MTN Group says it will apply for a mobile banking licence in Nigeria and launch the service in the coming year.
The Chief Executive Officer of the company, Rob Shuter, made this known while addressing a conference in Cape Town on Tuesday, Reuters reported.
“We will be applying for a payment service banking licence in Nigeria in the next month or so, and if all goes according to plan, we will also be launching Mobile Money in Nigeria probably around Q2 of 2019,” Shuter said.
This is coming after the Central Bank of Nigeria announced that it would allow telecoms companies to provide banking services, aiming to give millions of Nigerians without bank accounts access to mobile money services, a policy that has been very successful in Kenya.
MTN is Nigeria’s biggest mobile phone network serving 56 million people but is facing a dispute with the authorities after the central bank said it illegally repatriated $8.1bn.
The company was also slapped with a $2bn Nigerian tax bill in August this year by the country’s Attorney General.
However, it was reported that the apex bank and the MTN were currently in talks to resolve the dispute.
Other network providers in the country -Airtel, a unit of India’s Bharti Airtel, Globacom, Ntel and 9mobile – have also shown interest in the mobile money licences.
“It’s a huge opportunity for MTN,” said Byron Lotter, Fund Manager at Vestact, which owns shares in MTN. “The problem is they are being held hostage by this $10.1bn demand because their business is too big to leave.”
The CEO also said the company would re-launch mobile money services in South Africa, two years after canning the service.
The company has also bought a music streaming business Simfy, which Shuter said was “Africa’s leading music streaming business.”
He did not give details about MTN’s plans to re-launch mobile money in South Africa, a market that has proved difficult to crack because around 80 per cent of the population already has access to traditional bank accounts.
Separately, MTN has joined forces with China’s Unisoc, China Mobile Communications and Kaios, a mobile operating system, to manufacture affordable 3G phones with some smartphone features such as YouTube and a camera, Shuter told a press briefing at the conference.
The new devices would be launched in the first quarter of next year with an initial 10 million phones available, he said.