CBN rolls out USSD code for eNaira transactions

...Nigeria’s e-business tops N2.4trn in 8 years -- Obiora

Beginning next week, Nigerians, both banked and unbanked, will be able to open an eNaira wallet and conduct transactions by dialling *997# from their phones, Nigeria’s Central Bank Governor, Godwin Emefiele said on Thursday.

Afterwards, both Merchants and Consumers with bank accounts can then use the NIBSS Instant Payment platform to transfer and receive eNaira into any bank account, in a drive to further deepen the integration of the digital currency with the existing national payment infrastructure.

Emefiele was speaking at the Grand Finale of the eNaira Hackathon, which according to him, marks another milestone in the apex bank’s journey towards building a formidable, future monetary system in the country, and of course in response to emerging trends in the global digital space.

The Hackathon event was an engagement with critical stakeholders in the financial technology space to deepen the link between eNaira and Fintechs.

President Buhari had, last October launched the eNaira, making Nigeria the first African country to launch a Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC).

The first phase was focused on banked users, while the second borders around financial inclusion.

Emefiele described the eNaira as timely, and strategic in terms of complementing the various diversification and digitisation initiatives of the government including the launch of the Nigeria Digital Economy Policy and Strategy (NDEPS), National Broadband Strategy, as well as the introduction of the Start-Up Bill among others.

Since launch, the eNaira has reached 840,000 downloads, with about 270,000 active wallets comprising over 252,000 consumer wallets and 17,000 merchant wallets, he stated.

Volume and value of transactions on the platform have reached above 200,000 and N4.0 billion, respectively.

He said notwithstanding the appreciable progress, the second phase of the project has commenced and is intended to drive financial inclusion by leveraging innovation and offline channels.

“Hence, greater success is envisioned for the project with phase two expected to deliver more gains with a target of about 8,000,000 active users based on estimations using the diffusion of innovation model,” the governor stated.

Emphasizing that the eNaira is the same Naira with far more possibilities, Emefiele explained specifically that the digital currency 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 the efficiency of cross-border payment among others.”

The eNaira was also developed to provide Nigerians with a cheap, safe and trusted means of payment, he noted.

Unlike offline payments channels such as agent networks, USSD, wearables, cards and near-field communication technology, the eNaira will give access to financial services to underserved and unbanked segments of the population.

“Innovative products and services built on the eNaira would enhance Nigerians’ participation in the digital economy and promote further development of a burgeoning Fintech ecosystem,” Emefiele added.

Read also: CBN returns interest rate on interventions funds to 9%

He said despite successes recorded so far including the global recognition of CBN’s strides with the eNaira, hackathon became critical to further deploy cutting-edge innovation to sustain the vision and achieve the set-out policy objectives, driven by the private sector.

He further mentioned that the eNaira hackathon recorded a sizeable interest from young and innovative Nigerians with a total of 4,667 registrations, 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, the Hackathon has reached its climax today with 20 teams in the finals from which the top 10 teams would emerge as Prize winners.”

In his speech, Kingsley Obiora, CBN Deputy Governor on Economic Policy said the eNaira project has benefited

Reeling out numbers to explain the imperatives of digital currencies, Obiora cited South Korea, where 77percent of the population no longer use cash for payments, the Philippines, which is about 30 percent, as well Nigeria which is also seeing similar statistics.

“The minting of currencies in the CBN has been reducing in the last couple of years, and alongside this reduction in the use of cash has also been an explosion in electronic business and e-business.

“We are seeing the value of e-business grow from say N393bn in 2014 to about N2.4 trillion now and if you look at this movement, you will realize that the central banks are responding to yearnings of private citizens, who in 96 per cent of Central banks in the world are either working on digital currencies or have done so already.”

He said it was on the back of this development that the Emefiele-led CBN decided to stay ahead in the launch of the eNaira.

“A lot of central Banks are trying to copy what we have done at the CBN,” Obiora told the gathering.

“We have received some central banks on study. We are not resting which is the reason we organized the Hackathon, which is basically a platform to harness ideas, with the private sector leading.”

“We are hoping that such ingenious ideas harnessed into the hackathon will improve the e-naira. This is the way the world is going,” Obiora stressed.

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