MTN gets approval to operate Mobile Money in Nigeria

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MTN Nigeria has reported received provisional approval from the Nigerian Central Bank for the establishment of a mobile money service in that country.

Business Insider reports that MTN has been seeking a payments service bank (PSB) license from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) since 2018  in a bid to provide financial inclusion to an estimated 60 million Nigerians (mostly in rural areas) who do not have access to financial services.

This approval, pending a substantive license later, comes as a welcome news for MTN and for Nigerians as a whole.

In a regulatory filing with the Nigerian Exchange Ltd earlier on Friday, MTN Nigeria is said to have disclosed that it is in the preliminary stages of a long process toward full approval.

As part of the process, MTN Nigeria would be required to fulfil a number of conditions, including depositing a minimum capital of $12million to the CBN.

MTN Nigeria however, expressed optimism that it would eventually get the PSB license, and reaffirmed its commitment to the financial inclusion agenda of the CBN in Nigeria.

MTN and other non-financial companies have long been awaiting their PSB licenses since the Nigerian Government first announced its willingness to issue them in 2018.

Telecom companies like MTN and Airtel looked forward to taking advantage of the more than 60 million Nigerians who are estimated to be financially excluded, by providing them access to financial tools.

But the central bank has since been dragging its feet, allegedly because some Nigerian banks have been mounting stumbling blocks in the way of efforts to license mobile money operations in Africa’s most populous country. The banks were allegedly worried about what mobile money would mean for their operations, a situation the deviled the birthing of mobile money in Ghana.

The Nigerian government recently launched a Central Bank Digital Currency (eNaira), which would need digital wallets to work effectively. Even though the CBN approved the operations of some speed wallets to facilitate eNaira transactions, it seems to have found wisdom in issuing mobile money licenses that promises to deliver huge numbers of digital wallets to make the eNaira work.

In Ghana, the central bank has said it will not create any dedicated eCedi wallets because mobile money and other fintech wallets have created that service already.

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