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FinTech

Airtel launches banking offering in Nigeria

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Airtel Africa has officially launched banking services in Nigeria as it moves forward with its major mobile financial services plans.

The operator said in a statement on Thursday that its subsidiary, SmartCash Payment Service Bank (SmartCash PSB), has commenced operations. Services will initially be available at selected retail touchpoints, and operations will expand gradually across the country over the next few months, it said.

"This is the beginning of our journey to revolutionise the financial services landscape in the country. To help further digitise the economy, and most importantly to help bank the unbanked by reaching the millions of Nigerians who do not currently have access to financial services by delivering current and savings accounts, payment and remittance services, debit and prepayment cards and more sophisticated services," said Segun Ogunsanya, Airtel Africa CEO, in the statement.

Last week – as part of its financial results for the year ended March 31, 2022 – Airtel laid out its plans for mobile financial services in Nigeria, which is its largest market.

Airtel Africa operates in 14 countries, primarily in East Africa, Central and West Africa. Its Airtel Money offering saw revenue growth of almost 35% year-on-year (YoY), to US$553 million.

Financial inclusion

Ogunsanya said the group plans to accelerate financial inclusion in Nigeria and drive its mobile money business even faster after receiving banking license approvals in the West African country.

The payment service bank (PSB) license – approved by the Central Bank of Nigeria – allows Smartcash to accept deposits from individuals and small businesses, carry out payment and remittance services within Nigeria, and issue debit and prepaid cards.

The Nigerian PSB license will help Airtel to open up its mobile money business to its 44.4 million customers in Nigeria, with the potential of getting the whole population of over 200 million people on board.

Mobile money continues to be one of Airtel's fastest growing services, and an increasingly important part of its business, delivering $64.4 billion of annual transaction value and accounting for 11.7% of total revenue in the past financial year.

Rival MTN has also received approval to launch its own PSB in Nigeria.

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— Paula Gilbert, Editor, Connecting Africa

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