Nigerians turn to M-payment solutions

Africa’s mobile money landscape has developed considerably in recent years, with the continent proving to be the perfect breeding ground for transformative mobile payment solutions.


Through cooperation and innovation, a number of mobile money initiatives are gaining popularity in Nigeria. 

Africa’s mobile money landscape has developed considerably in recent years, with the continent proving to be the perfect breeding ground for transformative mobile payment solutions, most notably seen with the Kenyan launch of M-Pesa in 2007. But since then, a number of prominent Nigerian mobile payment systems have been launched on the back of the Central Bank of Nigeria’s (CBN)’s Financial System Strategy 2020, the latest being PayAttitude.

This newest entrant in the burgeoning Nigerian mobile payment industry contains Chip and PIN tag-type contactless functionality, alongside NFC (Near Field Communication) technology. These enable point of sale (PoS) transactions to be processed seamlessly when the PayAttitude-enabled mobile phone is tapped on the terminal.

“Once you have money on the chip account, the PoS terminal essentially will be talking to the phone, it will not be looking for connection from your bank or anywhere else,” said Agada Apochi, Managing Director and CEO of Unified Payments, at the launch of the service in Lagos. “PayAttitude is also compatible with all types of mobile phone handsets and all networks, making it possible for the phone handset to be used for retail payments at Points of Sale.”

A consortium of six banks – namely Access, First Bank, UBA, Zenith, Skye and Diamond – collaborated with Unified Payments, the company behind PayAttitude, to jointly launch the initiative this May. Nigerian consumers can choose between two different types of PayAttitude depending on their needs: PayAttitude DebitPlus links a mobile phone to any bank account, while PayAttitude PrepaidPlus allows users to take advantage without the requirement of a bank account. A further PayAttitude Premium variant is expected to be released soon.

PayAttitude manages to overcome some key challenges that have damaged user trust in other mobile payment systems. “PayAttitude guarantees subscribers the confidence and comfort of successful payment for goods and services at merchant locations at all times, notwithstanding the challenges of telecommunication at the Point of Sale (PoS) terminal or the unavailability of network of the subscriber’s bank,” said Apochi.

Financial inclusion

Around 64% of Nigerian adults do not have a bank account. However, the telecoms industry has established an ideal platform for financial inclusion, as the number of people owning a mobile phone passes 80%, positioning Nigeria as Africa’s largest mobile market with over 140m subscribers, according to a 2015 report released by market research firm BuddeComm.

Nigeria’s rural and low income population thus stands to benefit greatly from mobile payment innovation, but boosting financial inclusion is not just about remedying geographical or monetary restrictions.

“Mobile banking provides real-time access to banking services anywhere at any time,” says Robert Giles, Head of Transaction Banking at Diamond Bank, one of the PayAttitude partners. “This allows people to focus on growing their businesses at the same time as being part of the financial system.”

Leading Nigerian banks have launched mobile payment solutions that focus on improving the overall user experience and widening the banked population. Last year, Diamond Bank partnered with telecommunications firm MTN to create Y’ello, which allows any subscriber to Nigeria’s largest mobile operator to immediately open a full bank account using a short code on their mobile phone. This solution differs from others in the mobile payment industry, as unlike a traditional mobile wallet, the full bank account gives consumers the ability to use a range of features across the Nigerian banking system.

While it is a step in the right direction for prominent banks to offer mobile payment solutions to their customers, the need for cooperation between industry players is important if consumers are to experience all the technological benefits on offer.

“The industry is constantly evolving and we need players like PayAttitude to work with other innovators within the space to help move mobile payments forward,” says Tayo Oviosu, CEO of PayAttitude competitor Paga, the first Nigerian mobile payment service to acquire one million users. “By working together to create new channels and solutions for both the consumer and business sectors, achieving Nigeria’s long term mobile payment goals will be a much easier process.”

The launch of PayAttitude sees it enter a competitive mobile payment market, albeit one that is highly fragmented. MasterCard has worked with key initiatives such as Diamond’s Y’ello to make sure innovative solutions reach as many Nigerians as possible.

“Our challenge is ensuring that mobile payments and financial services are at least as convenient and interoperable as cash, while continuing to drive down costs and increase the security of electronic transactions,” says Omokehinde Ojomuyide, MasterCard’s Vice President & Area Business Head for West Africa.

Moving forwards, the industry is expected to have greater interoperability across different mobile payment programmes so that users will not have to think twice about the telecoms provider or bank network when making a payment. Retailers of low-value goods and services, such as transportation, coffee and tolls, are also likely to be more accepting of mobile payments due to PayAttitude’s simple tap-and-go functionality.

Awareness of mobile payment options has increased massively and Nigeria has seen a considerable shift in transactions from cash to electronic – whether on card, mobile or internet/ATM channels. “The pace of growth in the last five years has been impressive,” says Giles. “We have gone from a position where shopkeepers and restaurants laugh at you for trying to pay with a card, to a point where you are asked not to pay with cash.”

Finbarr Toesland

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