Pocket – formerly known as Abeg – has received Approval-In-Principle (AIP) from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to function as a Mobile Money Operator (MMO); making it the first social commerce platform in Nigeria to receive such an approval from the CBN.
What this means:
- With this new development, the platform has proven its commitment to participating in the Nigerian financial inclusion agenda by expanding its scope.
- The company will now be able to upgrade its features to services such as non-bank acquiring (in line with Nigeria’s non-bank merchant regulations), card acquiring, e-money issuing, wallet creation and management and a few other permissions.
- It places the social commerce platform among the ranks of the about 20 pre-existing MMOs in the country (the likes of Paga Mobile, Opay, Kudi Mobile) who are making mobile transactions easier and more convenient for the Nigerian populace.
- Hopefully, this will also spark a trend within the social commerce space, thus, encouraging other e-commerce companies to follow suit in utilizing the opportunities provided by the technology around them.
About the platform:
The Nigerian-based social payment platform, built-in 2019 and co-founded by Dare Adekoya, Michael Okoh, Muheez Akanni, Patricia Adoga and Eniola Ajayi-Bembe, is a peer-to-peer (P2P) mobile application which allows its users to make mobile transactions with ease and efficiency within the country.
Before now, its services included:
- Wallet funding from users/senders’ bank account
- Mobile money transfer and giveaways from e-wallet without extra charges
- Airtime purchase and payment of bills from the in-app wallet
- Referral bonuses to users who successfully invite friends to use the app, etc.
The aim was/is to create a fun, free and safe platform for users to express themselves while making fiscal transactions. All the user(s) needs is a mobile phone (android or ios), the app itself, an internet connection and a bank account; and they can send or request money ranging from NGN1-1 million.
Pocket’s journey through the years:
In October 2021, Abeg (as it was previously called) was acquired by a popular Nigerian financial institution, PiggyTech Global Limited. The partnership which had been in the works for about a year (since October 2020) concluded with PiggyTech owning a 99% stake in Abeg Technologies Limited. With about 20,000 users under its belt in 2021, Abeg took a long shot by investing in the 6th season of Africa’s most-watched TV reality show, Big Brother Naija (BBN).
The headline sponsorship role which is said to cost about $2 million, played out generously for the tech company as, by the end of the show, the company recorded a 100X growth in user base with an estimated 2 million users.
Acceptance and review:
With currently over 500K+ downloads and a 4.3-star review on Google playstore, Pocket has been met with a fair share of likes and dislikes from users and bystanders alike.
It has received loud applause from users who describe its fund transfer feature as “seamlessly convenient” and have lauded its no-extra-charge approach to the transactions.
The giveaway feature won the most applause as the most popular and efficient feature with famous Nigerian celebrities giving generously to the public using the app. But on the topic of loans, users complain that although loaning is permitted and tracked, there are no strict measures to ensure that they are paid back on time or at all.
There have also been complaints about how inconvenient transferring money from user bank accounts into the app wallet or transferring from one’s wallet to other user’s wallets can be; especially since one can’t transfer to people who aren’t using the app or to international recipients. Other factors that can undermine the value of this app include poor network connection leading to failed transactions, competition from previously existing MMO agents, etc. But the company is not slowing down or taking a bend anytime soon.
PiggyTech and Pocket launched a new subsidiary square-esque product called Patronize which is targeted at providing tools to help grow, manage and reward small and medium enterprises using the Pocket app in Nigeria.
With its own Point of Sale (POS) device, Pocket hopes that Patronize – also known as “Abeg for businesses” – will suffice when the mobile app fails to meet customers’ needs. Patronize gives you a store in the middle of where your customers spend money! Through Patronize, you get your very own digital store in the Abeg app where new customers can discover your business and you can sell to them easily.
“For the last 18 months, we have been focused on building the core infrastructure that will enable secure social commerce and payments at scale. We believe that social commerce will thrive better in a more trusted environment. So we added escrow to our payment infrastructure, protecting buyers and sellers and many other features, ensuring a smooth shopping experience on the app,” Patricia Adoga, co-founder at Pocket, commented.
The company explained that its rebranding is “not a change but an expansion” which explores additional functionalities aimed at meeting a wider range of Nigerians and improving the existing goals of the company.
“The platform’s new name references its added functionalities for users to buy and sell items via virtual pocket shops and reinforces its push into a social commerce market estimated to reach $23.8 billion by 2028 in Nigeria alone,” Pocket disclosed in a statement. “We think that the natural next step from paying each other and merchants was integrating commerce. So, for us, it made sense that that will be the next step in terms of expanding the app’s scope.”