MobileMoney as Government as a Service (GaaS) platform in Nigeria – Emeka Okoye

 

Emeka Okoye

CEO - Vikantti Software.

He will be disussing Technology and Applications during the MobileMoneyExpo 2013 in Lagos- Nigeria.


 

Assessment of mobile money in Nigeria

As a technology innovator, I am not too impressed with the Mobile FinancialServices (MFS) landscape in Nigeria. Prior to the announcement of the 16 licenses for the implementation of Mobile Payment service in Nigeria by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), a lot of noise were made on the fact that over 70% of our population do not have any form of access to any kind of financial or banking services and that a Mobile Money Transfer (MMT) initiative will be needed to bridge that gap.

Even In the document, Regulatory Framework For Mobile Payments Services In Nigeria, CBN wrote, "After identifying person to person payments (over the mobile phone infrastructure) as a practical strategy for financial inclusion of the un-banked, the Central Bank of Nigeria opted for the creation of an enabling regulatory environment as a policy path towards achieving availability, acceptance and usage of mobile payments services in Nigeria".

What is Mobile Money? Mobile Money is the use of a mobile device to either initiate the exchange of funds from one party to another through a service provider or complete the transaction. We can conclude then that CBN has done their homework very well. Instead In August 2011, Mobile Payment licenses were granted and since then focus seems to be on mobile payments within the banked instead of financial inclusion of the unbanked. As at today, over 90% of the Mobile Payment operators have launched their services in Lagos, the city with the largest number of banked citizens, and a few other towns citing finance, agent network, etc as the reasons for their inability to roll out after 15 months of service.

Presently, the premise (Financial Inclusion of the un-banked) for this initiative is not being served as the operators are targeting mostly the banked and it seems the government (or CBN) is oblivious of the “low-hanging fruits” of a proper Mobile Money Transfer initiative for the un-banked and those at the Bottom of the Pyramid (BoPs). If government were smart or could think outside the box, they could have turned the Mobile Money initiative into a ” Government as a Service” (GaaS) platform on which services like Mobile Government Initiative(mGov), Mobile Health services (mHealth), Mobile Agriculture services (mAgric),Mobile Insurance services, etc can be built on it so as to empower the rural dwellers, reduce the rural-urban drift and also give those in the Middle of the Pyramid (MoPs) and BoPs a voice, access to government and be governed like never in the history of Nigeria.

It gets more confusing when you see banks, which have internet banking applications and no mobile applications (what is the difference? Semantic) and have paid for the Mobile Payment license, offer mobile banking services they could have ordinarily done without the license. An internet banking application becomes a mobile banking application when it is consumed with a mobile device. When you add the cashlite/cash-less/cashlight initiatives, it becomes more confusing and you get the thought that this whole scheme was not well thought out.

My conclusion is that Mobile Money (Financial inclusion of the UnBanked) has not started. 

Is the regulatory environment right for mobile financial services?

My answer is no. If the Nigerian government wants to take advantage of the mobile revolution going on in Africa, they need to think outside the box and reduce regulations so as to allow innovation to revolutionize the Mobile Financial service. That is, the government can use this opportunity to kill many birds with just one stone. We can improve our GDP, raise our technology profile and improve the technology economy, boost employment, improve productivity in agriculture, achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), empower women to improve the quality of homes and life, unlock the potentials of the BoPs, etc.

So far, implementation shows lack of ambition and narrow mindedness of government. 

What should be expected in 2013?

Increase in mobile payment opportunities for the banked and also some banks will start noticing the unprofitability or low profit opportunity of their mobile

Payment ventures by year end. The non-Banks are better positioned for this initiative than the banks. The banks should focus on unlocking more values from their existing customers rather than chasing people they previously taggedas "high-risk".

There will be increase in Mobile Bill Presentment application usage where Subscribers can receive notifications for bills and the subscriber, on receipt of notification for a bill, can use the application to pay the bill.

Other services that see increase usage are: airtime purchase and person-to person transfer.

Are Nigerians active in developing applications to take advantage?

of Mobile Money?

Yes, Nigerians are active in the development of applications that will run on the mobile money platforms. My outfit has a mobile commerce platform we are hoping to integrate to one of the top mobile money operators in Nigeria. There is a lot of interest and enthusiasm in the technology community on mobile financial services but only few operators and businesses see the opportunity of opening up their system via Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) for increase consumption of their services through technology products and services.

How can capacity be developed for local developers in the mobile

Financial ecosystem in Nigeria

First and foremost, all mobile money players need to release the information about their Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) to the local developers so as to increase the consumption of their services through apps (mobile, desktop, cloud). It would also be nice to incentivize or monetize the API integration such as developers can make money from transactions initiated from their apps.

Events and forums are needed for both operators, technology community and businesses to interact with one another so as to explore and cement synergies,opportunities and ideas. These platforms will also prevent the creation of services or application which will be useless and ineffective for consumers due to lack of understanding of the various fundamental drivers.

 

 

 

 

 

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