MTN’s fintech ambitions get Nigerian boost

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MTN group CEO and president Rob Shuter.
MTN group CEO and president Rob Shuter.

Pan-African telecoms operator MTN’s desire to be an active player in the financial services space on the continent has received a boost.

This as the company announced yesterday it had been granted a licence by the Nigerian Central Bank (CBN) to offer financial services.

In a statement, MTN Nigeria says its subsidiary, Yello Digital Financial Services (YDFS), has been granted a full Super Agent Licence by the CBN.

It notes YDFS received approval in principle for its Super-Agent Licence in December 2018 and has been conducting a pilot project since then to meet the conditions of a full licence.

The successful pilot has now led to the granting of a full licence, under which YDFS will distribute financial services to all Nigerians.

The licence enables the launch of MTN Nigeria’s fintech strategy. It will also allow MTN to convert its existing airtime agents and recruit other small businesses to distribute financial services.

Buoyed by the CBN licence, the mobile operator says: “This marks a very important first step in leveraging our infrastructure to scale our fintech initiatives.”

MTN Nigeria CEO Ferdi Moolman says: “We have also applied for a payment service bank licence, which will enable us in time to offer a broader and deeper range of financial services to those communities, and we remain hopeful we will receive approval shortly.”

The news from Nigeria comes at a time the telco is making an aggressive push in the financial services sector.

Over a week ago, MTN appointed former Vodacom chief officer of strategy and M&A, Yolanda Cuba, as group chief digital and fintech officer.

In this role, she will lead the group’s strategic expansion of its financial services and digital solutions efforts and transformation into a digital operator, according to the company.

At the time of Cuba’s appointment, MTN Group CEO Rob Shuter noted: “I am confident that Yolanda’s leadership will place us in good stead as we intensify our efforts to build a digital ecosystem and scale our fintech offering across our markets.

“Under Cuba’s leadership, MTN will continue to progressively grow the fintech and digital opportunities in Africa, as we see these areas as major drivers of our BRIGHT growth strategy.”

According to a Business Day report, MTN aims to bring non-voice revenue above 50% in the next few years and is targeting fintech-related revenue of R90 billion per year for the next three years.

The global fintech investment market, which was valued at $39.6 billion in 2017, is anticipated to grow by more than 18.4% to reach $152.94 billion by 2025, according to WiseGuy Report, a market research and statistical report centre.

Ernst & Young, the global audit and advisory firm, reported that investments in fintech firms reached more than $100 million over the past two years.

MTN aims to increase its focus on fintech and digital services sold over its network, which has more than 236 million subscribers across its 22 territories.

This month, MTN announced a partnership with financial services group Sanlam to sell high-end insurance products like life cover and funeral policies in South Africa through digital-only channels.

The company says this offering will go live from September to December. The company is also re-launching mobile money services in South Africa.

With the Nigerian developments, MTN has joined other telcos on the continent that have entrenched themselves in the financial services sector.

MPesa in Kenya remains the mobile money business case study of payment innovation in emerging markets. It was launched 12 years ago.

In Southern Africa, EcoCash is a success story in Zimbabwe. It is a mobile payment platform hosted by local telco Econet. EcoCash and is an offshoot of Cassava Smartech, an entity that offers more financial services than mobile money, including remittances, digital banking and all kinds of insurance.

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