Covid19 Accelerated Mobile & USSD transactions by 82.6% in Nigeria

The coronavirus spread in Nigeria discourages physical banking and fiat money as an exchange in Nigeria. Mobile and USSD transactions in Nigeria surged by 82.6% to stand at 1.69 billion compared to 928.86 million recorded in the previous year.

According to the 2020 instant payment annual statistics, these are recently released by the Nigerian Inter-Bank Settlement System (NIBSS) in the country. The report also revealed that 78% of total instant payment carried out in Nigeria in 2020 was done using mobile devices. The breakdown of the data released while mobile payment retained its position as the most preferred channel accounting for 43% of the total transactions in 2020.

USSD followed closely at 762.19 million transactions accounting for 35% of the total recorded in the year. The growth is attributed to the move by the Nigerians away from physical channels—closure of most bank branches in the country during the heat of covid-19 pandemic surge. Also, the fear of using fiat currency for not contracting the virus and the timely advocacy to encourage Nigerians to transact through online channels rather than using fiat money for exchange is part of what propels the mobile and USSD transactions in 2020. In terms of year-on-year performance, the volume of mobile transactions grew from 506.16 million in 2019 to 933.66 million in 2020, indicating a surge of about 84.5 per cent YoY. Also, the importance of USSD transactions grew from 422.7 million to 762.19 million, advancing about 80.3 per cent YoY.

The report stated that with approximately 49.5percent smartphone ownership in the country and 97 million mobile internet users, there is a strong indication that mobile and USSD payments will see significant growth in the short-medium term. It also shows between the ages of 25-34 years carried out 36 per cent of all instant interbank payments in 2020. In essence, this indicates that the younger demographic boosted the adoption of instant payment in the review period. Also, 79 per cent of the instant payment transaction in the review year was carried out in the review year by customers between the ages of 15-44 years.

The report’s detail also shows that Lagos State, the commercial nerve maintained the hub for electronic payments accounting for 30 per cent of the total transactions initiated in the country. Others on the list of highest transaction volumes include Abuja (7%), Ogun (6%), Rivers (6%), and Oyo state (5%). And the report also sees 1.37 billion transactions initiated in the year were carried by males representing 72% of the total, while 52.04 million or 28% were females. However, E-Play Africa had reported earlier in March 2021 that the Nigerian apex bank introduced a new high fee for USSD banking transactions that angered customers.

Many criticize this move that it will further discourage the low-income people and negatively impact businesses and the financial inclusion goal to promote a cashless economy. It is interesting to discover the young population embraced mobile and USSD as a means of payment in Nigeria. The significant part is given the influx of mobile phones. They can tout the widespread acceptance of sports betting to have accelerated iGaming betting and gambling during the Covid-19 lockdown.

It is fair enough to assume that mobile and USSD payment growth can be said the iGaming industry contributed a huge chunk of the transaction, given it is the widely accepted form of payment in the country.

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