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Ecobank encourages banks, Telcos to offer charges free USSD service

Ecobank Nigeria has announced that access to it’s Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD) is at zero cost to the consumer.

The lender, therefore, challenged banks and Telcos to follow suit in order to give affordable financial services to Nigerian and thus deepen financial inclusion.

Going by the recent announcement by the deposit money bank (DMB), customers of Ecobank who transact using the bank’s USSD platform will no longer be charged for using the platform.

According to Patrick Akinwuntan, the Managing Director of Ecobank Nigeria all stakeholders must come together to make USSD short code services free to all users, as a key initiative to drive financial inclusion in Nigeria. The MD said this at 2019 Nigeria Fintech Week which held recently in Lagos.

“It is about an ecosystem to bring financial services to every Nigerian in an affordable, sustainable and convenient manner. It means that some of us have to take the first step but I am counting on the goodwill of my colleagues in the financial services industry to also do the same,” Akinwuntan said.

To maintain a basic bank account in Nigeria, the account holder spends an estimate of N500 per month as Account maintenance fees, ATM card maintenance charge, USSD charges, SMS notification fee, stamp duty, and fees charged on transactions with other banks.

“For the industry to grow, all stakeholders should allow consumers to access banking and financial services such as the USSD shortcodes at zero use cost, as this will deepen financial inclusion in Nigeria and will further drive economic development,” he said.

Most recent data by EFInA put Nigeria’s financial inclusion rate at 63.2 percent, meaning that as much 36.8 percent of adults still lack access to financial services.

Commenting on how to deepen financial inclusion in a country like Nigeria where millions live on less than $2 a day, Akinwuntan said: “one of the most important gargets that can be used to spur inclusive financial inclusion is mobile phone and so if there are charges attached to the use, it will affect inclusion.”

According to Oghogho Osula, financial expert and former MD/CEO of Coronation Trustees Limited, Nigeria has a large mobile market, and the huge number provides an opportunity to use it in deploying easy-to-use technology that can improve access to financial services.

Data by Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) analysed by BusinessDay revealed that the total number of subscribers per individual telecoms operator as of August 2019 stood at 176.89million.

“With a very well-developed mobile market, and many tech-savvy consumers, there are exciting opportunities for mobile-based digital identity solutions in Nigeria,” Calum Handforth, Senior Consultant at GSMA said.

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