Evaluating the Nigerian MobileMoney Data quagmire

Emmanuel  Okoegwale

JANUARY 3, 2013

If you question data sufficiently, it will confess to almost anything – Fred Menger, Chemistry Professor (1937 -   )

 

In late 2011, Nigeria joined other progressive nations to license mobile money operators in a country that is struggling to provide basic financial services to millions of adult population in urban and rural areas despite having more than 20 Banks, hundreds of micro finance enterprises and other formal financial services providers but the country  still lags in provision of  basic financial services to millions of people.

In  2012,MobileMoney was the magic wand that we looked forward to and still hoping that the tide will change in 2013.Despite the initial hype by the end of 2012, it seems we are still far away  from creating  our own MPESA or GCASH in Nigeria. Early regulatory uncertainties, initial agent network shortfalls and an industry that was bent on duplicating the East African successes without looking inwards to understand the strong compelling needs of Nigerians, internal migratory patterns, agency density and  other factors that made the East Africa the most referenced region for mobile financial services in Africa.

Despite all the challenges, there are still glimpses of hope. We have seen some of the firms showing early promises that even eluded the continental big names in the early days of deployment. With low internal investments for deployments in Nigeria, most licensed providers which are non-Banks are faced with seeking and sourcing for investments outside of Nigeria. With little or no information originating from the Country, many investors simply walked away or lost interest in the deals.

In the last few weeks, figures about the industry had been in public domain and from many industry sources that should be in the know. While some of the quoted figures were alarming,  speculative and others mere projections without accurate and current data to support such projections.

Informal subscription information and formal updates of subscriber’s figures were thrown out of the window when an independent international NGO mentioned that all the subscribers in Nigeria were around 400,000. That survey is in contrast to the figures from the celebrated milestone a few weeks earlier by a respected provider in Nigeria.

The latest industry figure released by the communication Ministry claimed that 228 million Naira was transacted in 2012 and it is expected that it will rise to 15 billion Naira in 2015, cannot be independently verified and substantiated. Having personally worked closely with more than 5 licensed operators in the last 24 months, the figures are either early day figures or a misquote of the Honorable Minister.

Mobile Money may not yet be a runaway success in Nigeria but the future outlook is positive with strong compelling needs that are still present to unleash the power of mobile financial services.

Regulating a mass market product and low value product like mobile money may still be a challenge in Nigeria like it is even in East Africa but timely updates of subscriptions, agency density, platform transactions are some information that are required to enable the industry grow, build investors and subscribers confidence, improve the uptake of services and ensure that stakeholders are reporting factual information to the benefit of the subscribers.

Hopefully in 2013, the regulations will improve and  also mandate standard reports on the regulator’s and provider’s websites, detailing information that are necessary for innovators to strive and add value to the ecosystem in 2013.

 

Emmanuel  Okoegwale

Principal Associate, MobileMoneyAfrica

Judge at the Global GSMA (2013) Event  in the Best MobileMoney Category

 

 

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