MTN and Airtel get “approval in principle” to launch mobile money services in Nigeria


“This is step one in the direction of a very last approval, subjct to the fulfilment of positive situations as stipulated with the aid of the CBN,” MTN Nigeria stated in a statement. According to Airtel, very last approval from the CBN is concern to the Group fulfilling positive fashionable situations inside six months.

The step forward comes 3 years after the CBN first of all stated it’d permit non-economic agencies to use for mobile banking licenses – both as PSBs and Mobile Money Operators (MMOs).

Under the guidelines, mobile network providers are allowed to offer economic offerings to tens of thousands and thousands of unbanked Nigerians. However, they could accomplish as PSBs and thru a subsidiary separate from their main operations.

Thus, MTN and Airtel may be imparting PSB offerings through their respective subsidiaries, MoMo and Smartcash. While they’re much like typical banks, the scope of PSB license is exactly to deepen economic inclusion amongst Nigeria’s huge unbanked populace and the regulator forbids them from carrying out credit score hazard and forex operations.

As of the end of 2020, as much as 38 million Nigerian adults, translating to approximately 36% of the total adult populace withinside the country, had been financially excluded.

PSBs take delivery of deposits from people and small businesses, provide price and remittance offerings, difficulty debit & prepaid card, operate electronic purse, and different activities prescribed by the CBN.

“We will now paintings intently with the Central Bank to satisfy all its situations to acquire the running licence and begin operations,” Airtel Africa CEO, Segun Ogunsanya stated. “The very last running licence will permit us to attain the tens of thousands and thousands of Nigerians that don’t have access to traditional financial services.”

Prior to the ultra-modern improvement, the regulator had given the green light to only 2 of the 4 largest telecom operators in Nigeria, Glo and 9mobile, both domestic players.

Meanwhile, MTN and Airtel, each of which boast successful mobile financial services operations in numerous African countries, had seen their request to get PSB licences unheeded by Nigeria’s vital bank. Financial inclusion for Nigeria’s 2 hundred million people has been a much-touted precedence of Muhammadu Buhari’s administration.

Despite the lack of PSB licences, significant strides had been made in extending economic offerings to unbanked Nigerians with the aid of using fintech startups, inclusive of OPay, TeamApt, and Paga, thru their agent networks and mobile payments infrastructure.

Commercial banks which include Access and First Bank have additionally in large part leveraged the organisation banking version as a distribution channel to get to Nigerians withinside the remotest components of the country, in place of the high-priced branch system.

As of last December, Access Bank and FirstBank had round 59,000 and 100,000 agents respectively. But telecoms agencies are even greater located to deepen mobile money services because of their subscriber numbers, available infrastructure, and broader agent networks, which outnumber those of banks and fintechs.

MTN and Airtel agents can be seen selling recharge cards in almost each nook of the country.

The access of each telecom giants means increased rivalry in an already competitive agency banking landscape, an improvement that bodes properly for the government’s intention of bringing millions more Nigerians into the economic system.


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