Dead on Arrival: a Requiem Mass for Nigeria’s foray into E-Payment

My crystal glass is for gazing only if the situation looks confusing. This one is a no-brainer.

The publicity blitz that has accompanied the move to a cashless society is money down the drain, because the much needed trust that will sustain the system is not being built.

Two recent experiences have made me conclude and strongly that e-payment in Nigeria will fizzle out, or remain elitist, once the publicity fund dries up.

In one experience, A few months ago, I went to GTBank, one of the most successful banks in Nigeria, that offers “Fast Track” access to one’s cash and hoped to cash a tidy sum (within the fast track limit) from my account. It was a Personal account, Sole signatory, funded and I had the card with chips and pin. After one hour in the banking hall, and making some noise, I was told they were trying to contact my account officer, who will authorize the payment. Third party authorization out of my own personal account? … on a fast-Track service?? …. So much for Fast Track!!

In another experience, I had grown used to making direct transfers from my GTBank online banking account, via the Nigerian Inter-Bank Settlement System (NIBSS) using a bank issued token as authorization. No problems in the past, and I do it right before the vendor, after choosing whatever I want to buy. This particular vendor was beginning to envy the fact that the money hits his account instantly. And so … I went back to him for this recent transaction. It went really bad, because an extra step has been added to the payment sequence, without informing we the harpless users. A code is now sent to one’s mobile phone, that must be entered in another confirmation step. Confirmation, even with the token that is supposed to be a high security device. I cannot believe that Nigerians have already cloned those tokens!! All done, the code never arrived via the mobile phone. A call to the GT Contact center only yielded … “We will escalate it and call you back within the hour”. After two hours of waiting, assuring a rather confused vendor, I sauntered to the closest GTBank and withdrew the cash once again. Even as I blog this, the dream call has not come.

I added 1 and 1 together, and came to one bright and brilliant conclusion: Banks will kill e-payment in Nigeria. The only condition that MAY make it work as structured, is if banks do what they are really supposed to do …. Take more risks, where they cannot, give more underwriting business to Insurance companies, or better still, CBN can just license the existing Mobile money vendors to do the needful, even if they are our ‘friendly’ and dreaded monopoly telephone companies.

Here is wishing the initiative as structured … rest in Peace. You are Dead on Arrival!!

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