It said there were a total number of 98,158 mobile payment agents and 24,383,263 subscribers. CBN’s Director of Banking and Payments System Department, Mr. Dipo Fatokun, who was represented by Mr. Sola Agboola, gave the figures in Ilorin at the annual conference organised by the Nigeria Deposit Insurance Corporation (NDIC) for members of the Finance Correspondents of Nigeria (FICAN) and business editors.
Speaking on the topic: “Enhancing the capacity of Micro, Small & Medium Scale Enterprises (MSMEs) for job creation through mobile payment system, Fatokun said the CBN was about licensing three major telecoms operators to act as super-agent Mobile Money Operators (MMOs).
According to him, the coming on board of the three telecoms operators, whose identities are still concealed, is the CBN’s fresh initiative aimed at expanding mobile money transactions system in the country. “Some leading telecoms have applied and we are processing their licences and very soon, they will get licences to operate as super agents,” said the CBN director.
He added that the services of agent banking operators, especially in the rural settings where their services are desirable, had led to the creation of jobs while additional incomes are also generated. “In Nigeria, as well as other developing countries, the majority of the ‘unbanked’ have to rely on cash or informal financial services which are typically unsafe, inconvenient and expensive.
Traditional “bricks and mortar” banking infrastructure struggle to make the business model work to serve low-income customers, particularly in rural areas.
“Large populations live in the rural areas at subsistence levels, with no access to banking, but their family members usually work in cities and remit money home, using informal, expensive or risky means.
“This set of people has a need to bank, save and transfer money, but are unable to do so because of lack of access to banking service,” he said.
He stated that 21 MMOs had, so far, been fully licensed and were carrying out commercial operations while eight others were at various stages of concluding a pilot run. Of the 21 licensed MMOs, he said seven were banks while 14 were nonbanking institutions.
On the CBN’s rationale for conceiving mobile payment, he said the apex bank took advantage of huge and rapid expansion in mobile telephone in Nigeria.
Citing Nigeria Communications Commission’s (NCC) statistics, which put the figure of Nigeria’s unbanked population with access to mobile phone at over 120 million, Fatokun said the CBN decided to seize the opportunity and leverage on existing business network infrastructure to serve the people. He added that this was a practical and well thought out strategy for driving financial inclusion of the unbanked in Nigeria.
He identified problem of epileptic power supply, poor telecommunication connectivity, lack of synergy between MMOs and telecoms and lack of awareness of the various products and policies as some of the challenges militating against MMOs.