The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has stepped up its sensitisation campaign on eNaira as part of measures to tackle what the Governor of the apex bank, Mr. Godwin Emefiele, described as deposit money banks’ apathy to the adoption of the digital currency, writes TONY CHUKWUNYEM
Since October 25 last year when President Muhammadu Buhari launched eNaira, thus making Nigeria the first African country and the second in the world to issue a Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC), the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has been carrying out a sensitisation campaign across the country in its bid to promote the use of the digital currency. In fact, barely three days after the president unveiled eNaira, CBN, in partnership with the Bankers’ Committee, launched a two-day public awareness campaign on the digital currency and other initiatives of the apex bank, in Abia State. The programme, which held virtually jointly in Abia and Ebony states, brought together participants from different sectors of the economy.
Speaking at the session, Director of Corporate Communications at CBN, Mr. Osita Nwanisobi, said the campaign was aimed at engaging and educating the public on the eNaira and other monetary policies of the apex bank. In his presentation, a representative of the eNaira project, Abul- Jalil Yusuf, said that the digital currency would positively impact the payment system. He reiterated that eNaira would improve financial inclusion, increase remittances and ensure more efficient monetary policy. Yusuf, who stressed that eNaira is different from cryptocurrencies, such as bitcoin, as it is a legal tender that is issued by CBN and fully backed by the Federal Government, explained that the CBN’s digital currency would eliminate third parties, thus contributing to efficient and low-cost transactions, among others.
Also, following the launch of eNaira, CBN has ensured that its officials are always available at the trade fairs it holds annually in major cities across the country, to sensitise members of the public on the benefits of the project. At the fair it held in Kaduna in November, for instance, CBN scolded commercial banks in the country for not doing much to educate the citizens about eNaira. In his remarks at the event, Head, Development Finance Department at CBN, Aminu Muhammad, said financial institutions were supposed to play critical roles in growing the economy, adding that the lenders were not effective on issues relating to eNaira. He said: “They (commercial banks) are lagging behind and that’s why CBN is coming in to intervene.”
Muhammad, along with other CBN officials at the event, took turns to lecture youth corps members, hundreds of students from tertiary institutions across Kaduna State and other members of the public on the process for onboarding stakeholders on the eNaira platform. Similarly, in May and June, members of the eNaira project team were at three popular markets in Lagos — Kairo Market, Oshodi, Balogun Market, Lagos Island and Tejuosho Market, Yaba — where they succeeded in persuading many traders and members of the public to download the digital currency app on their mobile phones.
However, responding to a question on eNaira at CBN’s post-Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) briefing held in July, CBN Governor, Mr. Godwin Emefiele, echoed the remarks made by the apex bank’s Head, Development Finance Department, Aminu Muhammad, at the sensitisation fair in Kaduna, last November, that banks were not helping to promote the adoption of the eNaira. He said that while there had been some progress with regard to eNaira adoption in the country, “apathy” on the part of the banks was discouraging their customers form transferring funds from their bank accounts to the eNaira wallet.
The CBN governor, who urged Nigerians not to only download the app, but also transfer funds from their bank accounts into their wallets for ease of transaction, noted that “there may be a little bit resistance to you from the banks. “This is because moving that money from your account into your wallet is a disadvantage to the banks. I want to say so boldly and bluntly. It is a disadvantage to them. I will say very bluntly, because I am a banker myself, there is apathy by the banks because they know that they will lose some income if you insist on using your eNaira wallet for transactions,” he stated. He stressed that using eNaira “is almost costless, at least till today. So, you should go and tell your bank that you want your account to be linked to your wallet. It will cost you little or nothing compared to those other products that you have that would cost you money in the bank.”
While admitting that “there is a need for a lot more enlightenment for eNaira,” Emefiele disclosed that CBN was moving on to the next phase of eNaira and was working with telecommunications company, MTN Nigeria, to activate the use of USSD code for eNaira transactions in the country. He said: “We have been focused up till now on the banked population. We are almost completing tests with MTN to provide a channel where the unbanked can onboard using the code *997#. We believe that once this is done, we are going to be targeting the unbanked population. And we are also going to be using agency banking arrangements available and other means to ensure that we drive our enaira product.” Urging Nigerians to adopt the digital currency, Emefiele said: “I must say that the eNaira is the product that has the lowest cost in terms of you moving money electronically from one location to another location. Today I am aware that people are now using the eNaira on Remita.net to make purchases. “You can make payment for DSTV using the eNaira; you can pay government bills; you can buy airtime and you can conduct a host of other transactions through the eNaira at the lowest possible cost.” He also announced at the briefing that CBN, in conjunction with the Bankers’ Committee, would be ramping up its enlightenment campaigns to increase awareness on the eNaira.
Thus, not many industry watchers would have been surprised that the apex bank last week took the sensitisation campaign to Nasarawa State. Speaking at the commencement of the 2-day fair in Lafia, Nwanisobi said the sensitisation programme tagged, “Promoting Financial Stability and Economic Development,” was to educate residents of the State on the apex bank’s interventions, policies and programmes and to encourage them to start using eNaira for financial transactions. He said: “This CBN sensitisation fair is all about talking to the people and letting them know about our policies and programmes. It is also to hear from them on how they feel about these policies and how commercial banks treat them, to enable us proffer solutions to their challenges. “Another reason for the fair is to encourage them to start using the eNaira, which is the Central Bank’s Digital Currency (CBDC). If you look at what is happening across the world, you will observe that the economy is being digitalized and so, for us in Nigeria, we need to keep pace with technology. “The eNaira is the same thing with the naira that all Nigerians use. It does the same work as the naira and it is acceptable everywhere, so before the end of the programme, we hope to onboard many residents of the state who are yet to download the eNaira wallet.”
Also last week, the Head, Africa Fintech Foundry (AFF), Daniel Awe, gave journalists an update on the eNaira hackathon, that the Foundry is organising in partnership with CBN. According to the organisers, the eNaira Hackathon, which kickedoff on August 4, 2022, is part of efforts to drive financial inclusion, facilitate macroeconomic growth and integrate Nigerian economy to the world leading economies through innovation and cuttingedge emerging technologies. The event was also aimed at addressing the strategic points to eliminate possible glitches that could hamper smooth transactions being carried out with the eNaira. While disclosing that over 5,000 startups registered for the eNaira Hackathon, Awe said that CBN and AFF would support the event’s top 10 startups, innovators and entrepreneurs.
He said: “Hackathon is a platform where innovators, developers, entrepreneurs, coders come together, to solve problems, to create innovative ideas. When we layer that on eNaira, it means we brought in different players within the ecosystem – developers, coders, innovators, entrepreneurs, to come up with different ideas, different use cases, that they can leverage on eNaira.
“This is so that the consumers of eNaira will now see the benofefit of eNaira, they will have the opportunity to see the problem that eNaira will solve.” The AFF boss, who spoke on the sideline of the semi-final pitching of the Hackathon, said that there was a need to increase the adoption of eNaira in the country, as it enhances financial inclusion, supports the digital economy and improvs economic activities.
He said that the semi-final would see 20 teams being selected for the finals, of which the top 10 would be assisted to boost eNaira adoption in the country. “Now, these top 10 potential businesses, when they come out of the final of the hackathon, there is a cash prize for them. I think number one is going to get five million eNaira. Number two is getting three million eNaira. Number three, two million and the remaining, the next ten will get one million eNaira. “Afterwards, those top 10 will resume in the AFF accelerator programme, whereby some of them will get some funding to start up their businesses on their ideas,” he said.
Despite the banks’ apathy to the adoption of eNaira, the consensus among analysts is that the benefits of the digital currency will be the primary reason why it will be eventually embraced by members of the public.