Value of mobile money transactions in Nigeria rose to N1.22 trillion between January and September this year, Tech Track Africa has learnt. Statistics released by the Nigeria Interbank settlement System (NIBSS) showed that despite the concerns over slow growth of the electronic payment system, mobile money is gaining traction in the country.
Stakeholders had over the years complained about what they described t what slow adoption of mobile money in the country, especially when compared with other African countries that have moved far ahead. According to them, Nigeria’s s inability to make reasonable progress in the area of mobile money contrasts sharply with the progress that has been recorded in many other African countries such as Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, Botswana, Senegal, Cote d’Ivoire and neighbouring Ghana.
However, the NIBSS statistic for the last nine months showed a 50 per cent increase in mobile money transactions, compared with N795. 18 billion recorded in the same period last year. Number of mobile money customer also rose from 3.2 million recorded in 2017 to 5.54 million.
Volume of transactions across the platforms also went up from 35.53 million in the previous year to 59.72 million in September this year. Apparently responsible for the surge in transactions, the number of enrolled mobile money agents also rose from 8,613 in 2017 to 21,400. However, the number of licensed Mobile Money Operators (MMOs) remained unchanged in the last one year. As at September 2017, licensed MMOs were 21 and the figure remained the same as at September 2018.
Recall that the Central Bank of Nigeria together with deposit money banks and others, early this year launched a new initiative, tagged the Shared Agent Network Expansion Facilities (SANEF). The initiative is touted as one that will empower 500,000 agent networks to offer basic financial services such as cash-in, cash-out, funds transfer, bill payments, airtime purchase, BVN among others, to an estimated 50 million Nigerians who are currently under-banked. This was disclosed by the chairman of the Body of Banks’ CEOs Mr. Herbert Wigwe.
In the new arrangement, according to the banks’ CEOs, licensed mobile money operators and super agents were expected to immediately deploy financial services agents’ outlets in under-served urban and rural areas in Nigeria with priority to be accorded the northern geopolitical zones where financial exclusion has been predominant over the years.
Meanwhile, telecommunications operators in the country are also warming up to join the moile money ecosystem. Unlike the situation in other African countries where the mobile payment system is being led by telcos, Nigeria adopted a bank led system. However, CBN and telecommunications regulator, Nigerian Communications Commission had in April signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) towards leveraging on the vast telecoms coverage to bring millions of hitherto excluded Nigerians into the financial system through mobile payment. The MoU between the two regulatory bodies was the second in recent time as the duo earlier in November 2017, inked an agreement to enable digital mobile operators incorporate Special Purpose Vehicles to offer mobile money services.
Determined to leverage the window created, the telecoms are currently teaming up to roll out financial services under the aegis of the Association of Licensed Telecommunications Operators of Nigeria (ALTON). Speaking on behalf of the telcos, ALTON Chairman, Engr. Gbenga Adebayo, said the operators have come together to deliver a concrete commitment to Nigeria. “This is a promise to materially improve financial inclusion rates and to deliver access to financial services to 90 million customers over the next 30 months” he said. On the telco’s capacity to deliver the services, the ALTON Chairman noted that the operators have a combined presence in 773 local government areas across the country further emphasising their ability to reach especially hard to reach areas of the country, as well as 1,000,000 unique agents already in place selling airtime across the country, creating a strong distribution network that can quickly be converted to established mobile money agent networks.
According to him, after the issuance of Nigeria’s first mobile money licences in 2009, the journey towards financial inclusion has been slow. He added that current financial exclusion levels stand at over 40 per cent, leaving a significant gap to be covered in order to meet Nigeria’s target of 20 per cent financial exclusion by 2020.