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Nigeria: MTN and Airtel furious at being locked out of mobile money market

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Banking Africa

By Temitayo Lawal

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Posted on October 14, 2021 10:18

After years of uncertainties, Nigeria’s Central Bank finally gave the green light to mobile phone companies to offer mobile money services. However, the licence was issued to only two of the four biggest telecom operators in Nigeria – the domestic players, not the foreign-owned ones. The Africa Report has learnt that MTN and Airtel have been making tremendous efforts to get the regulator on their side, but to no avail. Why is the CBN keeping them out, and what is at stake for the players? What does this say about Nigeria as a destination for Foreign Direct Investment? 

In early 2018, it was reported that the CBN granted a mobile money licence to a subsidiary of MTN Nigeria but revoked it just a week later.

In the last quarter of the year, Nigeria’s apex banking authority released guidelines on how telecommunications operators could participate in the mobile money space. They were required to apply for a Payment Service Bank (PSB) licence through a subsidiary company and make a minimum non-refundable capital deposit of N5bn ($12.2m).

Although there were questions about the application fee, the major telecom operators – MTN, Airtel, 9mobile, Ntel, and Globacom – still threw their hats in the ring given the lucrative appeal of mobile money.

Not the real deal, yet

The license would only allow the telecom operators to maintain savings accounts or electronic purses (wallets), accept deposits from individuals and SMEs, issue debit and prepaid cards, and

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