[Nigeria] Mobile money operators hit N555b deals in six months
04-12-2017 10:13:00 | by: Andrea Ayemoba | hits: 4516 | Tags:

Mobile money operators (MMOs) in the country have recorded N555.83 billion inter-scheme transactions in the first six months of this year, New Telegraph has learnt.

This is just as the number of agents used by the MMOs also stood at 5,517 between the review period.

According to the latest e-payment industry factsheet obtained from the Nigerian Inter-Bank Settlement System Plc. (NIBSS), the total number of mobile money users also stood at 2.3 million during the period.

The report shows that the N555.83 billion was achieved in 24.17 million deals among the 21 licensed MMOs by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).

It noted that all the 21 MMOs have been integrated to NIBSS platform for interoperability.

However, while yearly market worth of mobile money transactions in Nigeria has been estimated at N1 trillion and with MMOs crossing the middle border at N555.83 billion in June, industry analysts have said the industry could do better if MNOs focus on their primary market of deepening digital inclusion in the grassroots.

The analysts, who lamented the transaction lull in mobile money segment, have also suggested the way out of the current doldrums in which MMOs have found themselves, despite the promise and enthusiasm that attended the launch of mobile payment some years back.

According to this newspaper’s findings, while other electronic transaction platforms continue to record impressive traction, mobile money service is still struggling to gain a foothold in the country.

As at 2015, the huge potential market size for mobile money was expected to have grown to an estimated N1.1 trillion by 2015 by then to be cruising towards N2 trillion by end of 2017.

CBN, as part of its policy to bring the unbanked into the fold of formal banking system, launched mobile money service in 2011 and so far, 21 organisations, bank and non-bank, had been issued operating licences.

Speaking with this newspaper by phone, Chief Executive Officer and Executive Secretary of the E-Payment Providers Association of Nigeria (E-PPAN), Mrs. Regha Onajite, said the licensees had not been collaborating, especially in building robust agent network.

“One thing we have noticed is most of the licensees have busied themselves building their respective agents in silos, resulting in limited operation and coverage and lack of visibility and resultant lack of scale,” she said.

Regha traced the passive nature of MMOs to lack of robust national mobile network agent across the country.

According to her, “At the beginning, we advised the licensees on the danger of operating in silos, but they could not see the hand-writing on the wall. So, the market is there, but the potential huge market has been eluding most of them.”

Chief Executive Officer, Medallion Communications, Mr. Ike Nnamani, said majority of the MMOs have remained “largely invisible in their operations due to insufficient capital and lack of industry knowledge.”

According to him, “Since mobile money was introduced in Nigeria in 2011, there have been reservations, ambivalence and criticism of the efficiency of the MNOs in the payments ecosystem, with most critics citing insufficient capital and lack of industry knowledge by the MMOs as a big challenge.”

Also speaking in an interview, NIBSS Chief Executive Officer, Mr. Adebisi Shonubi, had said the licensed non-bank MMOs were losing focus from reason they were granted operating licences.

Shonubi said non-bank mobile money operators were issued licensed to provide to serve as transaction channels and as agent for deepening financial inclusion in rural areas across the country.

He, however, noted that this category of mobile money licensees had turned away from their mandate of driving financial inclusion in the rural communities, as they now operate in the cities to compete with the same customers being targeted by the big commercial banks.

He attributed the development to ‘misconception’ and ‘misunderstanding’ of the objective of the licences given to the mobile money operators.

He said: “I think a lot of the mobile money operators have some misconceptions about their licences. Some of them believe they got a banking licence. Yes, you get a financial licence but mobile money is not banking licence.

“In essence, they are transaction companies. For instance, customers have the balance with the bank but we are creating a platform for them to transact on it through mobile money.”

He also noted that most of the licensees picked up their licences because “it was cheap without knowing what to do with.

“Because of the initial low cost of getting the licence, a lot of people ran into it without understanding that it is a retail business and retail business takes a long time to go. So, many of them were not adequately capitalised. For that reason, they always look for the closest thing they can hang on with to do their business.

“That means, rather than go to the village and there are only one hundred people there, they chose to start doing their businesses in the cities, where there are thousands of people, half of whom already understand what the technology is, since most of them have smart phones and mobile money operators, thus, considered this easier for them to do business,” he said.

“Unfortunately, that is the same people the banks are targeting. What you now find is that ‘rivalry’ because everybody is targeting the same audience and that is not the original intention when they were being given licence.”