Inside Business Africa INSIDE BUSINESS AFRICA AUGUST 16 2017 1cdr - Page 21

I N S I D E B U S I N E S S A F R I C A Finance July 30 - August 13, 2017 Much needed relief Nigeria: Relief for travellers as card suspensions lifted M oses Stephens, a Lagos- based entrepreneur was in London with his family in mid-July for a two-week vacation. Some days later, he discovered that he had run out of cash. He tried to pay for some groceries purchased from a super market with his naira- denominated ATM card and was surprised when the transaction went through. That would not have been possible a few months ago. However, since the beginning of July, Nigerian banks have raised their dollar spending limits on card transactions abroad by as much as 1,900%. Card transaction limits went from between zero to $100 monthly to as high as $500 to $2,000, depending on the level of dollar liquidity the bank enjoys. If Stephens had tried making a similar transactions anytime from September last year to June this year, the transaction would have failed, leaving him and his family cash-strapped. Many banks, weighed down by acute dollar shortages caused by the drop in crude oil prices in the international market, had stopped their customers from using ATMs abroad, unless such cards were linked to dollar accounts funded locally. The banks also pegged monthly transactions on point of sale (PoS) and online transactions using cards at $100, £90, €130 and CD$360. Restrictions on foreign spending lifted On July 10, GTBank increased the monthly dollar spending limit on its naira MasterCard for international payments from $100 to $1,000, representing a 900% rise. Although the bank allowed customers to access the funds through PoS and other online channels, it restricted cash withdrawals from foreign ATMs. On July 18, Fidelity Bank also raised the monthly spend limit on international transactions to $1,000. CEO Nnamdi Okonkwo said that his bank had lifted the restrictions on card transactions abroad following improved foreign exchange liquidity in the banking system based on the various economic recovery measures instituted by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN). “We encourage customers to always insist on being billed in the currency of 28 u t q the county in which the purchases are made, especially PoS payments, in order to avoid attracting additional charges,” he added. On July 19, UBA raised limits on its debit and prepaid naira cards from $100 to $2,000. Chukwuma Nweke, E xecutive Director, Operations and Technology at UBA said the raising of international card spending limits was in response to customers’ demand for higher limits and indication of rising confidence in the local economy. The action, he explained, would make customers’ transactions abroad convenient and seamless. “The policy shift allows our customers to make foreign payments on PoS and web and also withdraw cash from ATM subject to the current limit of $100 per day,” he said. FirstBank also raised limits on foreign transactions on naira cards to $1,100 monthly across ATMs, PoS, and online channels. The bank’s limit on daily ATM withdrawals was raised to $300 for all countries except the United Arab Emirates and China, where it was pegged at $250 monthly for PoS and online transactions. Ecobank Nigeria also reviewed upwards daily spending limits for customers using its naira MasterCard for international payments on PoS and online channels from $100 to $1,000 for its platinum card customers. Gold and standard card holders’ limits were set at $750 and $300 respectively. The bank equally enabled $100 daily ATM cash withdrawals on all the card variants. The bank expressed its commitment to supporting customers’ shopping needs abroad, adding that customers can also use their foreign currency denominated cards to enjoy limitless spending limits abroad. Olakunle Ezun, Head of Treasuries at Ecobank Nigeria, said the increases on card spending limits across key banks would help travellers pay their hotel bills, make reservations and carry out other transactions using their debit cards. He said the CBN-sustained dollar interventions helped boost market I N S I D E B U S I N E S S A F R I C A Technology July 30 - August 13, 2017 Malawi’s drone corridor challenges In certain African countries, observers of a drone overhead would be advised to seek cover. I n recent years, the US has vigorously used drones against al- Qaida affiliated groups on the continent, and operates drone bases in some five African countries. However, in parts of Rwanda and Malawi, the buzz of an approaching drone now signals something rather different: the arrival of vital medical supplies. On 29th June 2017, to the wonderment of local children who congregated nearby, the Malawian government and UNICEF officially launched a drone corridor to trial the use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) for development and aid missions. It is Africa’s first drone corridor, and the first in the world developed specifically to address humanitarian challenges. “Whenever we flew the drones, hundreds of people would come to watch. They felt they were at the forefront of a new technological innovation,” said Michael Scheibenreif, drone corridor lead at UNICEF Malawi. With their harsh drone regulations and understandable scepticism, most African countries have been missing out on this growing industry, expected to reach $6bn globally by the end of 2017. The Malawi drone corridor reflects changing attitudes on the continent towards UAVs. The project will run for at least a year. Thus far, 12 companies, NGOs and universities have applied to fly test missions in the corridor, which covers an area of 5,000km2 and contains 301 schools and 486 health service points. Tests will explore using UAVs for imaging during disasters, connectivity in problematic terrain and transportation of medical supplies and vaccines. “We believe that this technology will transform healthcare, putting anyone within reach of the medicine they need,” said a spokesperson from robotics company Zipline. UcanDrone, a Greek firm, is using the corridor to test a single UAV that can transport supplies, perform surveying missions and provide internet access. 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