By AYOOLA OLAOLUWA
The Central Bank of Nigeria’s (CBN) digital currency, eNaira, is witnessing gradual uptake after its rocky start, Business Hallmark findings can reveal.
President Muhammadu Buhari, it would be recalled, had launched the much anticipated digital currency at the State House, Abuja, on October 25, more than three weeks after the initial flag off of the currency originally billed for October 1 failed to materialise.
The fanfare and expectations that greeted the successful launch soon turned to disappointment and despair among many subscribers who claimed the currency had failed to meet their expectations.
Some of the subscribers who shared their not too pleasant experiences with BH, days after the launch, lamented that they received error messages while making transactions on the eNaira platform.
Other users complained about glitches, arguing that some features of the app did not work.
While many subscribers were still struggling to make successful transactions on the platform, the eNaira Speed Wallet soon went offline on app stores such as Apple and Google Play.
“Why would the CBN not perfect everything concerning the currency before the launch? The government should allow us to go back to cryptocurrency until they are ready with the wallet”, said Tosin Abelurin, a visibly angry subscriber based in Lagos.
BH reliably gathered that the site was shut down after it recorded a hit of over 100,000 downloads in two hours, much more than what the systems designers envisaged.
However, BH checks revealed that the CBN has fixed all the glitches observed after the launch of the currency.
For instance, BH check on Friday revealed that the app is now back online and is available for both Apple and Android users.
According to the CBN, as of Friday, November 12, the eNaira wallet has been downloaded over 488,000 times from over 160 countries. “So far, we have on-boarded over 488,000 consumer wallets and about 78,000 merchant wallets, with these downloads occurring in over 160 countries (per Google Playstore and Apple Store data).
“We have also recorded almost 17,000 transactions amounting to over $62m with the average transaction being about $9.3 each. These numbers suggest the adoption rate has been excellent”, the CBN stated.
The CBN Governor Godwin Emefiele, described the interest shown in e-Naira by Nigerians as overwhelming and encouraging.
According to Emefiele, 33 banks, 2,000 customers and 120 retailers have registered for the platform since it was launched on October 25.
A survey conducted by BH between November 9 and 11, showed that 49 out of 50 respondents (98%) said they have successfully downloaded the eNaira wallet, while only 2% claimed they experienced some challenges in completing the process.
Sources at the CBN informed our correspondent that over $200 million worth of eNaira, valued at $602,959, has been issued to financial institutions in the country and that the adoption of the technology will increase Nigeria’s GDP by $29 billion over the next ten years.
Speaking on the development, a startup advisor and blockchain expert, Mr. Chukwuemeka Fred Agbata Jnr., advised the CBN to collaborate with innovators in the fintech space, noting that the overall success of the eNaira will depend on the collaboration.
“Nigeria has the potential to be bold, creative, progressive, and capable of continental, and even global leadership if driven by digital technology.
“Already, the country is home to Africa’s best and brightest minds in the e-payment business; the likes of Remita, Paystack and Opay among other fintech disruptors.
“Without earning a good measure of trust from their users, these companies would not have had the well-deserved recognition both nationally and internationally today. As funny as it is, many people trust fintech companies over government-backed financial institutions.
“By working with these young men on the eNaira project, the government will be showing itself transparent to citizens who have long viewed the system with distrust and cynicism”, declared Agbata, who is also the Regional Director of Founder Institute, a Silicon Valley-based pre-seed accelerator,
Also speaking, a renowned economist, Prof. Sheriffdeen Tella, said the introduction of E-Naira will challenge banks to be competitive and innovative.
Tella, who is a professor of economics at the Olabisi Onabanjo University (OOU), said “Using e-banking in Nigeria seems more expensive to customers than collecting money on the counter in terms of deductions that banks and the government take from personal accounts. The banks have devised various means of extorting money from customers who most times feel hapless.
“The fact that one can transact all business of making payments without the prying eyes of other customers or having to queue endlessly in a banking hall is beneficial and a big appreciation for the adoption of technological advancement in the financial system.
“However, Nigeria is a seller’s or service provider’s market rather than a consumer market. People who have lived either temporarily or permanently abroad would tell you that e-banking is the best thing to have happened as a compelling innovation to the financial system.
“The banks, the customers and even the banks’ supervisors like the central bank, reserve bank or bank of a county are all beneficiaries and not victims of the e-banking technology as is the case with Nigeria.
In Nigeria, if you use your card on another bank’s ATM, deduction starts after three such withdrawals within a month. Most Nigerian banks have manipulated their ATM that they can recognise ‘foreign cards’ and a customer cannot withdraw more than N10,000 with such a card in a single transaction.
“So, if you are withdrawing N40,000, you start paying penalty from the fourth withdrawal until the end of the month. The banks themselves know that services on their machines are irregular due to the inefficiency of the infrastructure which is not the fault of the customers.
“Apart from that, the banks charge customers for sending texts to greet them for birthdays, Christmas, Ed-el-Kabir, Maulud Nabiyyi or other such festivities.
“Some banks also charge for transfers from one customer to another customer within the same bank! At the end of a month, the customer pays VAT, maintenance, and other sundry charges apart from the Federal Government’s stamp duty of N50, charged as payments for transactions above a specified amount.
“All these costs, financial and physical, are reflected in the queues we still see in many banks’ halls and at various ATMs. It makes Nigeria remain a currency-carrier economy.
“Workers go to banks to collect their salaries at once on the counter or at ATM sites to avoid unnecessary charges or inefficiency occasioned by infrastructural deficiency.
“So, many people are asking whether eNaira will solve these problems or at what cost is it for bank users?
“My answer was that the eNaira was introduced to challenge the banks to be competitively innovative. Its introduction will challenge banks to be competitive and innovative. The CBN should forgive me if I goofed”, Prof. Tella declared.
The eNaira, the CBN statex on its website, will complement traditional naira as a less costly, more efficient, generally acceptable, safe and trusted means of payment.
The digital currency, the apex bank stated, would improve monetary policy effectiveness, and enhance government’s capacity to deploy targeted social interventions and boost remittances through formal channels.
The eNaira would also be exchangeable for other Central Bank Digital Currencies. Meanwhile, willing subscribers must first acquire the e-Naira wallet to access, use and hold the currency.
Nigeria is first country in Africa to introduce digital currency.