By Prince Osuagwu
As African countries continue to blaze the trail in world mobile money growth, Sub-Saharan Africa, however has the largest number of mobile money users, the largest transaction volume as well as transaction value worldwide.
Also, Western Africa registers the second largest share of mobile money accounts in the continent.
However, Nigeria, the acclaimed giant of Africa, trails others in this development. While Kenya boasts of 66.6 million mobile money accounts, South Africa, 41.5 million, Ghana 34.3 million, Nigeria trails with a paltry 15.3 million.
The reason is not far-fetched, if the explanations of the GSM Association, GSMA, are anything to rely upon.
GSMA believes that anywhere mobile money thrives, it is always led by the telecommunications companies. Unfortunately, Nigeria’s is bank-led rather than telco-led. There are only two telecom operators, Globacom and 9mobile among the hordes of mobile money service providers in the country, who are majorly banking institutions.
Moreover, the two most experienced mobile networks, operating mobile services across Africa, MTN and Airtel are not even licensees in Nigeria; and the GSMA feels this is an anomaly.
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In a chat with the Head, African Operations, GSMA, Mr Akinwale Goodluck, he noted that effective regulation and liberalisation are key factors to mobile money growth.
Goodluck frowned that Nigeria was lagging behind in mobile money penetration when compared to other African countries like South Africa and Kenya but advocated a deliberate policy to open the market, grant more licenses and making Nigeria’s mobile money revolution telco-led.
He said: “Kenya, South Africa and other African countries are doing better than Nigeria in mobile money growth and in these countries, it is not necessarily what the operators are doing differently but the relationship they have with the regulators which enabled a robust market.
“Regulation and liberalisation are key factors to mobile money growth. So, Nigeria should have a deliberate policy to accommodate more operators, particularly the telecom operators. Everywhere mobile money thrives, it is telco-led. Licensing two telcos, Globacom and 9mobile was commendable, but a deliberate effort should be made to have MTN and Airtel on board. They have a lot of mobile money experience in Africa,” he added.
Recall that as far back as 2014 Airtel and MTN collaborated to allow MTN mobile money users in Ivory Coast to send remittances to Airtel money users. That partnership was said to be key to developing intra-regional corridors within Africa as much as it helped the two telcos establish themselves as major mobile money operators in the region.
Apparently, GSMA is wondering why they have not been considered, in a country both of them have strong footprint and are leading market shareholders, than in any other country in the region.
The GSMA recently published its annual ‘State of the Industry Report on Mobile Money’ revealing a dramatic acceleration in mobile transactions during the COVID-19 pandemic.
GSMA’s Chief Regulatory Officer, John Giusti, said: “For the first time, more than $1 billion was sent and received in the form of remittances globally every month via mobile money. “Despite early fears that transactions would decline as people worldwide suffered job losses and income cuts during the pandemic, it remains clear that diasporas continue to support family and friends back home. As a result, the total value of transactions increased by 65 per cent to an annual total of $12.7 billion in 2020. He said that in working towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the GSMA remains committed to reducing inequalities among countries when sending money internationally.
According to GSMA’s research, mobile money provides an affordable channel for connecting people to vital financial resources. The mobile money ecosystem has been strengthened by an increasing number of strategic partnerships established between money transfer organisations and mobile money providers.