I got the message – the Central Bank of Nigeria allowing commercial banks to operate mobile money wallets without prior approval will not change anything. That is largely the consensus from the community. Many posited that only mobile agents (scratch card vendors) can make mobile money work even as CBN continues its mainly bank-driven mobile money penetration strategy.
But this is my hypothesis for the optimism: I expect NCC (Nigerian Communications Commission) to license full-fledged virtual network operators (VNO) in Nigeria in the next few years: “A virtual network operator (VNO) or mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) is a provider of management services and a reseller of network services from other telecommunications suppliers that does not own the telecommunication infrastructure”. Simply, you can have a telecom brand selling sim card and airtime, but underneath, you are operating say under MTN, Glo or Airtel; most customers will not know. You buy bulk minutes from say MTN on huge discounts and then resell, focusing on customer care and service for differentiation. It is popular in US with companies like Boost, Safelink and Cricket Wireless.
As soon as that happens, I expect GTBank to be the first bank to get a license. The Habari banking philosophy will need that. Once it gets a license, it will reduce the marginal cost of the human-banking (yes, agency banking) unit with telco services across rural areas. Yes, that same channel will power the mobile money banking services even though the telco and the banking services may be on different servers for compliance sake. CBN is relaxing many rules as it wants the banks to have the capacities to compete in Nigeria.