USSD: Enhancing e-Naira’s Capacity to Ease Cash Crunch Pains, by Abdulrahman Abdulraheem
There is no doubting the fact that the naira redesign policy of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) which led to the unintended consequence of naira scarcity was not meant to punish or torture Nigerians. It was meant to mop up excess cash in the system, bring down inflation, reduce criminality and advance the country’s movement into full cashless economy.
In its wisdom, the CBN had ensured that there were a lot of viable alternatives that Nigerians could make use of before introducing the policy. There was internet banking via the app and there was also USSD for money transfers and other operations.
There was also the e-Naira which was introduced in October 2021 as a store of value which is equal to the physical naira.
When President Muhammadu Buhari launched the Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC), aka e-Naira, and made Nigeria the first country on the continent to embrace the official digital currency, he made it known that it was a new dawn for the monetary side of the economy.
On his part, CBN boss, Godwin Emefiele, said the e-Naira would revolutionise transactions in Nigeria and give Nigerians more efficient, cheaper and easier means of doing business.
Since 2021, millions of Nigerians who are on the e-Naira platform have been testifying to the vibrancy of the platform. They have seen how the e-Naira makes life easy, makes sending and receiving money seamless and how payment of bills is much more efficient with the digital currency.
Nigerians on the e-Naira platform are also excited that CBN has used the e-Naira innovation to eradicate intermediaries that make transactions cumbersome. Consequently, it is cheaper to use e-Naira than the internet platforms because there are no banks to pay charges to. The absence of banks also completely 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 it can never crash.
Again, the usual network problems associated with conventional internet banking is completely absent in e-Naira transactions. e-Naira is fast and efficient and it takes away the pains and frustration associated with traditional banking.
There are a couple of opportunities embedded in the e-Naira platform for both the CBN and individuals to introduce new products that can also make life abundant for people. While the CBN has encouraged Nigerian tech experts to come up with a lot which innovations that are at different stages of incubation, the apex bank recently launched a USSD channel to boost the usage of the platform.
The platform was launched in Lagos last week during an event to discuss the cash crunch and how the services introduced by Bullnet on the USSD channel of the e-Naira would solve the problem.
During the launch, the Chief Executive Officer, Bullnet Bulletin and Enquiries Networking Services, Bayo Akintoye, said the USSD with the code *997*50#, would soothe the pain felt by Nigerians given the current scarcity of cash as it transitioned from cash-based economy to a cashless one.
“The CBN has collaborated with Chamsmobile Limited (a CBN licensed Mobile Money Operator and Super-Agent) to address challenges faced primarily by the unbanked, the under-served and those on the other side of the digital divide by developing the service known as ‘eNairaeNhanced Services’ via the eNaira USSD channel (*997*50#) which is fully run and powered by the patented Bullnet Platform.
“It is expected that Nigerians will proudly associate with this innovation and register to have the e-Naira wallet. These wallets can be funded directly with cash-purchased vouchers (like the GSM recharge cards) or from funded bank accounts using bank cards via the web portal or using electronic payment with any authorised agent.
“Users can also transfer e-Naira from one wallet to another simply by inputting the recipient’s phone number. The service also makes it possible for users to cash out by sending the e-Naira directly from their wallets to an ATM and withdrawing the cash equivalent without the need for a bank account or bank card. The user can also send e-Naira to a designated bank account for savings or further transactions,” he said.
As a consequence of the new landmark, the network of banking agents across the country such as the Chamsmobile Super Agents and other mobile money agents, the POS agents and the growing e-Naira adoption agents would now become e-Naira extension workers who would be involved with e-Naira agency, (selling vouchers to customers at a profit and onboarding new users), education and advocacy (creating awareness and educating the masses about the concept of the CBDC and its benefits).
The Project Coordinator, e-Naira Project Giant Team, Otaru Abdulkadir, said the e-Naira was introduced to improve financial inclusion in the states, increase cross border transactions, diaspora remittances and the likes and also complement our payment infrastructure.
“As it is today, we are able to transact on the eNaira with four methods; you can scan to pay, you could use your wallet ID that is when you onboard, and the e-Naira gives you a 10 digit number. And of course you can use USSD strength, and it is for everyone. It is available for everyone with a mobile phone. It doesn’t have to be a smartphone or any data phone,” he said.
It is obvious that the e-Naira platform has limitless opportunities for a lot of more great things to be accommodated therein. And with the way the CBN is working round the clock to expand the platform and encourage other Nigerians to come up with different initiatives, the coming weeks and months promise to be interesting for Nigerians who are already on the e-Naira platform.
In the next few months, the e-Naira would be the big deal in the banking country.