Accenture Nigeria executive places faith in AI to transform banking sector

19 February 2018 Consultancy.africa

Amid rapid digitalisation of the business environment in the Nigerian economy, particularly the banking sector, Managing Director for Accenture Nigeria, Niyi Yusuf, has expressed anticipation about the opportunities that such a landscape provides for business transformation, and satisfaction at Accenture’s success in the domain so far.

Digital transformation is a global reality, and while developed economies are well along the path of adopting the latest in technological enhancements, increased access to the online sphere is allowing developing countries to catch up at a rapid rate. Across Africa, for instance, the number of online connections is set to break through 1 billion by 2022.

Global trends have suggested that digitally advanced economies are characterised by a broad employment of the latest in technology to improve internal operations for businesses, as well as the transition of a number of key functions to the online domain, particularly in the financial sector. Developments in Fintech result in a shift to digital methods of financial activity, including transactions.

This is increasingly becoming the case in Nigeria, which is one of the most developed economies in Africa, and the richest in terms of GDP. The country has 186 million people, one third of which are, remarkably, under the age of 24. Consequently, the country has a rapidly expanding middle class, which has been quick to adopt digital techniques.

Reports last year suggested that the country has more than 148 million mobile subscribers, of which 92 million (half the country’s population) access the internet on a regular basis. However, only 42% of these used online facilities to conduct banking activity, suggesting a lag in the adoption of online banking.

Accenture Nigeria executive places faith in AI to transform banking sector

However, a report from Accenture last year demonstrated that this was set to change, primarily through the means of AI technologies. The report surveyed 600 bankers, 80% of whom felt that AI was set to become the main channel of communication between banks and customers.

Respondents, who included academics and experts in technology, expressed belief in the ability of AI to significantly improve user interfaces for banks, making several processes much easier. In response, Accenture has developed a number of innovative features in the AI, virtual reality, robotics, and blockchain arenas, which it recently displayed at an event in Lagos.

Speaking at the demonstration, the Managing Director for Accenture in Nigeria, Niyi Yusuf, said, “Early this year, we predicted that in five years, more than half of consumers and enterprise clients will select products and services based on a company’s AI, instead of the company’s traditional brand. And in seven years, most interfaces will not have a screen and will be integrated into daily tasks. These two predictions alone strongly suggest that companies must act now on developing their AI Journey.”

He added; “We want businesses in Nigeria – from banking to manufacturing, health, construction, education, retail, security, and other sectors to take advantage of the innovations we have created to improve their businesses. We believe as one of the biggest economies in Africa, the time to seize the future is now.”

In response to concerns about AI replacing human jobs, Yusuf pledged alllegiance to the school of thought which believes that AI will merely supplement human jobs and make them more efficient, rather than replacing them. “Human effort becomes more valuable as it is focused on higher-level tasks, creativity, know-how, and thinking,” he said.

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Technology is essential to simplifying the tax compliance process in Nigeria

03 April 2019 Consultancy.africa

Despite increasing pressure on public coffers and the expanding need for tax collection, inefficiency and a lack of user-friendly mechanisms are posing a major barrier to paying taxes in Nigeria, according to Head of Tax at global professional services firm PwC Nigeria Taiwo Oyedele. He posits technology as the solution to this problem.

As one of the largest economies in Africa, Nigeria is increasingly progressing towards higher degrees of economic prosperity, although the government is struggling to benefit from this growth in the current scenario. According to Oyedele, the country’s “revenue to GDP ratio” is at the lowest end of the global spectrum.

Oyedele attributes this high rate of default to the difficulty that Nigerian citizens face in paying their taxes, something that is simultaneously acting as a barrier to other government efforts to solve the problem. “It is a contradiction: you need tax money but you make the process very difficult,” he says.

Currently, the use of digital applications to pay taxes is among the payment options. Oyedele recommends that technology should be made the sole avenue through which tax is collected and administered, thereby making the process of calculation, payment, and filing for returns more efficient.

Technology is essential to simplifying the tax compliance process in Nigeria

In addition, using technology is expected to reduce the costs of paying taxes in the long run, due to what Oyedele terms as “cost of compliance.” “It is actually the money the taxpayer pays that doesn’t get to the government. So, both the taxpayer and the government have an objective to reduce that cost,” he said. 

Oyedele was speaking at the Tax Academy Clinic, and urged tax authorities in the country to enforce reforms in the system. These would be over and above the reforms introduced under the previous Minister of Finance, who initiated the Voluntary Assets and Income Declaration to reduce default rates.

Technology is the key according to Oyedele, and he pledged that PwC would support in the process of integration. “In the past, getting your tax clearance certificate used to be like rocket science.When you need it to buy a plot of land or get a contract, getting the TCC is difficult. With technology now, one should be able to get that immediately,” he said.

“We know that these platforms are not perfect yet; so, our role as PwC, helping so many people to pay their taxes and also paying taxes ourselves, is that once we identify what the problems are, we get the stakeholders to come together to see how we can fix the problems,” he added.