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Banking on the Future

By France Griggs Sloat

Adekunle Okunoye, the son of school teachers in his hometown of Ibadan, Nigeria, never planned on practicing the “family profession.” But education was in his blood, and since earning his doctoral degree, he’s teaching at Xavier as an assistant professor in the department of management information systems.

What’s more, his research has taken him back to Nigeria the last two summers where he’s learning—and teaching—about how to modernize the developing country’s banking industry. Nigeria is a good case study because the banks are just now installing automatic teller machines, and clients are just learning about online banking services. But most people don’t have Internet access, so they spend many hours in line to get cash or check their balances. “It’s still a cash-based economy,” Okunoye says. “My mother, a school principal, gets a check from the education ministry and pays her teachers in cash. Not all of them have bank accounts.”

Carrying large amounts of cash is also dangerous—the ATMs have armed guards. Okunoye has discussed with government officials in his home state, Osun, how to computerize the state’s payroll system and encourage employees to open bank accounts. The state could then deposit payroll checks directly into their accounts.

“If the ATMs were working, maybe they would use the banks and maybe they would start saving,” he says. “All my research is because I see it could have more impact there in my developing country.”

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