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MTN, Airtel, others yet to meet PSB licence requirement – CBN

Inability to meet the payment service bank (PSB) licencing requirement set by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) is the reason why MTN Nigeria, Airtel and others are yet to have the permit, the CBN has said.

Olubukola Akinwunmi, head, payments system policy at the CBN said on Wednesday that the CBN does not give preference to any particular player rather it follows due process and gives the licence to whoever meet the requirements.

“When you talk about some particular Telcos, we don’t think around this, we simply accept applications and we go through our normal process and as long as the applicants can meet the requirements they get the licence,” Akinwunmi said, adding that the licence approval is, however, “determined by the management of the bank.”

While the CBN gave an official node in October 2018 to non-financial companies, including telcos to apply for a mobile banking licence to increase access to banking services, the apex bank is yet to approve the license to some of the biggest players – MTN Nigeria and Airtel Africa.

It is over two years since they applied for the permit, which allows them to provide most banking functions except lending and taking foreign currency deposits.

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“What requirements would 9mobile and Glo have met that a bigger telco company like MTN and Airtel cannot meet?” an industry analyst who spoke off record to Businessday said, questioning the real reason why the apex bank is yet to grant the country’s biggest telecoms companies the mobile money licence.

An email inquiring about the current stage of the licensing process to both MTN Nigeria and Airtel were yet to be answered.

Yele Okeremi, CEO of Precise Financial System, a Lagos-based Fintech company recently told Bloomberg that the central bank has been “lethargic” when it comes to allowing telcos to become “very important players” in the payment system.

Hope PSB, a subsidiary of Unified Payment, Globacom’s Money Master and 9Mobile’s 9PSB are the companies that were granted the PSB licence in 2020.

“So we expect that once the applicants have met the requirements that have been issued by the bank to them they will also be treated along the line of the three that have been issued licences,” Akinwunmi said while responding to a question by Businessday at a virtual event by EY titled- Nigeria Fintech Census 2020 Launch.

Targeted at Nigeria’s over 40 million unbanked population who are mostly in the rural communities, the payment service bank by the apex bank would enable telcos and other non-financial institution to offer financial services that would help to deepen the country’s financial inclusion drive.

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