What is The Fate of Mobile Money in Nigeria.

source: google

source: google

Mobile money is a great revolutionary tool. A wonderful attempt at reaching the over 56 million unbanked adults in Nigeria. It is expected to ease financial transactions via mobile phone platforms. However, since its launch in the Nigeria economy, there seems to be very little growth in the sector. This article aims to examine some foundational challenges to the growth and acceptability of Mobile money in Nigeria.

As grand as this innovation is, one needs to consider certain factors or characteristic features of the unbanked.

Demographics.
In my observation, (I stand to be corrected.) Majority of the unbanked are
1. Elders.
2. Unschooled.
3. Self employed eg artisans, farmers, traders etc.
Closely looking at these features, it should be obvious that these set of people deal with physical goods & services. So its no crime to want their payments physically.
Some reasons may be because they operate their businesses on credit. They usually have instant needs to be met. Like iya sikira alata in mushin wanting to eat lunch. In nigeria as well as other parts of africa, we are known to hold and feel our money to know what it can do for us.
Visit farm settlement markets and see what I’m talking about.They brought physical goods to the market, they want physical cash. Gone are those days when you leave your goods in the market and you meet both your goods and the money from sales in your store. To collect money from a visible human being is tasking. Not to talk of via phones.

2. The technological know how of these set of people is also a factor to be considered. We can argue that almost every body has a mobile phone at least nokia torch light. But how many of these people can send and read text messages unaided? How many can load a recharge pin unaided? How many locals, I mean iya sikira alata, Mazi ogbuefi in Nawgu, Danbata the cattle merchant, use their phones for any other thing than making or recieveing calls? Let’s not forget having to memorise pin codes.

3. Network problems.
We all know how unsettling our mobile networks can be. The unbanked are surely not ready to to commit their hard earned cash to mobile phones & telcoms. What if the phone is stolen? What if the network goes awry? Transactions would be delayed. Trust will be broken.You’d be amazed at the fury of the unbanked when she discovers her call credit vanished. Even if her wards were responsible for the disappearance.

4. Security & Fraud
At a mobile money launch by one of the leading telecoms giant last year. The most asked question is: how safe is my money? To which the company replied. Its your business to insure your money. {Name witheld} is indemnified from losses.
Now that mobile money is around, its another opportunity for fraudsters. Thisarticle is a typical example of what power the mobile money offers to fraudulent people. Even before mobile money we receive text messages of lottery winings, La casera promos and what nots. Thousands have been fleeced by these messages. Traditional bank accounts have problems. As a matter of fact, most adults don’t request for ATM cards because of its rigours.
There is also a vague understanding of credit transfers & mobile money when telecoms provide mobile money services. The unbanked are used to transfering call credits via share & sell or sending logical pins which recipients sell. So they see no need for mobile money?

Are these all there is to mobile money? Of course not. I know it’s secure, fast and easily accesible which is the selling point. We have also heard the success of M-pesa in kenya. But we need to see how we can tackle our peculiar challenges with respect to mobile money. There is a need for us to understand that electronic money is based on trust. Sadly our nation and many african countries, do not have the luxury of such trust. There are so many bottlenecks stiffling the growth of this trust.

While I am not pessimistic or anti digital, I believe mobile money operators need to look into the aforementioned challenges to roll out a robust plan of action for mobile money acceptability in Nigeria.

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