Airtel Nigeria’s Director of Regulatory Affairs and Special Projects, Osondu Nwokoro, has identified the exclusion of Telecommunications Operators (TELCOs) from playing very active roles in the implementation of mobile money as a major drawback to the uptake of the service.
Nwokoro made this submission, recently, in Lagos at NigeriaCom, an international ICT workshop that enjoys wide participation from prominent Mobile Network Operators (MNOs), Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) and other key players in the ICT value chain. He said that almost three years after the issuance of the first Mobile Money licences, only about 2.2% of adults with bank accounts have subscribed to the service while the unbanked population is yet to be reached.
According to him, Nigeria is yet to leverage her huge population and subscriber base of over 120 million to unlock Mobile Money potentials, saying the performance of the initiative is still far below expectation.
In a paper entitled, Low Mobile Money Uptake in Nigeria: Causes and Remedies, Nwokoro also identified lack of finance, absence of consistency in technical specifications, low public awareness and few agents availability as other causes for the slow uptake of the Mobile Money service.
To reverse the trend and improve the uptake of the Mobile Money initiative, he advised all stakeholders to collaborate to design, fund and implement a comprehensive, all segment inclusive Mobile Money public enlightenment programme.
He also urged the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to consider establishment of an intervention fund for the non-bank led Mobile Money Operators – like was done in the Agriculture Sector.
The Airtel Regulatory Director also called on the Federal Government to consider granting Mobile Money industry fiscal incentives, such as tax holidays and import duty waivers among others.
He said better collaboration between the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) is extremely important to the success of the initiative.
He, however, advocated a review of existing regulatory framework by empowering stakeholders capable of driving service uptake, saying the move will ensure the realization of Federal Government goal on financial inclusion.
“Telcos have demonstrated capability to address the constraints associated with the slow uptake of Mobile Money service. Therefore, the regulatory framework should be reviewed to allow Telco involvement, to conclusively eliminate these constraints,” Nwokoro submitted.