The biggest telecom company in Nigeria has launched a mobile money transfer service intended to serve the country’s unbanked population, according to a report by Reuters. MTN said it will become a payment services bank as soon as it gets approval from Nigeria’s central bank.
Investors in the space were spurred on by the success of M-Pesa, which is the mobile money offshoot of Safaricom in Kenya. Prices for mobile services continue to fall, and many investors see financial services as the next big growth sector for the space.
The country decided last year to let telecom companies provide banking services, with the goal of providing unbanked Nigerians with access to mobile financial services. Nigeria has a population of 180 million, and more than 50 percent of those people are unbanked.
MTN, which serves around 56 million people, won a license to offer financial services in July. CEO Ferdi Moolman said its Yello Digital Financial Services Limited (YDFS) unit would have money transfer capability, as well as a few other services.
In other Nigerian news, Google recently announced a new addition to Google Maps in Nigeria that will speak in a local voice, and also introduced new features specifically for the region in an attempt to attract more Africans to the service. This was the first time such a service has been offered in the country by the tech giant. Given Africa’s increase in mobile users, its growing population and the inadequate signage in its cities, Google has recognized a potential for growth there.
In other news, African payments startup OPay has raised $50 million in funding. It is expected that OPay will use the funds to further grow the business in Nigeria.