisors for wealth creation and increase, however, the younger generations are keen on modern mediums like in-app tools. It is no wonder why there is an increased interest in digital finance tools and app downloads.
More recently in 2023, the cash scarcity in Nigeria also contributed to the increased use of digital banking options. Nigerians have been forced to look to personal finance apps for alternatives to issues that banks cannot solve swiftly.
The top ranking of Apps by downloads in Nigeria as of March 14, 2023, lists Opay as number 1. Several other personal finance apps have topped the list including Palm pay, Easimoni, Kuda, and Moniepoint, at numbers 2,8,10, and 33 respectively. These brands have all recorded numerous sign up for new accounts and high-frequency usage of downloaded apps and accounts.
Opay, one of the biggest beneficiaries of the cash scarcity, has over 26 million downloads, a more than 100 percent increase from the 10+ million last year. They specialize in payments, transfers, loans, and savings. Piggyvest was the first ever online app for personal savings and investment in West Africa. At inception they struggled with a low number of sign-ups but ended up with over 2.3 million downloads by the end of 2022, the Co-founder, Odunayo Eweniyi said in an interview. Piggyvest now has over 4 million users.
Nigeria is leaving behind the times of monopolized banking services and moving towards third-party tech-driven banking solutions. The fact that Nigeria now has regulations for Open banking raises hopes for a further increase in personal finance innovations and financial inclusion. Third parties and consumers can get real-time financial data to make informed decisions. And, consumers are more involved in managing the financial aspects of their lives.
When the country witnesses a major crisis like the pandemic and cash scarcity, simple solutions are usually found in fintech innovations. The banking and finance industry will experience major growth with such innovations. Personal finance apps will enable a wide range of financial services for consumers to choose from.