Telecoms Firms Lobby CBN For M-Payment Licence

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Amid heightened expectations that the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) would commence further issuance of mobile payment licences to prospective companies in June, some operators have begun intense lobbying to ensure that they acquire the requisite licences to provide Mobile Money Transfer and Payment (MMTP) services to the Nigerian populace.

In January, Abayomi Atoloye, acting director, banking operations, CBN, had disclosed that m-payment system would take-off in the country by middle of the year. He said that CBN had received many applications for license to operate m-payment in Nigeria, further adding that the apex bank had set up a policy and oversight unit with the mandate to ensure compliance and recommend modalities for approval of license.

At the forefront, the companies in line for the licenses include: Mobile Media Info Tech Limited (MMIT) led by Jide Akindele; Eartholuem Networks promoted by Bola Adeyinka and Peter Afam Emeleogu; Tagattitude Nigeria led by Femi Akinware; Mtec Communications, a mobile value added services company listed on the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE); TXTPAY, Easipay, UBA and GTBank.

Others are Ingres Quality Rollout, a specialised telecom/information technology (IT) service delivery and infrastructure development consulting firm led by Chidiebere Anosike; Pagatech piloted by team of Jay Alabraba, Tayo Oviosu, Aisha Bello and Phillip Uwamurogie as well as Celltrust which is based in Abuja and has Samuel Ucheagha managing its operations.

The Tide learnt that each licensee must meet CBN’s conditions including having minimum paid up capital of N500 million. It was further gathered that some prospective players would be granted provisional approval in June to commence pilot projects to enable the CBN appraise the efficacy of the system using international best practices and standards.

When the services are rolled out, m-payment would radically transform the manner by which Nigerians make payments for their business transactions with the mobile phone expected to be deployed as the main platform for payments. In addition, with only 22 million bank accounts and less than 10,000 bank branches to cater for 140 million people, m-payments would indeed reach over 80 million mobile subscribers. This would also include people without access to formal financial services in urban and rural areas.

It would be recalled that MoneyBoxAfrica, a mobile savings and payment platform, became the first M–payment licensee in the country in 2009 but is yet to activate the licence. It was however not apparent which m-payment provider would scale through as at press time but there are strong signals that financial institutions would obtain a better share of it.

From all indications, telecom companies have been relegated to the sidelines. Some industry analysts have argued that the CBN’s m-payment guideline favours financial institutions rather than Mobile Network Operators (MNO) in terms of model adoption for service deployment. They further stated that the fear of domination of the sub-sector by MNOs may be responsible for the apex bank’s action.