Nigeria Mobile Banking: The Field Widens

Telecoms are moving into banking in Nigeria.

At least 30 companies with a physical presence in Nigeria, including leading telecoms, have rushed to register payment service banks (PSBs), the country’s newest variety of financial institution, according to information available from the government’s corporate registrar.

Information from the website of the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) reveals that as of December 9, applicants included such big names as India’s Airtel, South Africa’s MTN and Nigeria’s own Y’ello and PAGA, a leading fintech. Even the Czech Republic’s Orange registered a payment service bank.

PSBs are Nigeria’s bid to harness mobile technology to extend banking services to the many who are unbanked, principally individuals and small businesses in rural areas. Services these banks can offer include accepting deposits, in-country payment and remittance, and debit and prepaid cards.

“Folks will no longer need to keep their money inside cooking pots or under their beds,” says Segun Ogunsanya, CEO and managing director of Airtel Nigeria.

With over 40 million customers and a strong retail footprint, Airtel may have an early lead but competition will be fierce. Central Bank of Nigeria–registered organizations that can set up PSBs include banking agents, telecoms, retail chains such as supermarkets, postal-services providers, fintech companies and financial holding companies.