The Central Bank of Nigeria is planning to introduce the Unstructured Supplementary (USSD) code as part of steps to improve the Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC).
Disclosing this on Friday at the International Monetary Fund (IMF) African Department Speakers Series held virtually, the Deputy Governor of the CBN, Kingsley Obiora, said the apex bank will be seeking the support of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) and the telecoms for the use of the USSD code.
He said that Nigeria was doing well based on a PwC report which showed that Nigeria was number one in terms of adoption, adding that the CBN would keep growing and improving on the system.
Obiora added that the introduction of the USSD code became necessary to improve financial inclusion in the country and to ensure people without smartphones could still transact on the eNaira platform.
He said: “We have made serious progress in the last seven to eight years because when the current governor resumed in 2014, one of the pillars of his vision was to significantly improve financial inclusion.
“So at the time, we were at 48 per cent of our population within the financial system, and given several policies that he conceived and implemented, we are almost at 70 per cent.
“That still leaves us with about 30 per cent of our population out of the financial system and we believe the CBDC can help reduce that number even more.
“A lot of people might not have smartphones but that is essentially the next step of our improvement in the CBDC, to introduce the USSD code, so those that do not have smartphones can still transact.”
The CBN deputy governor said that the barrier to entry on the CBDC platform was low, which made it possible for everyone with a Bank Verification Number (BVN) to be onboarded into the eNaira platform in a few minutes.
Obiora stated that the USSD code was introduced to increase financial inclusion in the country and to ensure that those without cellphones could still interact on the eNaira platform.
He stated that the CBDC would provide enormous benefits to Nigeria, which is why the CBN opted to implement it
Obiora cited the benefits as rapid financial inclusion, lower cash processing costs, direct welfare payments to citizens, and a reduction in the informal sector.
Others include increasing tax collection, increasing cross-border trade and remittances, lowering payment costs and enhancing payment efficiency, and simply encouraging economic growth in general.
He did, however, mention some of the primary dangers of establishing the CBDC, which include banking sector disintermediation, operational risks associated with knowing that there is continuous service, cyber security concerns, internet outages, and financial literacy.
Africa’s first digital currency, eNaira, has been ranked No 1 global retail CBDC, and App downloads have jumped to 756,000 from 700,000 seen in December 2021.