Monitise brings mobile payments to Nigeria

British technology company Monitise launched a pilot scheme in Nigeria in March this year – and has signed up more than 6,000 people. The scheme highlights the appetite for mobile banking and payments in Nigeria, particularly among the unbanked population and in rural areas where physical banking infrastructure is undeveloped.

There are 90 million adults in Nigeria. Only about 20 million have access to financial services but there are more than 100 million mobile phone subscribers.

The Monitise pilot is operating in the four cities of Lagos, Abuja, Port Harcourt and Ibadan. The company was awarded a provisional license to operate a mobile payments service by the Central Bank of Nigeria in December 2010 and a decision about granting a full licence is expected shortly.

AIM-listed Monitise was set up by Alastair Lukies – a former rugby hooker with four GCSEs – in 2002. The idea: to connect the banking world with the mobile phone world so that customer payments could be made. It’s a lucrative market: Juniper Research predicts that more than 41.4 billion financial transactions will be carrier out by mobile phones by the end of this year.

The company’s Monilink system was developed as a joint venture with Link, the UK clearing banks’ ATM subsidiary, with clients including HSBC, First Direct, Alliance & Leicester, RBS, NatWest and Lloyds Banking Group. No easy feat when you consider the complexity of dealing with banks and navigating their security requirements. Lukies has said that one bank took three and a half years and 279 meetings to convince.

With Monitise’s software, you can use your mobile to check what’s there and, eventually, shuttle money in and out, and pay for what you want, just as you use debit and credit cards. Each transaction earns Monitise a fee. Lukies describes the model as “the remote control to your bank balance.”

Lukies was one of 25 British business leaders accompanying PM David Cameron, international development secretary Andrew Mitchell and trade and investment minister Lord Green to Nigeria and South Africa on a (rather badly timed) trade mission to pursue new business opportunities between both countries.

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