“Just because something works doesn’t mean it cannot be improved.”
Shuri (Black Panther)
You invested in yourself, went to school, had good grades against all odds, and worked hard to succeed in the system, going through the rigorous NYSC requirement and finally landing a job at a fast-rising startup in Lagos, Nigeria. “Congrats on the new job,” your parents say, cutting you off from normal unemployment check and sending you off with prayers to make your way through Life. Your starting salary, ₦150k- make that ₦125k after taxes and benefits are cut – is now your shield against looming poverty.
If you earn a salary of ₦150,000 a month in Nigeria today, it means you can only spend ₦150,000. Now factor in inflation and the ever-dropping value of the Naira, and what you have left are painful cash payments for every purchase, whether planned or unplanned. We believe this “pre-paid” operating system is obsolete and not the operating system that powers life in developed markets (more on developed markets later).
Let’s put this into context so it’s easier to understand. Meet Nonso – he lives in Lagos, is 28 years old, and earns ₦200,000 a month. He’s a huge Apple head and wants to buy a new iPhone (he usually gets them handed down to him). He toils, saving every kobo, requesting giveaways from friends, calling old Uncles, and exploring every channel possible to raise funds for the new phone, and finally manages to get it. Whoop whoop! But then, there’s rent to pay. He decides to start small – a self-con in Yaba, where the total package is ₦500,000. How does he raise this when he’s spent all of his cash on the iPhone? What about transport fare? Or Owanbe, oh that sweet Nigerian experience? Nonso does not have anywhere near enough spending power to really enjoy life with saving and investing pretty much impossible.
It really shouldn’t be this way. Life should be worth more and you should be able to extract more value from your salary.
Let’s cross the Atlantic to the US and meet Nick who lives in Louisiana and is also 28 years old, but he is able to take his $4,000 a month salary and access up to $250,000 of annual spending. How? Juju? Not quite.
In developed markets, things work very differently. There are systems in place that assess your salary and credit history and project your real earning power into the future. The FICO system grades your ability to pay back and gives you a score, which gives you access to the future value of your money and enables you to take care of pressing issues now, with little impact on your daily life.
Paying with cash is a signifier of wealth everywhere, especially in Nigeria where our credit systems are a no-go.
This is why we created Bento. We believe that payroll is more than payments and can help unleash the true spending power of African consumers, by creating a more empowered middle class who just like Nick, can responsibly leverage their salaries to pay for products and services (housing, school fees, and yes iPhones!) monthly and enhance their quality of life. Why should you have to wait till the end of the month to buy something you need urgently when life, as a rule, interrupts?
It all boils down to a single truth – you work for your money and your money should work for you. Tell your employer about Bento today.