Business - Business & Economy - News - August 18, 2022

CBN targets 8m active users, as eNaira becomes operational next week

By Bassey Udo

Amid alleged apathy by commercial banks towards the eNaira, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) says Nigerians would, latest next week, be able to open their digital currency wallets and conduct transactions.

The CBN governor, Godwin Emefiele disclosed this on Thursday at the Grand Finale of the eNaira Hackathon event in Abuja.

“I’m pleased, and indeed delighted to inform you all today that by next week Nigerians, both banked and unbanked, will be able to open an eNaira wallet and conduct transactions by simply dialing *997# from their mobile phones,” the CBN governor said.

“Shortly after this, both merchants and consumers with bank accounts can use the NIBSS (Nigeria Inter-Bank Settlement System) instant payment NIP to transfer and receive eNaira to any bank account of their choice. This will further deepen the integration of the eNaira with the existing national payment infrastructure,” he added.

During the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) meeting in July, Emefiele said the eNaira rollout was facing serious challenges as a result of growing apathy from commercial banks, which he accused of frustrating the use of digital currency by their customers.

The apathy has been one of the reasons the eNaira has been struggling with acceptability among Nigerians since it was launched last year.

President Muhammadu Buhari launched the eNaira digital currency in October last year as Africa’s first Central Bank Digital Currency.

To boost the level of acceptability of the eNaira as a medium transaction, Emefiele said the CBN was partnering with the African Fintech Foundry to introduce innovative products to support the deployment of the digital currency.

To realize the objectives of eNaira project, which include the provision of a cheap, safe and trusted means of payment, the CBN governor said the deployment of the digital technology would adopt a phased-approach, with the first phase focusing on banked users, and the second phase on financial inclusion.

“The eNaira will make a significant positive difference to Nigeria and Nigerians.

“Specifically, the eNaira is expected to enhance financial inclusion, support poverty reduction, enable direct welfare disbursement to citizens, support a resilient payments ecosystem, improve availability and usability of central bank money, facilitate diaspora remittances, reduce the cost of processing cash, and reduce cost and improve efficiency of cross-border payment, among others,” the CBN governor said.

Unlike the offline payments channels, like agent networks, USSD, wearables, cards and near field, communication technology, Emefiele said eNaira would give access to financial services to underserved and unbanked segments of the population.

Innovative products and services built on the eNaira, he noted, would enhance Nigerians’ participation in the digital economy and promote further development of a burgeoning Fintech ecosyste, considering that the eNaira platform possesses an innovation layer for products and services to be built, to enhance Nigerians’ participation in the digital economy and promoting further development of Fintech economy.

Since the launch of the Nigeria Digital Economy Policy and Strategy (NDEPS), the National Broadband Strategy, and the introduction of the Start-Up Bill, the CBN governor said the eNaira has recorded 840,000 downloads, with about 270,000 active wallets, comprising over 252,000 consumer wallets and 17,000 merchant wallets.

Also, he said the volume and value of transactions on the eNaira platform has reached over 200,000 and N4billion, respectively.

With the second phase of the project already operational, he said the target was to drive financial inclusion by onboarding about eight million active users, including unbanked and underserved users leveraging offline channels.

The Hackathon event, he explained, was to create a collaborative environment for experts with diverse skills to drive sustained innovation geared towards making the eNaira the ultimate digital financial services gateway to the Nigerian digital economy.

Apart from driving financial inclusion, small and enterprises (SMEs) growth and the creation of start-ups, he said the hackathon would facilitate cross border trades and transfers as well as international remittances and foreign exchanges; effective implementation of welfare-inclined government programmes; and enhance efficiency in the interbank market.

Targeted at stakeholders in the financial technology space, to deepen the link between eNaira and Fintechs, the CBN governor said the eNaira hackathon attracted interests from about 4,667 young and innovative Nigerians, comprising 4,082 male and 582 female applicants.

From an initial cohort of over 105 groups that made the quarter finals and 75 teams that progressed to the semi-finals, he said the Hackathon climaxed with 20 teams in the finals, out of which the top 10 teams would emerge as Prize winners.

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