The Nigerian apex bank, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has awarded Airtel Mobile Commerce Nigeria Ltd, a subsidiary of Airtel Africa a full super-agent license to operate as an agency network. This was made known in a press announcement by Airtel’s company Secretary Simon O’Hara today.
The final approval followed an earlier approval-in-principle which was given by the apex bank back in November 2021. According to the CBN:
“Further to our announcement of 15 November 2021, Airtel Africa, a leading provider of telecommunications and mobile money services, with a presence in 14 countries across Africa, today confirms that the Central Bank of Nigeria (‘CBN’) has awarded its subsidiary, Airtel Mobile Commerce Nigeria Ltd, with a full super-agent licences.”
This comes two weeks after MTN Nigeria obtained a final Approval from the CBN to operate as a Payment Service Bank (PSB).
Based on information on the CBN website, One of the minimum requirements for obtaining a super agent license in Nigeria is that the recipient must have a minimum shareholders’ fund, unimpaired by losses of N50 million. The CBN says it is giving out the licenses as part of its licenses as part of efforts to boost financial inclusion.
With the license, Airtel Africa said it plans to create an agency network that will provide financial services to registered customers of banks and other mobile money operators in the country as soon as possible. The company did not, however, indicate when specifically the operations would resume.
The super-agent licence is distinct from the PSB licence in that Super agents can only recruit agents for agency banking services while PSBs can provide end-to-end financial services to individuals.
With it, telecom companies can accept deposits from individuals and small businesses, carry out payment and remittance services within Nigeria, issue debit and prepaid cards, operate electronic purses, and other activities prescribed by the CBN.
This has the capacity to significantly help the country in its financial inclusion drive as well as help a large population of SME business owners and widen their alternatives.
Since the Nigerian government announced its willingness to issue payment service bank (PSB) licences back in 2018, telco players like Airtel, MTN and other non-bank players have all gotten their licences at least in principle.
Prior to that time, MTN and other telcos were not able to debut independent mobile money operations in Nigeria owing to regulatory issues that excluded non-bank players. Many had to collaborate with banks to facilitate such services.
Telcos like MTN have been aiming to flag off mobile money operations in Nigeria since 2018. Flowing from the success of services like mPesa in Kenya, subsidiaries of the MTN Group launched similar mobile money services in various African countries including Ghana and Uganda.
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