Nigerian Telco Opts For Digital Payments

African telecom operator MTN doesn't need brick-and-mortar retail locations to expand its network.

Having acquired a license to offer bank payment services, like its rival Airtel, African telecom operator MTN expects to breathe fresh life into Nigeria’s digital and mobile banking sector, owing to its large agent network. The two companies are racing to fulfill additional regulatory requirements before they start operations.

Nigeria is also pushing the eNaira, a central bank digital currency. Yet, it is the intensified push into bank payment services by mobile companies that fintech and mobile payment industry watchers see as pivotal for boosting financial inclusion in the country. Airtel received a boost to capacity after it introduced an additional investor in Airtel Mobile Commerce through a $50 million secondary purchase of shares.

“If done right, [MTN and Airtel] have an edge over all fintech, with huge existing customer databases and network spread,” says Precious Chiedozie Ekezie, an Africa-based fintech and digital currency expert. Ekezie is betting on MTN to spring into operation in the next few months, due to the company’s experience with its MTN Mobile Money unit elsewhere in Africa.