In a statement to the press, the interim CEO, Safaricom, Michael Joseph, has hinted to the possibility of M-PESA expanding into Nigeria with a possible partnership with existing telecom operators in the country.
This is not the first time Safaricom has considered taking M-PESA beyond its current borders. The former CEO, Safaricom, Bob Collymore, had previously hinted on using blockchain technology to take the mobile money service global.
The CEO was clear that the success of M-PESA in Kenya is not easy to replicate in other African countries:
‘When you go into another country and you’re not the owner of the mobile phone company, and you rely on the other company for connectivity, SMS and USSD, then you need to have a different viewpoint about M-PESA. You also need to look at it financially […] there are very limited markets where we can go to. Its not every country in Africa.”
MTN Nigeria, the largest telecoms operator, was recently granted a license to set up an agent network, similar to the M-PESA agent network, to provide financial services. This is considered the first step in rolling out mobile money services in Africa’s largest economy.
Recent reforms within the Central Bank of Nigeria now permit telecom operators to get mobile money and banking licenses in a bid to boost financial inclusion and facilitate the long-held ambition for a cashless society.
The above changes the entire dynamic and will limit the impact of M-PESA if the service eventually rolls out in Nigeria.
The Mobile Money Situation in Nigeria
There are nearly 400M registered mobile money accounts across sub-saharan Africa, which is nearly half of all accounts globally. Interestingly 90% of these accounts are in East and West Africa alone.
Below are some stats:
- Nearly 9 in 10 mobile money accounts are in East and West Africa
- Nearly half of the world’s 866M mobile money accounts are in Africa
- MTN has 67M subscribers in Nigeria to offer its services
- About 36.6M (36.8%) Nigerians do not have access to formal financial services
- Mobile money transactions in Nigeria are worth 1.4% of GDP (compared with 44% in Kenya)
- 4/5 of Nigerians have never heard of mobile money
Recently, Safaricom announced plans to launch M-PESA in Ethiopia which was reiterated by the Safaricom CEO at the media conference. The plans seem to be ongoing.
As the above statistics, however, show it is not going to be an easy ride to get MPESA in Nigeria and make it successful. However, the lessons learned from mobile money success in Kenya is a good foundation and starting point on what might work in Nigeria.
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