The character of financial services in Nigeria looks set to be redefined as MTN Nigeria enters the mobile financial services space with the launch of its MoMo Agent service targeting the huge proportion of Nigerians that are underbanked and unbanked.
Following months of anticipation, Nigeria’s largest telecoms company by subscribers and the second most valuable company on the Nigerian Stock Exchange appears to have taken the driver’s seat in ensuring the Central Bank of Nigeria’s actualises its ambitious financial inclusion programme of ensuring that 95 per cent of all Nigerians have access to financial services by 2024.
Currently, less than half of all Nigerians have a bank account or have access to any financial services.
In May 2001, the first call on MTN’s GSM network heralded a new era of connecting people, which culminated in more than a hundred million Nigerians being able to speak and share with their family and friends, leading to a radical transformation of the country’s social and economic character.
After registering a fully owned subsidiary, Yello Digital Financial Services Limited (YDFS), through which it obtained the Super-Agent license from the CBN, MTN Nigeria conducted a pilot run of its agent network in six states, among other regulatory requirements before getting the all-clear from the CBN to launch the service.
The super-agent license will enable YDFS to leverage MTN’s existing agent network to provide financial services and recruit more agents, growing to a workforce of 500,000 in two years. It would also enhance financial inclusion in rural areas by enabling customers to send and receive money.
For years, the country has relied on traditional banks to bridge the financial exclusion gap. However, with less than 40 million Nigerians with a BVN-backed bank account, number (compared with 146 million active GSM lines), it became obvious that that was not going to be possible.
Meanwhile, Kenya boasts a mobile money service pen*etration of 60 per cent while Ghana’s decision to adopt a telco-led model resulted in a 73 per cent increase in registered mobile money customers in just one year, according to World Bank data.
As with the advent of mobile networks, the combined force of MTN’s 61 million subscribers, national coverage across the country’s 774 local government areas and its army of more than ten thousand agents, YDFS’ ambitious bet on mobile money might be every bit as audacious, and rewarding, as its parent company’s famous bet 18 years ago.