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MTN Woes Cast Cloud Over Money Licence Progress

Nigeria’s regulator teased that operators will soon be allowed to apply for mobile money licenses, although it remains unclear what MTN Nigeria’s position will be following its latest issues in the country.

In comments reported by Business Day, the head of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) Umar Danbatta said the regulator and the Central Bank had set up a joint committee to look into mobile money licences, after operators including MTN expressed an interest.

The mobile money industry in Nigeria is primarily led by banks and while operators provide the backbone infrastructure, they are unable to run services in their own right.

However, that could change after operators pushed for licences in recent months, if regulators allowed.
“The feeling I’m getting from the Central Bank of Nigeria is that very soon the telcos will be licensed,” Danbatta said.

He explained operators had convinced regulators there was a future for mobile money and they would put their money where their mouths were by investing in additional infrastructure for the service.

Danbatta also revealed that mobile money penetration in the country has not risen above 1 per cent of the population for some time, despite the fact that 40 per cent of the population have no access to financial services due to the rigid nature of the licensing model.

MTN issues

MTN, the country’s largest operator, was ordered to refund $8.1 billion earlier this month, which the bank said was repatriated illegally. Regulators then hit it with a $2 billion tax bill relating to its activity in the country over the past decade.

Despite the problems, Danbatta said the bank was keen to work with MTN on mobile money.

Analysts speaking to Business Day, however, cautioned the operator’s efforts to secure a mobile money licence in the country could be put on ice in light of these issues.

MTN has refuted both claims, and Danbatta added the NCC was doing “everything possible” to find an amicable solution.

Business Day

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