Nigerian digital payments provider Paga has announced measures to reduce cash handling in the country following the outbreak of the coronavirus, according to a report. Paga founder and Group CEO Tayo Oviosu said the company has lowered or eliminated fees so that more people can use its services and not touch money as much.
During the coming period, merchants will be able to save on transaction fees by accepting Paga payments. Under the offer, customers can send money free of charge if sending to anyone using the recipient’s phone number or email address, as opposed to a bank account. Customers sending money to bank accounts also enjoy free money transfers for amounts below NGN 5,000 (US $11.93).
The company also announced a new payment collections page available to all Paga customers, called JustPaga.me. It explained that all Paga customers will be eligible for a free customized web page that they can send out to collect money from anyone who owes them. People can pay using their bank cards or a Paga account.
One area, perhaps not often thought about, in which mobile technology can help people stay safe during the pandemic is the transfer of money. While knowledge of how the novel coronavirus is transmitted is incomplete, it is known that it can be present on objects that are handled and survive on surfaces for a period of up to several days. Therefore, the exchange of cash in commercial transactions is a possible vector for transmission of the disease.
Mobile money transfer is the best way to circumvent this problem; indeed, it is the safest method of paying. Using even a credit or debit card involves touching something that touches other things that may be infected, whereas the mobile-money payment method requires touching only one’s own device.
Making mobile money available free of charge will of course stimulate its use, and if its use is more widespread, the spread of the disease may at least to some extent be checked. Facilitating transfers of relatively small amounts of cash should have the effect not only of protecting health but of stimulating spending among the general populace in Nigeria, which can bolster the economy at a time when it is contracting due to virus concerns and social distancing. The JustPaga web page is an especially good idea, because it establishes a sort of clearing-house by which multiple payments can be called in by one person.
Paga is a non-MNO service, but we may suggest that operators could benefit and increase their market share in mobile money if they launch such services and incentivize customers to use it to avoid handling cash during the pandemic.