Stakeholders in the telecommunication sector have said mobile money services should be driven by telecoms companies, a position that runs contrary to that of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
In its recently released ‘Regulatory Framework for Mobile Money Services in Nigeria’, the CBN said there shall be only two models for the implementation of mobile money services in Nigeria.
They are the bank-led, where a bank and/or its consortium will serve as the lead initiator; and the non-bank-led, where a corporate organisation duly licensed by the CBN will serve as the lead initiator.
However, the Chairman, Association of Licensed Telecommunication Operators of Nigeria, Gbenga Adebayo, told our correspondent that the new CBN models would slow down financial inclusion penetration.
He said, “We think penetration will be slow. We are convinced that we are the industry with the ready infrastructure all over the country. If you talk about mobile penetration, use of mobile phones for financial service, the last mile is actually by the operators.
“The last mile to reach the people is by the operators. We are of the view that penetration would be slower than it should. We think the CBN should consider operators which are interested in offering these services.
“For the sake of speedy coverage and easy access, we are of the view that if operators are allowed to play well in that space, it will improve penetration and inclusion for more people.”
Adebayo said for rapid coverage and full inclusion, mobile operators would have to take the lead.
According to the CBN, telcos will provide the infrastructure needed to drive the exchange of messages for mobile payments. Even though the CBN allows for a non-bank-led model, telcos are not to be considered.
The CBN, in its mobile money regulatory policy, said, “The introduction of mobile telephony in Nigeria, its rapid growth and adoption and the identification of person-to-person payments as a practical strategy for financial inclusion, has made it imperative to adopt the mobile channel as a means of driving financial inclusion of the unbanked.”
Speaking of the non-bank-led model, the CBN said, “This model allows a corporate organisation that has been duly licensed by the CBN to deliver mobile money services to customers.
“The lead initiator shall be a corporate organisation (other than a deposit money bank, a national primary mortgage bank, a national microfinance bank or a telecommunication company) specifically licensed by the CBN to provide mobile money services in Nigeria.”
The Chairman, Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria, Ikechukwu Nnamani, indicated that the CBN should have taken a cue from the success of M-Pesa by Safaricom in Kenya.
He said, “The CBN has decided to go the route where telcos are not taking the lead. Following the most successful example of mobile money in Africa, which is the Safaricom M-Pesa experiment, we had believed that making it telco-led would lead to greater adoption because a lot of people are already on the telecom platform.
“Making it telecom-led would have led to faster adoption; today we have more telecom subscribers than people in the banking industry, but in CBN’s wisdom, they still feel it is better to keep making it bank-led. So, all we would do for now is see how to work together with the banking industry to make financial inclusion something that is very much available to Nigerians.”
He said the rate of adoption would depend on how the telecom industry and financial industry work together.
According to the Nigeria Inter-Bank Settlement System Plc, there were 160,038,000 bank accounts in Nigeria as of May 2020.
The four major telecom companies in Nigeria had 191,934,138 subscribers in May 2020, according to the Nigerian Communications Commission.