The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) is set to revoke licences of more than 15 mobile money operators that have increas ingly found it difficult to operate in the country in the past few years, New Telegraph has gathered. Already, a new capital requirement of N2 billion has been set for the licensees and any operator that fails to meet the recapitalisation by July 1, this year, will have its licence revoked, according to the apex bank. Director, Corporate Communications, CBN, Mr. Isaac Okorafor, confirmed the development to New Telegraph yesterday.
According to him, “With the potential explosion in mobile money and other related activities, the CBN, after very rigorous research and consideration, came up with the new capital requirement to make for a strong mobile money industry.”
He said the initial capital requirement was N500 million, stressing that the operators were required to have met N1 billion at the end of December 2017 and to make up N2 billion by 1st of July 2018.
Asked what happens to any operator that fails to meet the new deadline, Okorafor said: “We expect any serious operator to meet the requirement. To the best of my knowledge, there is no plan to shift the deadline.”
Though Okorafor was silent on the number of operators that may be affected at deadline with full implementation of the new N2 billion recapitalisation policy, New Telegraph gathered that more than 15 of the licensed mobile operators, which lack the financial muscles to recapitalise as required by the apex bank come July, may have their licences withdrawn.
According to analysts, what the apex bank is trying to do is akin to the recapitalisation exercise implemented by the Charles Soludo-led CBN in 2005. Speaking in the same vein, Chief Executive Officer of Nigeria Interbank Settlement System Plc. (NIBSS), Mr. Ade Shonubi, said the CBN had increased the take-off capital for the operators to sort out “the serious mobile money players from the unserious ones.”
He said: “All the CBN needs to do now is to enforce that policy. So for anyone who cannot meet the new minimum capital, the apex bank is withdrawing their licences. “When the licensing of mobile money started, the take-off capital used to be N20 million and has moved through phases, but the apex bank has decided to increase this to N2 billion. Only implementation is what remains.”
Mobile money is an aspect of financial transactions where financial values are transferred from one person to another using Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD) platform on mobile networks.
The electronic fund transfer platform was introduced to complement the entire spectrum of cashless economy policy effectively introduced by the apex bank in January 1, 2012. Till date, some 21 mobile money licences have been issued by the CBN with only a few of them operating effectively, including United Bank for Africa/ AfriPay (U-Mobile); Zenith Bank (EazyMoney); GTBank (GTMobileMoney); FirstBank/Pridar – (First- Monie); Stanbic IBTC (*909# Mobile Money) and Ecobank (Ecobank Mobile Money) and others. It was, however, gathered that most of the mobile money operators not backed by any bank have had their operations crumbled due to what industry pundits refer to as “paucity of funds to run effective operations to compete in the financial services market” and may find it difficult to meet the deadline “without some re-alignment.”
Operators within this precarious fold, as gathered, include Parkway Projects (ReadyCash); eTranzact (PocketMoni); PagaTech (Paga); Fortis MFB (Fortis Mobile Money); Monitize (Monitize mobile money); FETS (My Wallet); Eartholeum (QikQik); Teasy Mobile (Teasy Mobile); Mkudi (Mimo); PayCom (Payment Irrespective of Distance or Obstacles – PIDO); VTNetwork (Virtual Terminal Network – VTN) and Cellulant (CeLLulant) among others. Despite having 21 mobile money operators licensed by the CBN in the circulation, the volume of transaction on the payment platforms is still grossly low, according to data obtained on NIBSS official website.
New Telegraph gathered that on the basis of the licensees’ inactivity occasioned by sheer paucity of funds to effectively roll out, the CBN has introduced the recapitalisation of mobile money operations in order to have strong players with adequate financial chess power to advance mobile financial services in the country.
Speaking on the misunderstanding of their role and conditions of licensing, Shonubi, in an interview with New Telegraph, said, “Most mobile money licensees have left what should be their niche markets to compete with big financial institutions such as banks. Until, they refocus their attention towards playing in micro transactions area rather competing with the banks’ market, they will continue to have problem.”
According to him, mobile money operators, looking for where to make money from, decided to run after bank customers who also have mobile phones and were determined to take some of them off the hook of the banks, which is a misplaced priority. President, Medallion Communications, Mr. Ike Nnamani, blamed the poor performance of mobile money operators on lack of adequate funding, lack of technical skills, poor shared infrastructure arrangement as well as lack of focus as to what their mandate should be.