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Payment Security Predictions for 2021



In parallel to this pandemic-stricken year in which time often seemed to stand still, global economies moved quickly in ways that accelerated change, bringing lasting impact to consumer behavior, fraud patterns and risk mitigation needs.

This year, Visa has focused our expertise and resources in ways to help financial institutions, merchant partners, governments and consumers navigate these seismic shifts. Looking ahead to next year, I believe many of the changes in digital payments will carryover. More importantly, the experiences of this year will accelerate innovation and force companies to learn from their mistakes to ensure they are not repeated in 2021.

A few predictions for the upcoming year include:

  1. Consumer habits born from the pandemic will become the new normal, requiring updated fraud prevention strategies by merchants.

According to Visa’s Back to Business Study, 78 percent of global consumer respondents have adjusted the way they pay for items due to intensified safety concerns and nearly half (48 percent) would not shop at a store that only offers payment methods that require contact with a cashier or a shared machine like a card reader. I believe these consumer preferences are not temporary and are here to stay.

These consumer behaviors will further drive merchants to innovate in order to grow and meet customer preference. Investments by merchants in new ways to onboard customers and new ways to pay such as online, in-app, contactless, and IoT (wearables, in-car, smart speakers, smart appliances, etc.) will be rewarded through new customer acquisitions, existing customer retention and growth in sales.

But as merchants move online, so are fraudsters – some of which have resources backed by nation-states. Payment security is difficult and not everyone in payments has the expertise to do it well. Merchants will need to update their fraud prevention strategies to support omnichannel commerce and if in-house expertise is not available, merchants should turn to proven, reputable partners that can produce outcomes aligned to their business goals and interests.

  1. The Strong Customer Authentication requirement will help bolster payment security outside of the EEA and UK.

The requirement for Strong Customer Authentication (SCA) and enforcement for e-commerce starts Jan. 1, 2021 for most of the European Economic Area (EEA) with some local variations among countries. Despite this being a requirement for the EEA and the UK, efforts to strengthen and meet SCA requirements will reverberate in other regions. With the increase in fraud activities in card-not-present channels, some multinational corporations will likely extend the strengthened security measures to other markets where fraud activity is high.

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  1. Modernizing payment infrastructures will reveal new potential vulnerabilities.

A growing number of Central Banks and fintechs are challenging tradition and exploring new and faster ways to send money, settle payments and share information. Real time payments, digital currency and Open Banking supports innovation that matches the expectations of digitally savvy consumers and will help drive digital commerce for decades to come. But faster payments open up opportunities for faster fraud and sharing of customer information must have data privacy in mind.


Fintechs and Central Banks need to have mechanisms in place to spot atypical patterns that can be an indicator of fraud. It is also important that the principles of Open Banking and the sharing of data is used responsibly and ethically across all products, services and technology. 2021 will see payment volumes in real time payments continue to grow, digital currencies continue to become mainstream, consumer and data privacy at the forefront of many discussions, and industry players working together to resolve new vulnerabilities that are revealed.


  1. Government agencies will implement stronger authentication measures due to fraud losses in 2020.

Fraud activities spiked during the first phase of the pandemic in the U.S. Government benefits meant for vulnerable citizens affected by the pandemic were targeted by fraudsters by using stolen identities to apply for benefits – effectively siphoning away the funds making fewer funds available to individuals who needed them the most. The potential loss could be more than $26 billion nationwide.


Government agencies will want to avoid further losses if additional government stimulus is made available in 2021 and will do so by revisiting their processes and technologies used to support the verification of eligibility and distribution of benefits. Strengthening authentication capabilities to better assess government benefit eligibility must be a priority next year. This is a call to action to all government agencies that play a role in the disbursement of benefits.


If agencies do not have the expertise to do this in-house, they should turn to trusted partners in payments. Financial institutions, payment networks and processors globally need to prepare now to ensure adequate fraud prevention layers and strategies are in place so government benefits reach their intended recipients – not fraudsters.


  1. Momentum behind digital identity will continue to build led by a shift to strong customer authentication solutions

The move away from passwords and knowledge-based authentication will accelerate with adoption of strong customer authentication standards like FIDO, which is now available in all major browsers and mobile devices.

Plans for government and bank-led electronic identity schemes (e-ID) will advance along with trust frameworks and regulation to inform how the various parties can interact. Accelerated by Covid-19, demand for solutions that help banks and merchants digitally verify consumer identity will grow. Relying parties who are unable to manage identity effectively will become targets for fraud.


The concept that digital identity is one of the building blocks required for a sovereignty to function in the digital age (along with open data, consumer privacy and consent management, and payments) will gain further traction. All eyes will be on Europe as adoption of the SCA mandate comes into effect next year since digital identity is among the options to choose from for stronger authentication before payment.

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For Telecoms, A Place In The Sun For Alarmists, By Okoh Aihe



For Telecoms, A Place In The Sun For Alarmists, By Okoh Aihe

There was suppressed excitement across the land last week. The country’s economy, dealt a massive blow into depression by COVID-19, suddenly witnessed a renaissance, a stirring out of that dazed stupor into some place under the sun, making some of us to learn how to smile again.

The news was so sudden that some people didn’t know how to believe it and are only now trying to respond in a way to encourage the economic minders to do even more. Because the possibility is that if we mistake these tiny ripples of life to be strong signs of real recovering, there is the more likelihood that we go into a more serious one as we often don’t know how to dance our way out of trouble but instead force ourselves down the slippery slope like somebody courting disaster.

Therefore, the announcement that Nigeria witnessed 0.11% in Q4’2020 sounded more like music to the ears although Nigerians are not about breaking into a dance. They have been so disappointed over the years, taking promises in their face value to the effect that they are unable to seek forgiveness for attracting this moment of hazardous folly upon themselves. But good news is good news and even in its infinitesimal manifestation in our land, we must manage a smile with suspicious restraints.

The smile came last week, giving a justification to the alarmists, those always shouting about the protection of the telecommunications sector, that they are not wrong and that there is, indeed, a justification to jealously secure the sector for our collective good. The cliché instructs that you do not kill the fowl that lays the golden eggs! The ICT sector of which Telecoms remains a very visible component is heading down that lane that attracts protection and preservation.

READ ALSO: Smile Telecoms Holdings Ltd. (“Group”) Announces Significant

The figures released by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) which showed a mild positive economic growth of 0.11 per cent also credited the Information and Communications Technology Sector with an encouraging growth of 15.06 per cent in Quarter 4, 2020, thus remaining one of the few sectors to enjoy a double digit growth throughout the year in spite of the pandemic, with others being 13.47 per cent Quarter 3, 2020, 17. 83 per cent Quarter 2, 2020, and 14.07 Quarter 1, 2020.

Comparatively, the Oil sector contributed 5.87 per cent in the same quarter down from 8.73 per cent in Quarter 3, 2020. The report noted that oil production stood at 1.56m barrels per day which is way below the 2.00m per day recorded in the same quarter of 2019. In everything production there is unpredictability especially in our part of the world and the oil sector is not sequestered from such vagaries. And this should give us some concerns because we are still some years away from what Jeremy Rifkin called the ‘carbon bubble’ in his book, The Green New Deal, when the world will rely more on cleaner sources of energy, and what we have always bragged about as our massive investment in the oil sector, the magic mono product that sustains our economy, will become stranded assets. That day is not far away and yet our oil production is not stable enough to meet the exigencies of the immediate.

So, in a troubled world the ICT sector rallied to a surge. This is hardly surprising because technology has always been there to ameliorate the worries of the world in moments of crisis. This is what has happened in Nigeria. When the world started to shut down last year under the weight of COVID-19 and shifted the breathing pattern to a new normal, ICT provided the vessels of communication. There were no movements but people were talking. There were no cinemas yet people were entertained. Even when jobs were lost and people suffered hunger they still scrounged enough to buy air time so that they could stay connected. But for technology it would have been a nightmare far beyond what anybody could ever imagine. What showed on the GDP is not a fluke and, without being a prophet, technology is going to provide the support structure for our GDP into the foreseeable future.

READ ALSO: Nigeria’s Inflation Rate Hits Highest In Over Two Years

You therefore need to understand the alarmists when they cry that the telecommunications sector needs to be delivered and protected. As I write, there are still some states that put strictures on the part of service rollout by telecom operators or even allow expansion where services are already available. In parts of the country where there are security challenges – and the challenges are pervasive – but obviously more serious in some areas, telecommunications services have been seriously disrupted and or totally decoupled from existence.

Plus the security challenges are the activities of some highly placed government officials, the politicians among them who throw their weight around some regulatory agencies while trying to approximate the laws setting up these agencies. This writer has always shouted on this column that the telecommunications and Broadcast sectors are too important to be subjected to the mood swings of an ephemeral politician. They need to be freed up for growth to enable the sectors build up the strength to leverage the country into the future. Those who doubt the importance of ICT should ask themselves just these questions: Where was Zoom two years ago and where is it now? Which technology supplies the oxygen to the new normal?

One other matter. The government seems to be thinking right when, last week, the Federal Executive Council (FEC) approved about N8.9bn for a new National Information and Communication Technology park in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT). My little warning is that this project should not be a packaged deal for any politician or a political stunt. This nation obviously needs such intervention projects that can withstand or at least attenuate a headline inflation of 16.47 per cent and food inflation of 20.57 percent. We need to put an end to the hunger in the land using technology.


Okoh Aihe writes from Abuja.

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Smile Telecoms Holdings Ltd. (“Group”) Announces Significant Changes in its Leadership

Ms. Irene Charnley and Mr. Mohammad Wajih Sharbatly retire from the Group’s Board of Directors; The Group’s Board announces several new appointments to reinforce the Group in the coming era of Telecoms transformation.



Smile Telecoms Holdings Ltd. ("Group") Announces Significant Changes in its Leadership

Smile Telecoms Holdings Ltd., ( a Pan-African telecommunications group with operations in Nigeria, Uganda, Tanzania, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, announced after its board meeting held on January 15th, 2021, significant changes in the leadership of the Group’s board and management.

The Group announced the retirement of Ms. Irene Charnley and Mr. Mohammed Wajih Sharbatly from the Group’s Board and all boards of the operating companies, effective January 1st 2021.

Ms. Irene Charnley, the Founder of Smile, has retired as Deputy Chairman from the Smile Telecoms Limited Board.

Mr. Mohammad Wajih Sharbatly is a Co- Founder of Smile and has acted as Co-Chairman of the Group through December 2020.

Commenting on the announcement, Mr. Ibrahim H. Sharbatly, Chairman of the Group said “Today we say farewell to our Founder and Deputy Chairman, Ms. Irene Charnley. We wish her all success in her new endeavors.”

“We also want to say farewell to our Co-Founder and Co-Chairman Mr. Mohammad Wajih H. Sharbatly.”

“May God bless them both.”

Smile Telecom Holdings, in its Board meeting on January 15th, 2021, also announced the following Nominations:

  • Mr. Osman Sultan has been appointed as Vice Chairman of the Group.  Mr. Sultan, the founding CEO of EITC (du) in the UAE, was at its helm from 2006 until the end of 2019. Before that, he was the founding CEO of Mobinil in Egypt (now Orange Egypt) from 1998 until the end of 2005. Mr. Sultan sits on several ICT Companies and Academic Boards. He has been actively involved with Smile as the Chairman of the Restructuring and Transformation Committee of the Group since July 2020.
  • Mr. Albert Momdjian has been appointed as Board Member of the Group and Chairman of the Group’s Audit Committee. Mr. Momdjian is a former corporate and investment banker with 27 years of corporate Investment banking and restructuring experience primarily in Media and Telecoms across Europe, the Middle East and Africa, having been involved in over USD 100 bn worth of M&A, capital markets and restructuring transactions.
  • Mrs. Caroline Chang, recently appointed as a Board Member of the Group in November 2020, has been appointed as a member of the Group’s Audit Committee. Mrs. Chang is an experienced board member and former EMEA General Counsel of Farallon, the leading US hedge fund that has been active in Africa and Emerging Markets.
  • These nominations come in addition to the appointment of Mr. Raihan Shaikh-Khaleel as Board Member of the Group in September 2020. Mr Khaleel is a Partner at Swinton Capital and an experienced restructuring advisor across EMEA, sitting on various Boards of companies involved in restructurings. He has 20 years of EMEA and other cross border experience, spending the last 10 years restructuring companies for a leading US hedge fund.

“While we understand the desire of our Founders to retire after a challenging journey, we have been preparing over the past months for the future. We want to ensure that we bring the best competencies on board to enable the Group to face the various challenges and transformations that the Telecoms sector faces and take advantage of the opportunities ahead. Africa is the fastest-growing continent globally, and data is the new future in the world we live in,” concluded Mr. Ibrahim Sharbatly.

Commenting on the changes Ahmad Farroukh, Group CEO, added, “I am looking forward to working with the new Board Members and counting on their diverse experience to prepare for the company’s future in the challenging times the industry is going through.”

Finally, Smile announced that the Group Board approved the Head Office and Centre of Main Interest (COMI) of Smile Telecoms Holdings Ltd to shift from Mauritius to England and Wales.


About Smile Telecoms Holdings Ltd

Founded in 2007, with its head office in England, Smile Telecoms Holdings Ltd ( is a Pan-African telecommunications group with operations in Nigeria, Tanzania, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and South Africa. The company has one of the largest sub-1 GHz 4G LTE commercial networks in Africa, operating in the “future proof’ low band, 800 MHz band, and mid-band.

Smile was the first to launch VoLTE on its network and continued its innovation, introducing SmileVoice, a free mobile app. SmileVoice enables customers with any Android or Apple iPhone device (including those which are not VoLTE-enabled) to make SuperClear voice calls over Smile’s 4G LTE network. Smile was also the first to introduce an Unlimited offering, which enables SuperFast data and SuperClear voice, all on one bundle.

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State News

Bayelsa Govt. To Build Science And Technical Schools In 8 LGAs



Bayelsa Govt. To Build Science And Technical Schools In 8 LGAs
Gov. Douye Diri, Bayelsa State

The Bayelsa  Government says it plans to build science and technical schools in the eight Local Government Areas of the state.

Gov. Douye Diri, disclosed this during an interactive session with Christian leaders at the Gabriel Okara Cultural Centre, Yenagoa, on Tuesday.

The governor in a statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Daniel Alabrah, said the establishment of the technical schools was aimed at building the capacity of youths in vocational skills to make them self-reliant.

Read Also: Youth Empowerment: Enugu Govt Establishes Technology Hub Centres

He emphasized the need to be abreast of global challenges, adding that the trend was that less emphasis was now being placed on only paper qualifications.

He said it has become imperative for youths to think outside of the box and channel their energies to profitable ventures rather than looking for white-collar jobs that are scarce.

Diri urged them to take a cue from his administration by venturing into agriculture, which was one of the main focuses of his administration.

“We want to build science and technical colleges across Bayelsa. We will have them in all the local government areas.

“We want to de-emphasize certificate education so that our young ones can use their hands, learn skills and be employers of labor.

Read Also: President Buhari To Address Rescued Kankara Students

“Our focus is also on agriculture. We want our youths and women to be useful to themselves. This government is ready to support you.

“We want our young ones to go into business and to own farms. This government is ready to encourage you until you own your own farms”.

The governor noted that every member of the executive council had been directed to own a farm this year.

“We want to shift the focus from seeking too much of white-collar job education to vocational, science, and technical education,” Diri said.

He added that the government would love the youths to be plumbers, tilers, and painters.

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