The Central Bank of Nigeria has announced that it is set to release its own USSD code with the aim to take its digital currency, eNaira, to the next level.
The CBN launched the Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC), also known as the eNaira, in October 25, 2021, aimed at making financial transactions across the country easier.
Speaking at the IMF African Department Speakers Series held virtually last Friday, Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Kingsley Obiora revealed this development saying 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.
“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,” Mr. Obiora said.
“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.”
Mr Obiora also went on to state that onboarding into the eNaira platform will be seamless and fast for users with a Bank Verification Number (BVN), claiming that the platform has little barrier to entry.
The CBN also claims that the value of the country’s digital payments grew from $324 billion in 2008 to about $2.4 trillion presently, which means that Nigerians are now familiar with digital payments.
Aside from improvement on financial inclusion and seamless digital transactions, the CBN also outlined other benefits of the CBDC which include reducing the cost of processing cash, enabling direct welfare payments to citizens, and reducing the informal economy.
USSD is a popular technology in Nigeria with statistics showing that 90% of mobile money transactions in sub-Saharan Africa are executed through the means. Over 100 USSD codes are currently used in Nigeria, according to the Stax USSD Directory.
Between January and December 2020, the value of USSD transfers in Nigeria increased, going from roughly ₦30 billion to ₦551 billion Naira. The National Bureau of Statistics said Nigerians used USSD codes to transfer ₦1.63 trillion in the last quarter of 2020.