It appears the outcry against the CBN’s plan to regulate financial technology (fintech) firms with costly minimum capital base may have reached the right quarters, because the apex bank is said to now be considering a more inclusive approach.
Bloomberg reports that the Central Bank of Nigeria is preparing a new set of regulations that will allow more companies (other than banks) to transfer money.
This follows the apex bank’s realisation that banks alone cannot do the job of ensuring financial inclusion to millions of Nigerians.
“The central bank may have realized it can’t rely on lenders alone to achieve its objective of extending services to the 50 million adults still without a bank account in the nation of about 200 million people. Telecommunications firms, including South Africa’s MTN Group Ltd., are now interested in applying for licenses that will allow them, and even supermarket chains, to create units that can collect deposits and maintain savings accounts.”
Recall that in November last year, the CBN came up with the controversial regulation requiring payment service Providers (of which fintechs are consisted), to have minimum adequacy ratios ranging from $275,000 to $14 million. This was to serve as one of the basic requirements for getting operating licenses.
The CBN argued that the move was necessary and in furtherance of the efforts to curtail the probable risks in the financial sector. But many observers did perceive the move as a deliberate ploy to protect commercial banks from competition.
Moreover, sources close to the situation confirmed that Nigerian Deposit Money Banks were worried that the emergence of other set of players in the industry may pose a competitive disadvantage to them.
So, why is the CBN reconsidering now?
With some four telecoms giants operating in the country, Nigeria has about 162 million active mobile phone users, according to information obtained from both the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) and the Nigerian Bureau of Statistics (NBS).
This situation presents an immense opportunity for the country to actualise its financial inclusion bid by as much as 80% come 2020.
Recall that the likes of MTN Nigeria had indicated interest to apply for a payment banking license in Nigeria and launch a service in the country by the second quarter of 2019.