Cashless Campaign with Limited Effect

The cashless policy launched by the Central Bank of Nigeria under the pilot phase

in Lagos was meant to change the way we do business transactions that involves the

use of cash. It has long been established that one of the reasons for rising

inflation was the fact that too much money in circulation drove up prices of goods

and services. Other reasons for propagating the cashless policy were mounting

security concerns and the rising cost of cash transactions in the banking system.

The CBN, to encourage individuals and corporate bodies to embrace the cashless

policy, fixed the maximum cash an individual could withdraw or deposit in a day at

N500 000 and for corporate bodies, N3 million. Withdrawals or deposits above the

threshold would attract a surcharge.

While the policy itself has its benefits, there was the need to convince Nigerians

to embrace it. Here is a society that is used to transacting business in cash, no

matter the amount of money involved. So convincing it to use new but better

alternative channels was definitely going to be a tough call in terms of

communications. In identifying this, CBN called a pitch for the Cashless Lagos

campaign, which was won by one the nation’s foremost advertising agencies, Prima

Garnet.

The campaign so far has been running and it has entailed a massive multi-media

approach, making use of different tools of communication to get the message to sink

in. As it is running in the print media, so also are the radio and television

versions. Out-of-home channels have also been deployed. For instance, the “Iyaloja”

(market women leader) motif in the radio version tells the story of the advantage

of going cashless. It is about the “big madam” who kept millions of naira at home

and lost the money to fire.

Similarly, banks too have been trying to outdo themselves through advertising

campaigns about their readiness to go cashless. BusinessWorld, a business

newspaper, in collaboration with the CBN, recently organised a fair on the cashless

campaign, during which banks seized on the opportunity to showcase their readiness

in ensuring that the policy effectively took off.

It must be admitted that the campaign seems to be having the desired effect in some

ways, as some organisations and corporate bodies have started discouraging cash

payments for transactions or have set dates by which all transactions would have to

be effected electronically. For instance, MultiChoice Nigeria, owners of the DSTV

pay television channels, has set June, next month, as the deadline for acceptance

of cash at their different super dealer centres for subscription renewals and

purchase of decoders. Some super market chains in Lagos have also reduced

transactions strictly to the use of POS machines.

However, a closer review of the campaign shows that they are far from achieving the

desired objective. In conceptualisation, the campaign was supposed to be a mass

media campaign that communicates and connects with different strata of the society,

but in execution, it is elitist. And it is obvious that this was not the motive of

those who launched the campaign.

Some consumers, who spoke to THISDAY in Lagos, wondered how the system would work

in rural areas and communities. Mr. Godwin Ibekwe, a spare parts dealer in Ogba,

though appreciative of the fact that the situation would discourage members of the

public from carrying cash around, he feared that infrastructure problems arising

from network failure and erratic power supply could be stumbling blocks to the

cashless policy.

Another consumer, Mrs. Grace Adikwu, said she was yet to understand how the

operation would work, as there are millions of people who are still not aware of

the policy or cannot come to term with how it would work. “As I talk to you, the

issue of cashless policy is still like a mirage to some market women. To a large

number of our people, the belief is that the cashless policy is a service that

would only be rendered in the big stores and companies” she said.

But for the chief executive officer of the Total Aluminium, Mr. Frank Owelle, the

cashless policy is an initiative that would help Nigerians overcome a lot of

problems. According to him, aside security, the initiative will ease transactions

payments nationwide.

A marketing communication analyst, Mr. Gani Olowu, however, faulted the campaigns

that are currently being run to educate the public. He argued that some of the

creative and television commercials were not conceptualised to connect with the

common people on the streets. To this end, the practitioner urged CBN and its

creative agency to go back to drawing board and come up with something that would

connect with all segments of the society. Also, the Chartered Institute of Bankers

of Nigeria recently called on the CBN to intensify the public sensitisation

campaign on the policy. Speaking in Ibadan, the Oyo State chairman of CIBN, Mr.

Abiola Alli, said the policy was not being adequately publicised.

Alli said that more needed to be done in the area of mass enlightenment as many

Nigerians were yet to be adequately enlightened on the initiative. “The central

bank needs to create a lot of awareness; they need to place a lot of jingles on the

radio and the television. People must be aware that this policy is coming up

because majority of these people are not even aware of the policy. “Even people in

urban areas, some of them are not aware that this policy is coming up, so you need

to do a lot of sensitisation programmes so that this people will become aware,” he

said.

A brand analyst and editor of Brandpower, a marketing communication journal, Samuel

Ajayi, concurred, stating that the campaign in concept and execution was good but

something simply has not connected.

He said that he had listened to the messages of the campaign but the woman or man

who handles businesses in excess of hundreds of thousands everyday doesn’t seem to

understand what the campaign is all about.

He conceded that while POS machines have been taken to some points in Oke Aarin and

other markets in Lagos, he wondered if those traders who transact businesses in

excess of millions daily actually know about Cashless Lagos.

While many observers believe that the campaign still has a long way to go, they

suggested that its handlers needed to be more practical using the channel of

experiential marketing more, which will involve road shows and point-to-point

demonstrations on how the policy works and what it entails.

While this might translate to more money being spent on the campaign, perhaps it

remains the only option to make the campaign more embracing and for it attain wider

coverage. As it is, the policy is a laudable one and could positively change the

way business is conducted in this part of the world. However, the people must be

made to buy into it. That is where the challenge lies.

Filed Under: Features

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