"NIGERIA; SECOND LARGEST RECIPIENT OF MONEY SENT INTO AFRICA: Aida Diarra; Vice president North, Central & West Africa for Western Union
Posted by Olaniyi Abodedele on Tuesday, January 28, 2014 Under: Personality Profiles & Interviews
Aida Diarra seats in the position of Vice President for North, Central and West Africa at Western Union, she oversees all aspects of business across the three regions and she is currently based in Casablanca, Morocco. She holds a Bachelor Degree in Finance and Economics from the American Business School in France and an MBA in International Business and Management from University of Hartford, U.S.A.
Aida started her career in Western Union as Assistant Marketing Manager in charge of US Outbound to Africa operations in 1999. Her career progressed rapidly within the company to the position of US-based Marketing Director for Africa. She then made a move to Casablanca to take up the position of Marketing Director for Africa in 2004. In 2006, she transitioned into a broader role, assuming the position of Regional Director for West Africa, successively widening the geographic scope of her responsibilities to ECOWAS in 2009 and North, Central and West Africa in 2011.
On Monday 14th October, 2013, she spoke with our editors through a telephone conferencing interview at Western Union’s Johannesburg office. Aida shared her thoughts on a number of issues ranging from Western Union’s involvement in community projects, engagement with Africa Diasporas and digital innovations in Nigeria among other things. In her opening statement, she appreciated the interview opportunity by stating “we appreciate your coming to our office for this interview, thank you”. Talking about Western Union’s market in Nigeria, Aida responded with excitement, “you know Nigeria is among the first five countries where the operation started when we introduced the service in Africa in 1995. Since then, it has been growing”. She continued “we are very excited about the fact that we are connecting more than a hundred partners in Nigeria. It is a key market for us and when you look at the latest estimation from the World Bank, the data came out not too long ago, a couple of days back, talking about the fact that Nigeria is the second largest recipient of money sent in Africa after Egypt. That gives you the importance of that country for the industry overall”. In confidence of Western Union’s tremendous job in Nigeria, she confirmed “We have done a tremendous job in increasing the convenience and the number of locations we have in Nigeria. Today, we have close to five thousand (5,000) locations and that is really bringing the service closer to where the customers are”.
In her response to the question posed to her about Western Union being involved in some digital innovations in Nigeria, she elaborated on this saying “when you look at the size of the market and compare that as well with the different stakeholders who ensure that Nigeria is at the forefront of financial inclusion, when you combine that with the number of people who increasingly have access to bank accounts and mobile; that is a tremendous figure for us to consider solutions such as mobile money transfer and account-based money transfer”.
Aida in appreciation of Western Union’s achievement and giant strides with regards to the digital innovations in Nigeria further spent a little bit of time to explain what the solutions are and how they work in Nigeria, she continued “account-based money transfer allows a customer that owns an account to receive the transaction and credit into his account directly as opposed to picking up cash. We are able to offer this solution through selected partners today in Nigeria with banks like Guaranty Trust Bank (GTB), and we are hoping that other partners will join that platform”. Based on the encouraging feedback Western Union is getting from Nigeria she said “Based on the encouraging feedback we are receiving from customers in Nigeria, they perceived that we have increased the convenience of receiving transactions”.
In her further explanation of the second digital innovation, she said, “the second solution that I talked about is the mobile money transfer and that allows customers who have access to an electronic wallet to receive transaction directly on his mobile e-wallet. And again, we have pilot tested and we have already started that in Nigeria and we are in partnership with Virtual Transfer Network (VTN) and E-transact Nigeria. And today, these solutions are alive and we believe that there is more to do in that avenue”.
She further explained the working of e-wallet as one of the company’s digital innovations in Nigeria. She said that “the e-wallet as explained earlier is a phenomenal opportunity for not only Nigeria but the continent”. “The way it works is that a customer subscribes to an electronic wallet offered by one of these mobile networks operators. It is a virtual wallet that he can use to receive money and pay for things at different venues. The good thing is that Western Union is able to connect to this wallet and now a mobile e-wallet holder to collect his transaction, which increases convenience for that customer. That is the principle of the electronic-wallet”.
Concluding the interview, Aida expressed satisfaction with the success of the Nigeria Independence Gala Dinner and Community Excellence Award organized by The Nigerian Voice Newspaper and was sponsored by Western Union.“You know the community is part of our DNA. I was not part of the event, but I have received feedback from both Western Union and the community it was a very good event. It is one way for us to get close to the community and understand it. This is something that we are going to continue to strengthen and keep moving forward. Just to give you another piece of information, we did exactly same kind of event in Congo with the Nigerian Diaspora. We sponsored the Independence Day for Nigerian Diaspora. Like I said earlier, it is really part of the way we like to engage with the country we do business in”, she confirmed.
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