SystemSpecs: The Evolution of Africa’s Fintech Giant

Founded in 1992, Nigerian company, SystemSpecs has grown over the years to become an African fintech powerhouse through its innovative and disruptive financial technology solutions. Its breakthrough product, Remita processes over $6 billion worth of transactions monthly and services small and large organizations in the private and public sector, within and outside Nigeria.

Before the development of Remita, SystemSpecs was well known for its human capital management solution, Human Manager. This product which also became a market leader in Africa was borne out of a detailed and exhaustive study of human capital management issues in about 200 organisations over a 19-year period.

SystemSpecs started out as a 5-man partner agent and value-added reseller for SunSystems, an accounting package developed by Systems Union, UK, now called Infor. SystemSpecs sold its own developed homegrown solutions alongside software from Infor. However, the company announced in 2017 that it was reinforcing a more indigenous outlook and would be ending its partnership with Infor.

At this time, Remita already occupied a place of pride nationwide. Remita garnered mainstream attention in 2012 when the Federal Government of Nigeria adopted it to power the country’s Treasury Single account (TSA), however, it was already favoured among leading corporates across the country as an innovative and multi-faceted fintech product.

The founder of SystemSpecs, John Obaro has a background with International Merchant Bank, where he worked briefly and earned a comfortable living before yearning for more. Obaro, a computer science graduate from the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria once explained how Remita was conceived following the enactment of Pension Reform Act (PENCOM) in Nigeria in 2004.

“We saw that those processing payrolls will need to prepare schedules for different Pension Fund Administrators (PFAs). That was when we conceived Remita. We found a way to move salaries from the employers’ bank accounts to the employees’ bank accounts, irrespective of where they are. At the same time, we started thinking of how we could deliver schedules to PFAs as well as pay tax. That was how we started the first version of Remita. I will probably call it Remita 001”, Obaro shared.

Further improvements on Remita necessitated that beyond bulk payments for salaries, it could also do single payments for vendors. Therefore, Obaro and his team of gurus upgraded the solution in a way that laid the foundation for SystemSpecs involvement in the implementation of Nigeria’s TSA.

Today, Remita is being referenced as a solution that saved Nigeria from near-collapse. In October 2011, after a rigorous evaluation process by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation (OAGF) and support from their foreign Consultants, Remita was selected ahead of local and foreign options to provide the electronic payment technology to power the TSA initiative. Prior to this period, the TSA project was going to be stalled for two years because of technical inefficiency.

Financial Technology Africa, an industry-based newspaper, reckons that the substantive role Remita plays in Nigeria, sets it ahead of the pack. Remita was also ahead of its time, establishing a strong presence, way before fintech became a buzzword among startups.

Beyond its role in the public sector, Remita still enjoys the patronage of leading multinationals in not only Nigeria but some parts of Africa. Its foremost product, Human Manager, remains the application of choice for corporates due to its human resources and payroll functionalities. Also, its gateway infrastructure has witnessed an exponential rise in uptake in recent years by members of the web development communities owing to its versatility.  Additionally, Remita helps individuals to easily pay bills like DSTV, GoTV, CAC, Swift, StarTimes, and more.

“You want to be able to have a single view of your operations. Many corporates have accounts across multiple banks.  You need a dashboard to be able to see what you are doing and what is happening there. So that is part of what we will bring to the table. It is also for individuals to be able to keep track of their finances. Pay your bills, we have a number of dealers on the platform. You pay your bills, make transfers, create standing orders, view your balances, all on the single platform”, Obaro explained.

In September 2018, SystemSpecs also launched Remita Payroll in Ghana, riding on a strategic partnership with Access Bank, Ghana. This marked the commencement of the country’s product roll-out across the continent.

With a robust database to its advantage and connection with all commercial banks and microfinance banks in Nigeria, Remita now provides PayDay loan schemes in collaboration with financial institutions. Among others, Remita powers Paylater, Sage as well as Access Bank and Diamond bank’s pay day loan schemes. The loan is structured in a way that allows salary earners to access loans without guarantors, collaterals and other stringent requirements. This model has proven successful with very low default rate.

Remita’s SME Suite is the latest addition to SystemSpecs collection. It offers tailor-made payment, payroll and accounting solutions to small organization hoping to get ahead in a cluttered market, with due consideration for the operational needs of small businesses. This solution which was launched in 2018.

Like other fintech products dominating global stage, Remita is a solution that should be packaged for export and assisted to scale up globally. It has played the role of a game changer in Nigeria’s public sector, engendering transparency in the collection of revenues from government agencies. It has also earned several recognitions for its efficiency, maintaining its run as ‘Software Company of the Year’ in the fintech and ICT space. In March 2019, CBN acknowledged that Remita is the most efficient third-party processor in Nigeria, having achieved “the highest level of service uptime in the processing of card transactions across all channels in 2018.”

The evolution of SystemSpecs from a software distributor to a leading player in Africa’s fintech scene is as instructive as it is inspirational. The company spearheaded the drive to transform Nigeria into a digital society thereby laying the foundation for new-age tech startups to thrive. It stayed the course when the socio-political outlook appeared bleak and has thus become one of the most exportable brands from Nigeria. Now in its 27th year, the company has assumed a Pan-African disposition with a view to tackling the myriads of problems confronting African countries through the deployment of its innovative solutions.  In 2018, it announced the deployment of its payroll technology in Ghana and South Sudan to aid effective management of HR processes in organisations and facilitate intra-African trade. The story of how one man with a dream built a multinational company through sheer determination and hard work will be studied globally for generations to come.

Source: Nairametrics

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