MTN Nigeria payment platform access restored but for how long?

Technology

Last Thursday, Nigeria’s commercial banks disconnected MTN from their banking platforms, leaving its 77 million customers unable to purchase credit for their phones using apps, Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD) codes, and even debit cards.
The move came after MTN took the decision to cut the commission it pays to banks from 4…

Last Thursday, Nigeria’s commercial banks disconnected MTN from their banking platforms, leaving its 77 million customers unable to purchase credit for their phones using apps, Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD) codes, and even debit cards.

The move came after MTN took the decision to cut the commission it pays to banks from 4.5% to 2.5% per airtime transaction.

Four days later, the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr Isa Ibrahim Pantami and the Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Godwin Emefiele, intervened to end the standoff, with MTN agreeing to revert back to the previous 4.5% commission rate.

However, the matter has not been settled, with the mediators simply telling MTN to revert to the status quo while negotiations are ongoing. With fears that this disruption may be more long term, reports suggest that MTN is exploring alternative payment platforms.

“We now have alternative channels such as BillsnPay, Flutterwave, Jumia Pay, OPay, Kuda and Carbon for accessing MTN services electronically,” said MTN’s Senior Manager, External Relations at MTN Nigeria, Funso Aina.

One such platform, BillsnPay app, operated by the Nigeria-based IT company Computer Warehouse Group (CWG), was reportedly selected less than two days after it announced a 2% airtime purchase discount on the platform.

“Following the disconnection of the Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD) by selected banks in Nigeria against MTN Nigeria subscribers, the telecoms company has decided to open up alternative Fintech platforms, where its subscribers can easily recharge their phones,” said a statement from CWG. “One of such platforms is the CWG’s bill presentment platform tagged Billsnpay, which hitherto gives Nigerians the ease to recharge their phone or even buy data. The platform can also be used for estate levies, school fees, contributions, donations, faith-based payments, and fundraising initiatives.”

How the impasse between MTN and the banks will ultimately be resolved remains to be seen, but in the meantime an expanding fintech ecosystem seems ideal to give them the additional flexibility they need. 

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