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Nigerian banks line up for mobile money licenses

Nigeria: Nigeria continues its push toward becoming a cashless, mobile economy. The country’s effort to build a mobile payment services framework is meant to help the country’s large unbanked population.

A recent study by the Mastercard Foundation and Microfinance Information Exchange estimated the country has 80 million residents with no access to basic financial services, the largest unbanked population of any African nation.

According to the country’s Business Day, several banks are trying to obtain mobile money licenses from the nation’s central bank before January 2012, when a pilot program for a cashless mobile money system will be launched in Lagos.

The report from Business Day said First Bank of Nigeria (FBN) and Ecobank Plc are already close to acquiring licenses for mobile payment services, with a total of 11 operators expected to receive licenses.

According to the story, Emmanuel Obaigbona, deputy director of the domestic payments division for the Central Nigerian Bank (CBN), said more banks will eventually be licensed to provide mobile money services.

“The 11 licensed operators are not the end of the list, the CBN intends to license more operators who meet the set standards for operating mobile money services in the country,” Obaigbona said.

However, the efforts have also met with some complications. Gaus Emokpae, director of banking and payment systems for CBN, recently banned all telecom providers in Nigeria from advertising for particular mobile money products. Emokpae’s letter to mobile network operators said that any advertising for a particular mobile money system might undermine confidence in the system or confuse consumers that mobile money systems operate independently from any one carrier.

“Customers should be able to operate the mobile payment system from any telecommunication network of their choice,” Emokpae said.

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