3Line launches street banking with Freedom Network in Nigeria

Feb 21 2011

3Line Card Management Limited, at the weekend in Lagos, redefined the concept of banking by launching street banking through its Freedom Network which it said will take care of the huge number of the unbanked in the country and further help push the idea of a cashless society.
The firm which is Nigeria’s premier electronic payments processor for low value transactions, has become the first and only e-payment company to design a bouquet of network services for the bottom of the pyramid.

According to the firm, Freedom Network is a community of banks, service providers, government agencies and merchants that offer instant financial services such as cash withdrawal, money transfer, airtime top ups, ticketing, pay as you-go vehicle insurance and utility bill payment at authorized retail shops and Freedom Network service points within neighbourhoods.

The brand’s objectives include the provision of a single, common platform to provide street banking services to stakeholders, provide financial inclusion for the informal sector, bridge the gap between users and providers of financial and non-financial services in Nigeria as well use cost-effective technology to provide Nigerians affordable financial services within communities.

Mrs. Funke Ade-Ojo, general manager of the firm explained that the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) gave its approval to the initiative, stressing that its network conforms with the CBN’s regulatory framework as it pertains to e-payment in the country. According to her, based on CBN’s directives, the company designed, developed and implemented a pre-banked model for both merchants and customers, which provides needed anti-fraud guarantees for all stakeholders and participants on the Freedom Network.

She explained that the aims of Freedom Network are to bring about and expand the aspiration of Nigerians in the under-served and un-served areas through the availability of a secured platform and infrastructure that is open to all.

While sharing how her company would attract the informal sector into the network, she said the under-banked segment of the economy would be reached with Point of Service (POS) devices to provide universal service (US) access to financial and light banking services known as “Street Banking”.

According to her, street banking is a customer friendly and cost effective way of providing secure, light banking services to groups of people in a community using existing merchants within the same community who are known and trusted, adding that to achieve this, the company has collaborated with some banks and other payment providers to build an end-to-end integrated infrastructure through a common platform.

“Freedom cards are already accepted on the Interswitch network for ATM cash withdrawal nationwide. We began tests with the National Central Switch, and have collaborated with several technology and marketing service providers. This is a Herculean task and one we recognize requires competition,” she said, adding that already, the network has experienced growth in the number of banks that have embraced the platform, which include Finbank, First Bank and many other banks have expressed positive interest to collaborate.

Evidence that the army of the un-banked has embraced Freedom Network includes the fact that the service is now ‘live’ after a successful three months pilot, and is expanding daily. In addition, there are growths in the number of new customers joining the platform, increase in the number of Freedom cards ordered by the banks, and increase in the number of merchants that are signing up as agents.

According to her, the banks are strategic to the successful roll out of Freedom Network, as Freedom card would be issued to the users on the platform. Freedom card is an EMV chip + PIN smart card and is available in the market with security benefits, online and offline capability.
The edge Freedom Card has over other cards is its dynamic data authentication (DDA) technology while other cards use static data authentication (SDA). “Our DDA card protects the users against cloning and hacking in ways the other cards cannot. It also enables off-line transactions. With this capability, Freedom cardholders have the opportunity to transact business on the POS terminal in rural area’s and the city even when communication signals are poor”, she explained.

Freedom card allows cardholders to engage in different transactions on the Network, such as money transfer, loading, and cash withdrawal, purchase, etc. As added benefit to Freedom cardholders, three different accounts exist on the card. One of the accounts is on the chip, which is useful for offline transactions; another is an online for prepaid account and a debit account that can be linked to holder’s bank account. Other EMV cards do not have this flexibility.

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