By Abdulrahman Abdulraheem
There is no doubting the fact that the naira redesign policy of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), which caused the unintended consequence of naira scarcity, was not meant to punish Nigerians. It sought to mop up excess cash in the system, bring down inflation, reduce criminality and advance the movement into a full cashless economy.
The apex bank had ensured there were viable alternatives that could be used before introducing the policy. There is internet banking via apps, USSD for money transfers and other payments, and the e-Naira introduced recently as a store of value equal to physical cash.
When President Muhammadu Buhari launched the Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC) in October 2021, making Nigeria the first on the continent to implement it, he stated that it was a new dawn for the monetary side of the economy.
In his remarks during the roll out, CBN Governor Godwin Emefiele stressed that e-Naira would not only revolutionise transactions, but also provide citizens more efficient, cheaper and easier means of doing business.
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Since the unveiling, according to Economic Confidential, millions of Nigerians who use the platform have been testifying to its vibrancy. They have seen how e-Naira makes sending, receiving money and payment of bills seamless, commending the idea which has eradicated intermediaries.
The platform is cheaper because there are no financial institutions to pay charges to. The absence of banks also eradicates the possibility of depositors losing their monies in case of any bank crashing. This is because CBN is the one keeping the money on e-Naira and therefore can never crash.
Indeed, the non-experience of problems associated with conventional internet banking has drawn the attention of many to e-Naira. This is not surprising; no one enjoys neither the frustration of poor network service, nor the stress of going to the bank to complain about unsuccessful credits or debits.
Meanwhile, the government has encouraged Nigerian tech experts to come up with innovations. Some are currently at different stages of incubation. At an event late February in Lagos, the CBN launched a USSD channel to boost the usage of e-Naira amid the scarcity of banknotes.
Chief Executive Officer, Bullnet Bulletin and Enquiries Networking Services, Bayo Akintoye noted that utilising the code would soothe the pains of the cash crunch as the nation transitioned from a cash-based economy to a cashless one.
“The CBN has collaborated with Chamsmobile Limited, a licensed operator, to address challenges faced by the unbanked and the underserved by developing the USSD (*997*50#). The e-Naira wallet can be funded via GSM recharge cards, bank account cards, web portal or electronic payment with authorised agents.
“Users can transfer from one wallet to another by inputting the recipient’s phone number. The service makes it possible to cash out by sending e-Naira from wallets to an ATM and withdrawing the cash equivalent without needing a bank account or card. Users can also send e-Naira to bank accounts for savings or transactions,” he said.
Project Coordinator, e-Naira Project Giant Team, Otaru Abdulkadir explained that the currency was introduced to improve financial inclusion in states, increase cross border transactions, diaspora remittances and future complement payment infrastructure.
“Transactions are possible in multiple methods. You can scan to pay; you can use your wallet ID when you onboard and have your e-Naira 10-digit number. And of course you can use USSD strength. It is available for everyone with a mobile phone, it doesn’t have to be a smartphone or any data phone,” he added.
It is obvious that the currency has limitless opportunities for a lot of more great things. And with the way the CBN is working round the clock to expand the e-Naira and encouraging Nigerians to come up with different initiatives, the coming months promise to be interesting for Nigerians already on the platform.
Abdulraheem can be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org