Lai Labode is the Chief Executive Officer of CashToken Reward Africa. In this interview, he outlines how huge Nigeria’s Cash reward industry is, lessons from COVID-19, and disclosed why the company wants to list on New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) and NGX. Excerpts: 

What gaps did you observe that birthed CashToken Reward Africa?  

Several years ago, we conducted this research, we called patronage optimization research and We wanted to be able to understand what the most potent emotional disposition is, of any consumer that would trigger increased repeat and sustainable patronage of any good or service.   

 Essentially, we were also looking for solutions that could potentially help Africa redistribute wealth and potentially get out of poverty. We were also looking for the best way to help businesses thrive and be able to also impact society in very beautiful ways. The results of this research led us to establish this model we call “the Socially smart business model” and decided to lead a new generation of businesses that have become socially smart.  

 By socially smart, we mean the marriage of successful enterprises and social development. And of course, part of what we found in our research is that as long as people are making purchases, and people expect that they get good service or good products, but also expect to be rewarded.  Reward would impact businesses by ensuring customers buy more and make businesses become even more prosperous and successful and by extension pay more taxes as well as impact society in a positive way.  

But we also found something that was interesting; consumers are interested in not just cash rewards, they’re interested in a potentially life-changing cash reward. Now, people have all sorts of dreams and of course at the end of the day, they’re just looking for cash to bring the dreams to life.  

 How does it work? 

 One CashToken has the potential to change your life. 

When you receive the CashToken reward, it comes as an SMS telling you that MTN, Airtel or whatever other business has gifted you one CashToken or two CashTokens or three CashTokens depending on what threshold you met. Instantly, you get some cash in your universal reward wallet – known as Guaranteed instant cash. This grants you instant gratification but simultaneously, you also receive a ticket into a weekly national consumer draw.  

 This national consumer draw is what offers you a chance to win between N5000 and N100 million. This is the life-changing opportunity that is involved here. You have just received the CashToken gifted to you by a friend, loved one, or a  business, instantly you have received 6 naira in your wallet. That means if all week you have 1000 CashTokens, buying food, flying one airline, entering Uber, buying airtime, paying for electricity, the same reward across the places, you have a thousand CashToken at the end of the week, that means you have instantly N6000  in your Universal Reward Wallet. This is cash that you can use for actual transactions. 

  But that also means you have 1000 tickets in the national consumer draw that happens every Friday. We call it ‘Lalale Friday.’ And of course, you can imagine that in the draw that happens on Friday, we will make millionaires. But let me also say this, there isn’t a company today in Africa that impacts people the way we have been able to do it consistently. Every other week we make many millionaires in Nigeria of people  who have been loyal to businesses that partner with us.   

 I can tell you that since Nigeria was amalgamated in 1914, there hasn’t been a company that has come out of Africa that is able to do what we consistently do at CashToken Reward Africa every week without fail.   

 We are also very excited to see governments beginning to come forward. Lagos State government became the first government in all of Africa, to establish a universal reward for its residents. It is called EkoToken. We have partnered with Lagos State on this. Lagos State is already making tremendous progress, taking the lead, of course, and this new era of hyper-consumer centricity or hyper-citizen centricity has already begun in Lagos State. We are also quite excited about the number of people that have been impacted. We are beginning to turn out some indexes right now, to show the impact of the socially smart business model. These metrics include the happiness index, social smart business index, prosperity index, etc. We want to show which company is the most socially smart business in Nigeria and by extension Africa. A lot of that is coming out soon. We want to show how businesses are able to combine profitability and social development at the same time.  

What’s your assessment of the Nigerian cash reward services? 

 The size of the industry is huge and of course, we are just starting to explore. We are currently in a partnership  with MasterCard and have helped them establish a sub-Saharan African platform for all MasterCard holders in Africa. If you are a MasterCard holder, you can go to the platform and have access to 24/7 deals. It’s called MyDealZone Africa. If you are MasterCard, holder, we have aggregated merchants across Africa that offers the CashToken reward. Now our pilot phase includes Nigeria. Ghana. Cote d’ivoire, Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda. This puts us in six countries on day one and as we speak this expansion will continue across Africa.  

 We consistently talk about wealth redistribution in Africa and poverty alleviation, pulling people out of poverty, using the business model that is in partnership with all businesses. When you hear about this, you know that something big is about to happen because the impact is not based on charity. It is based on impact on the objectives of businesses.  So, you have a situation where what we are doing across Africa is for Africa, we enable businesses to become more prosperous and when they are, customer loyalty investment is optimized and then we can see the direct impact of that on the people.   

COVID-19 came with lessons and Challenges. How are you navigating Post Covid-19?  

COVID-19 came with challenges and a lot of opportunities at the same time for us at CashToken Reward Africa. You know one of the key things about CashToken Reward Africa, or the cash reward as a service industry which is a new industry that we have really birthed as the case may be is that there has never been a time where purchases have stopped. People will continue to buy, and as long as they are making the purchase they are getting rewarded. That in itself really became an opportunity for us because as people were buying, people were getting instant cash and they were also getting their opportunities to get into a consumer draw that happens every Friday.  

So, this brought us opportunities, however, beyond the opportunities for us as a business in terms of Making money and making our shareholders happy, we are very conscious of the gratification that comes with being able to impact people’s lives. 

 I had a lot of conversations with the Governor of Lagos State when we were establishing the EkoToken for Lagos, and he was very interested in how to help more people get out of poverty in Lagos State. He was thinking a lot about sustainability. I explained to him that, the design itself really fits with his vision for Lagos state. The essential here is that the businesses that are offering the CashToken are not doing it for free, they are doing it based on set objectives. So, it’s a win-win for the business. 

 You got a $100 million commitment from the Global Emerging Markets. With that investment special plan, what areas or regions should we expect the new measures and positions? 

First of all, we are quite excited about that commitment, $100 million is good money for an African business to be able to expand and showcase what it has not just to Nigeria or Africa and to the world as the case may be. Our expansion path includes optimizing what we have in Nigeria. While the CashToken business is already successful in Nigeria. we have not done 5% of our potential at all, the business is much bigger than anyone can imagine. We will be optimizing operations in Nigeria and then Africa and the world. 

So we will be spending a lot of money on marketing, improving our operations and of course, preparing our business for the next level. We also want to attract and retain the best talent across Africa. 

We have also been able to profile African countries in terms of how profitable each of these countries is and what kind of impact we can actually make and we will be expanding to these countries. 

There is a robust plan that we have already put into gear, but one of the key things for our access to our $100 million is the listing on the Stock Exchange and we are currently on the path to the listing of CashToken Reward Africa on the Nigeria Stock Exchange. But there will be a dual listing because we intend to list on the Nigerian Stock Exchange and the New York Stock Exchange. Through this, we will showcase what Africa has to the world and ensure that we have a business that thrives and makes us proud as Africans.  

Since inception of this how many businesses or brands have you impacted on? And again, what’s the future of Cash Rewards as Service business in Africa? 

I am very happy to say this publicly that we are a major part of the very massive success of MTN and we congratulate MTN again for their leadership in the industry.  We are very happy that we are part of that success because of the direct impact of CashToken. 

The public emotional equity for MTN is on the rise and shortly you are going to be seeing our indexes come out. You know, I was giving a little bit of expo about the most socially smart business in Nigeria. You are going to see that shortly. As part of our publication to share with the press, you will see the criteria for measuring such indexes across businesses in Nigeria, and this is quite important.

We have about 200 businesses currently using CashToken and that is just a start, but part of what we are also seeing is the gravitation toward the policy.  

I was in Ghana a few days ago trying to meet at the very highest level, and we are also looking to the establishment of national rewards, as a policy. We are working on the national reward for the country as a policy. Meaning that, as long as you are making the purchase in the country, CashToken is part of what you get naturally, which helps businesses sell more, transactions increase, impact on personal economies increase and public emotional equity also increases. 

Shortly, no Nigerian will go to bed without hope because you must have made the purchase whether you are rich or poor. As long as you can make a purchase, you will receive a CashToken so that on Friday night, Lala le Friday as we like to say in this part of the world, it can potentially change your life.  

What should we expect in terms of physical incentives as policy tends to affect business? 

I’m especially very happy with the Lagos State government, and the brilliant guys under this government who are able to see that if we don’t begin to bring policies that enable the private sector to impact people, then we are just joking.   

These kinds of policies are the kind of things we are expecting at the federal level where we have a level playing ground that creates truly good enabling environments, where we can cut bureaucracies. We are not just talking about the regulation that is crazy, but a very clear understanding that essentially growth happens when the private sector thrives. 

We are expecting the next government to work with us to establish policies that help, especially this kind of model that is socially smart.  

You have a lot of female on the team, was it deliberate? 

There is always something very special in women especially young women because they are able to combine the strength you see in a man and their sensitivity as women to produce high-level results and we at CashToken Reward Africa have been very lucky.  

Gender sensitivity is important and it also creates a balance, around the workplace we  pride ourselves on our ability to have truly created a family. No one ever leaves CashToken Reward Africa. 

So apart from the objectives of making our shareholders happy, we also have the vision to make everybody that works here rich and it is not just by salary, we have a special model which we also intend to showcase to the world. People who work in a place can become rich and not just by salary.