Nine months after launching the eNaira digital currency, the head of Nigeria’s central bank has criticized commercial banks over its lack of adoption.
Godwin Emefiele, Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) told attendees of a conference on monetary policy that adoption rates of the eNaira had fallen below expectations, according to Bloomberg.
The eNaira was launched with great fanfare last Oct, becoming the first central bank digital currency (CBDC) on the African continent. However, the metrics around the digital currency indicate that only 700,000 individuals created eNaira accounts out of the 55 million bank accounts operating in the country.
Blame the commercial banks
Emefiele revealed that commercial banks were behind the slow pace of adoption because the use of the eNaira attracts no charges. eNaira deposits are not considered cash on the bank’s books, and their use stands in contrast to the revenues earned from mobile banking services.
Emefiele told attendees of the conference that “there is apathy” in banks and fintech firms because of the lack of revenue generation opportunities. He urged citizens to embrace digital currencies because they will cost users “little or nothing compared to other products.”
Insider sources suggest that Nigerian lenders are apprehensive over the CBN’s promotion of the eNaira to the detriment of their operations. In its defense, the bank and regulator stated that it is being guided by the need to promote financial inclusion, reduce transaction costs for consumers and reach out to the unbanked population.
One trick up the sleeve to trigger adoption
While lenders have dragged their feet over the eNaira, the bank has hatched a plan to collaborate with the country’s largest telecom provider, MTN.
The move will allow people without bank accounts to leverage USSD codes, which allow users without a smartphone or data/internet connection to use mobile banking, to access the eNaira in a bid to trigger a renewed wave of adoptions.
Emefiele stated that the CBN is “almost concluding tests” with the telecom provider and is inching toward a launch date. At the moment, the eNaira is only available to users with commercial bank accounts.
Nigeria launched the eNaira in Oct after partnering with Bitt Inc, a Barbados-based fintech firm. Since then, the CBN has created two mobile apps available on both Apple and Android devices to onboard customers.