In a developing economy like Nigeria’s, the really huge attraction of mobile money is its unique ability to reach individuals with no access to banking services. The unbanked. Like the undead, if you are into that sort of thing. This country particularly has a huge market made up of this category of people – the unbanked. When you look at that market, we are looking at a massive opportunity, a massive potential waiting to be tapped by mobile money operators. Perhaps it is just me, but I have quietly watched the mobile money thrust in the country, and I am wondering why the target seems to be mostly people who do not need the services – those of us who already have access to banking services.
Exactly what is the incentive that mobile money offers me when I already have access to internet banking services and ATM/Visa/MasterCard facilities which I use regularly? Why would mobile money be appealing to me? I have tried out a couple of the available mobile money services, and the extra hoops and steps involved in using them immediately render them redundant. It is just faster and easier to use my debit cards and internet banking services to transfer funds and make payments. I have not seen one single scenario in which mobile money (at least as implemented here) has made my transactions easier or faster.
But, switch over to the unbanked, and immediately the benefits shine. So far, mobile money in Nigeria is a phenomenon that has failed to catch on. Yes; there are activities going on in the unbanked sector, no doubt. Yes; transactions are going on, but the sum total is a speck in the sand, a drop in the ocean of what can be.
I understand that there are fundamental problems from the regulatory frameworks and structure. I do not believe that this is because the government does not know that they are placing obstacles in the way of adoption. As is mostly the case, I suspect that the centre wants to make sure that they can dip their hands in the basket for pickings. I have seen too much of this sort of thing go on here to believe that it is only ignorance that is behind those choices. Sometimes, those in power know what to do to make things work smoothly. They just don’t go that route because should they, they lose control – and the opportunity to steal.
Whatever the challenges of mobile money in Nigeria, they need to be faced. There is a huge market out there that needs those services. A very big market.