Mobile Money experts identify measures to deepen financial inclusion in Nigeria
The burden of delivering financial inclusion to the last mile has become one that needs the strategic participation of all industry stakeholders in the ecosystem, so as to deliver value propositions that will deepen financial services culture for the benefit of the citizenry. These were the views of participants at the 2019 Mobile Money Conference, organised by Association of Licensed Mobile Payment Operators (ALMPO), in Lagos, themed, ‘Beyond Payments’.
Chairman, ALMPO, Chinedu Onuoha, noted that the aims of financial inclusion should not be limited to payments alone, that is, paying and receiving of money, but should cover areas that are germane for the average citizen to achieve set objectives.He said: “The theme of this year’s conference aptly captures the general direction of the industry… We are aware that the financial needs of the average citizen are much more than pay and receive; people want to save and earn interest.
“They want to participate in pensions; they need some form of insurance, and many more. We also know that for all of this to be realised, there must be adequate security and trust in the system.”Onuoha called for collaboration of security agencies and other government agencies, which according to him, would create the right synergy that will secure the payment system, and provide adequate protection to operators as they go about their business.
Deputy Governor, Financial Systems Stability, Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Aishah Ahmad, said Mobile Money (MM) is vital to CBN as a regulator, and as such, they are open to suggestions on the way forward, without holding on to rigid regulations.Ahmad, who was represented by Assistant Director, Payments System Management Department, CBN, Aisha Isa-Olatinwo, noted that since estimated reports show that Nigeria has over 100 million unique mobile numbers, if mobile money operations work, there will be over 100 million subscribers.
She enjoined participants to work together to create a success story that will be beneficial to the ecosystem and the entire citizenry.Group CEO, BlueTag Group, Uzo Eziukwu, in a keynote, said Mobile Money is fast becoming Africa’s legacy to the world, using Kenya’s MPESA as a typical example, doing about 1.7 billion transactions per year, and making up to 50 percent of Kenya’s gross domestic product (GDP). He revealed that there are over 120 Mobile Money Operators (MMOs) in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), and they came into Nigeria in 2010, with a focus to drive financial inclusion, up until 2012, when it was linked to mainstream banking. Eziukwu recalled that: “this was a time to understand the regulatory environment and regulators. This period saw confusion between collaboration and competition.
“This stage saw operators understanding the peculiarities and challenges of the Nigerian landscape. The need to collaborate and align effectively with telcos was also noticed. This stage had the challenges of integration and knowledge sharing.”The second stage, from 2013 to 2015, saw constructive engagements and alliances, and bank and non-bank MMOs entered partnerships, as CBN further streamlined policies.
“These moves saw growth in MM adoptions and in the number of bank accounts, noting also that this stage saw significant growth in MM acceptance, driven majorly by the already banked.He further revealed that innovation in mobile money operation has to be wrapped around consumer needs and not just payments, needs like micro-credits and service-based lending, while also suggesting that products like health insurance, micro-pension, interest-based micro-savings, and rotational savings be created for those at the bottom of the pyramid.
Academic Director, Lagos Business School, Prof. Olayinka David-West, delivering a paper, titled, “Harnessing New Opportunity Areas for Mobile Money Adoption in Nigeria,” decried that only four percent increase in digital payments was recorded since 2016. She further revealed that of the estimated 99.8 million adults in Nigeria, only 3.3 million are mobile money users; and of the 36.8 percent excluded, most are women. She reminded that engaging the bottom of the pyramid does more than gaining financial inclusion, but also enhances the social and economic development.