Recently, Sparkle, a digital ecosystem providing financial, lifestyle and business support services to Nigerians, across the globe, officially, launched its platform.
This launch came at a time when most of Nigeria’s population (79%) have mobile connectivity, with 39% having access to mobile broadband connections.
Sparkle offers comprehensive support for individuals, including flexible payments, savings and analytics to provide greater freedom, flexibility and control, over finances and lifestyle, once and for all.
CFAmedia recently caught up with Uzoma Dozie, Founder, Sparkle, who is also a tech investor, financial inclusion advocate and former Chief Executive Officer of Diamond Bank, who took us through the Sparkle journey.
On why Nigerians in Diaspora use sparkle
According to Dozie, Nigerians in diaspora rely on someone going through the trouble of changing foreign currencies back to Naira.
Rather than doing this, they would prefer to have a seamless account that allows them to transfer money easily.
Dozie stated that Sparkle has a working relationship with VISA, that enables card to card transfer and with this, the transaction would be so much lower and easier.
Sparkle obtained its license from the Central Bank of Nigeria, (CBN), to execute its banking operations, however, the platform is not all about banking alone. It is, also, about lifestyle, as it brings other support services.
People really need to manage their finances better, meaning that, anywhere you are in the world, you can access service and these are the kind of services Sparkle is building.
Sparkle is a platform that connects you to other digital platforms, so that, users can get a wider range of services.
According to Dozie, it is your lifestyle that determines how much you are going to spend, or save.
“It is not just from a financial services perspective, but also, lifestyle. What is it that you want to do today and how can we help you do that? How can we connect our platform to other platforms, to help you drive your business?”, stressed Dozie.
Dozie further explained that businesses are now mobile and flexible. One can be in diaspora and do business in Nigeria, connecting customers with users’ social media pages, through Sparkle.
“We are already seeing Nigerians abroad, opening accounts, so, we have Nigerians abroad who are, already, transacting through the account, as seen on our dashboard”, he explained.
What Sparkle is doing differently
Dozie explained that Sparkle has two customer segments on its platform; the retail and the small businesses.
“What we have launched is just 30% of what we are really going to come out with”, Dozie maintained.
Sparkle has put up its services together, such that, it is similar to what you find in other banks, in terms of savings, being able to save dynamically and lending to people, based on their financial data.
The platform is bringing all these together and seamlessly connecting them.
For instance, if an SME wants to borrow money, he has to produce a bank statement, but with Sparkle, as you carry out your transactions, data is being collected, so, no need for the presentation of a bank statement before approving your loan. Sparkle tailors its services, through the individuals.
One of the unique values that Sparkle offers is inclusiveness. “We also give each person, personalised services and the way we do that is, by using our chatbots indie, to try to understand you and use AI and ML. After monitoring your pattern and lifestyle, we need to make suggestions and recommendations”, Dozie stated.
A common question a bank user may ask is, ‘I think I should make this payment every month. Should I make it a recurring payment, so I don’t have to think about it?’
What Sparkle is trying to do is, leverage technology to help people worry less, on things the platform can automate.
“It’s about being there for you beyond finance. It is about lifestyle and your personal assistant”, he stressed.
On how Nigerians have embraced digital
Before COVID-19, there were a lot of Nigerians, already, using mobile and digital technology, because it is a cost-effective way of execution, as digital seems to have more views than the traditional media.
According to Dozie, what COVID-19 did first, was to force a critical shutdown of most organisations, therefore, awareness for digital increased, by 10 fold.
“Knowing about digital is, however, not enough. Appreciating what it can do, also, increased in the lockdown period and with appreciation, comes adoption.
What you have seen is a massive awareness. People don’t have any choice. What you now have is a big adoption and it will be very difficult for people to go back”, he stressed.
Dozie says that Digital comes at a lower cost. It appears transparent, efficient and offers trust.
For instance, having a truck here in Nigeria and out of the country, its obvious does not have visibles of notification and can’t make decisions on re-stocking.
With a Digital platform like Sparkle, proper decisions can be made, at lower cost and still have visibility.
“That is what people are beginning to appreciate and we would see a lot more innovation in that space, now that more people are beginning to adopt and use digitization.
This is where Sparkle comes in, to help people to onboard and get the best out of digital”, Dozie noted.
How Sparkle helps with Savings
Sparkle is about lifestyle, but when it comes to savings, Sparkle offers more flexibility on the way you can save.
For example, it is easy to save N10,000 per month in the bank, than N500 per day.
Traditionally, you could do that quite easily, by saving in your piggy bank.
Sparkle offers you the opportunity to save less than that. You can see the transactions on analytics, on Sparkle, than most mobile applications.
A common question, users also ask is that, ‘if I make a transaction 6 months ago, how do I know my bank details of that transaction? Would I have to request for my bank statement?
At Sparkle, just put your name and you will get your location and time. That is the dynamic visibility of Sparkle.
“When you have information on when you pay, you can always remember why you pay the person”, Dozie stressed.
Sparkle also allows you to spilt payment among multiple people, rather than on only one person.
It helps Nigerians spend wisely, save, plan and also reveal what they spent and why they spent it and make necessary decisions, on their next expenditure.
For a seamlessly smooth operation, Sparkle is working in collaboration with tech platforms, such as VISA and Mastercard.
With Visa, virtual card payment is secured, and it is easy to buy and sell online, such that cards or transactions will not be compromised.
This connects Nigerians here, to Nigerians in diaspora. This has proven to be cost-effective.
Mastercard, on the other hand, offers cloud technology and AI, to provide personalised service for people on their chatbot.
Other services coming from its partnership include data science, machine learning, tax and financial advisory services.
Featured Image: Uzoma Dozie, Founder, Sparkle
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