MTN eyes Nigeria mobile banking

MTN
MTN
Image: BLOOMBERG/WALDO SWIEGERS

The MTN Group will apply for a mobile banking licence in Nigeria and plans to launch the service there next year, its CEO said on Tuesday.

This further embeds the giant SA telecoms company in its biggest, but increasingly problematic, market.

Nigeria announced in October that it would allow telecom companies to provide banking services, aiming to give millions of Nigerians without bank accounts access to socalled mobile money services, a policy that has been successful in Kenya.

MTN runs Nigeria’s biggest cellphone network, serving 56million people, but it is also involved in a dispute with the authorities after the central bank said it had illegally transferred $8.1bn (R115.5bn) overseas.

Separately, it has been slapped with a $2bn (R29bn) Nigerian tax bill, and whether those issues could influence how quickly MTN secures a licence remains to be seen.

“We will be applying for a payment service banking licence in Nigeria in the next month or so.

“If all goes according to plan, we will also be launching Mobile Money in Nigeria probably around Q2 of 2019,” CEO Rob Shuter told a telecoms meeting in Cape Town.

Rivals Airtel, a unit of India’s Bharti Airtel, as well as privately owned Globacom and 9mobile, are also expected to apply for licences.

The success in East Africa of M-Pesa, the mobile money unit of Kenya’s Safaricom, has convinced investors and the industry that financial services is the next growth area for the telecoms sector.

Shuter, who has led MTN since 2017, also said the company would relaunch mobile money services in South Africa, two years after canning the service.

The company has also bought a music streaming business Simfy, which Shuter said was “Africa’s leading music streaming business”.

Separately, MTN has joined forces with China’s Unisoc, China Mobile Communications and Kaios, a mobile operating system, to manufacture affordable 3G phones with some smartphone features, such as YouTube and a camera, Shuter said.- Reuters 

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