The African Mobile Money Revolution and the place of Nigeria

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Has the mobile money narrative changed in Africa? Let us consider this common circumstance that has become a daily burden.

A civil servant, barely, in her late 30s, expends a quarter of his hard-earned money, on treating his mother’s chronic diabetes, by paying for drugs.

She resides in the urban part of the country, miles apart from the rural centre, where her sick mother resides.

The narrative is not easy, as it is painted above, as she has to take excuse from work, appear at a physical bank branch, deposit cash, let us say N8,000, into the account of her friend, who resides in a town, near the village, close to where her sick mother resides.

It does not just end there, as she would have to incur an extra N2,000, for her mother, to go pick up the cash, at the nearest town. Imagine what the sick mother, would have to go through.

It would have been easier, if there was a physical bank branch, at the village, but alas, none exists there. The question here is, ‘is a physical bank branch, the only way, her mother could have got the cash?’

This story is familiar with most people, on the African continent. With a huge penetration of the mobile banking space on the continent, Nigeria appears not to have jumped on the moving train.

With an estimated, 172 million mobile phone users in Nigeria, which represents about 87% of the population in terms of penetration rate, the country is still, experiencing what appears to be, a decline in the financial inclusion drive.

The traditional banking system tends to incur an expensive cost, compared to the mobile banking method.

Taking a closer look, at Nigeria’s major rival, in the group of African nations, with the largest economy, South Africa, appears to have taken a giant stride in, fully, embracing the world of fintechs, to drive financial inclusion.

Reports from the World Bank indicate that, in Sub-Saharan Africa, financial inclusion increased, by an average of 31%, from 2014-2017.

Nigeria, however, had a dropped, by, almost 4% to 3%.

In Kenya, Safaricom, a telecom organization, acts, just like a bank, after it launched the M-pesa app, in 2007.

Today, more than half of Kenya’s population uses this app, as their mobile bank, for all kinds of transactions.

Why can this, not be replicated and implemented in Nigeria? Analysts in the telecommunications sector in the country, say that Nigeria is lagging behind countries, like Kenya and South Africa because, many of its banks, raised a campaign that, disrupted the successful implementation of mobile payments.

The collaboration, to drive this effort, has not been active and the legislation on a mobile transaction in Nigeria is, highly tilted, in favour of the banks.

Mobile operators in the country may also find it challenging, in encouraging people, to keep money in their mobile accounts, without users, getting interested in return.

With Nigeria, having over 100 million mobile network subscribers, mobile network operators, can leverage this opportunity.

Mobile money can only make an impact in Nigeria, if it is seen, just beyond simple money-transfer business.

Banks have claimed that the low literacy level in Nigeria, has stalled the execution of mobile money in the country, however, statistics from the World Bank, states otherwise, as Kenya, that has adopted a system of financial inclusion through mobile banking, has 79%, compared to Nigeria’s 51%

With Nigeria, having mobile network operators, like MTN and Airtel and an expansive operation in the country, Mobile money patronage, could, easily, rise.

Featured Image: regionweek

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