Stakeholders highlight challenges to mobile money penetration

By Amechi Obiakpu

Stakeholders in the e-payment system have identified low-level of awareness and absence of trust as major challenges that have slowed mobile money penetration in Nigeria.

Mobile Money, an electronic payment solution that lets users send and receive money using their mobile phone, was introduced in Nigeria in 2010 to foster financial inclusion of the unbanked. However, five years on, only one percent of 154 million active phone lines users have embraced it as a means of payment.

The stakeholders who spoke at the 2016 Annual Marketing Conference of Brand Journalists Association of Nigeria (BJAN) themed; “Mobile Money in Nigeria: Challenges, Opportunities, and Threats” blamed the lull on low level of awareness, poor communication of the concept and lack of trust by potential users.

The Head, Mobile and Acquiring Channels, Stanbic IBTC,  Francis Nwoboshi,  who observed that awareness of mobile money is significantly very low in Nigeria, called for a stakeholders’ collaboration to create awareness, build affordability, quality and availability of key infrastructure.

“Awareness of mobile money is significantly very low. There is need for stakeholders’ collaboration. As an industry, we need to come up with a framework to create awareness, ensure affordability, quality and availability of key infrastructure.”

While corroborating Nwoboshi on awareness level, the Finance Officer, World Health Oganisation  (WHO), Ibrahim Abdullahi, who cited a report from a WHO-Pilot Mobile Money payment in two states in Northern Nigeria, Kaduna and Kano states, said, “public awareness is still very low. For many of our beneficiaries, they are only hearing about mobile money for the first time.”

On the question of trust, a panelist and CEO, Innovatives, Emma Agha, noted: “There is always fear. The average Nigeria is very skeptical when it comes to (mobile) money. They want to see others use it first.”

Another panelist, Emeka Oparah, raised the question of the mobile money model adopted by Nigeria.  Oparah who argued that mobile money in Kenya succeeded because it was telco-led, advocated the adoption of a telco-led model in place of the bank-led model in operation in the country.  “Why not make it telco-led,” the Director Sponsorship, Events and PR, Airtel Nigeria, queried.

But, Sola Fanawopo, CEO, eMaginations, whether bank-led or telco-led, what was important to the end users is good services they can be proud of.  He said there was the need to appeal to the telcos to build a platform where mobile money service thrives and everybody makes money for all to share. But, with this present arrangement, no meaningful money can be made to be shared.

“There is a notion that if mobile money service is given to the telcos to run we are in el-dorado. This may not be true. Reason being that, Mpesa was successful in Kenya but failed in other countries even with the same model,” he said.

Reacting, the Deputy Director, Banking and Payments System Department, Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Musa Jimoh, revealed that the CBN favours the bank-led rather than telco-led model to forestall regulatory arbitrage and giving undue advantage to the telcos which are the sole providers of the infrastructural platform for all e-transactions by banks.

Other challenges highlighted by speakers at the event include the non- existence of a single national data, limited agent outlets, high cost of transactions, poor legal framework and profit-sharing contention amongst players in the value-chain.

*Photo by AKEEM SALAU shows: Goddie Ofose, chairman, Brand Journalist’s Association of Nigeria (BJAN);  Ms. Clara Okoro, Vice Chairman, (BJAN; ); Nkiru Olumide-Ojo, head, marketing and communications, Stanbic IBTC;  Francis Nwoboshi, Head, Mobile & Acquiring Channels, Stanbic IBTC, and Shina Badaru, Publisher, Technology Times, at the BJAN 4th annual Brand & Marketing Conference 2016.

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