Nigeria to let consumers use feature phones to make payments with national digital currency

INCLUSION: Customers without smartphones will be able to pay by eNaira CBDC using an USSD code

The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) is to enable consumers without smartphones to make transactions with the country’s eNaira central bank digital currency (CBDC) on devices such as feature phones using unstructured supplementary service data (USSD) codes that work in a similar way to SMS messages.

The CBN is adding support for USSD codes to the eNaira in order to enhance financial inclusion by ensuring that “those that do not have smartphones can still transact” via a text-based solution that does not require them to have the eNaira digital wallet app, the central bank’s deputy governor Kingsley Obiora told an IMF African Department Speakers Series conference.

Obiora said that, although almost 70% of Nigeria’s population is now within the financial system “that still leaves us without about 30% of our population out of the financial system and we believe that the CBDC can help reduce that number even more”.

The CBN deputy governor also told the conference that, in addition to “rapid financial inclusion”, the CBDC offered “significant benefits”, including reducing the cost of processing cash, enabling direct welfare payments, reducing the informal economy, improving tax collection, boosting cross-border trade and remittances, reducing the cost and improving the efficiency of payments, and encouraging economic growth,” Nigerian news outlet Premium Times reports.

Nigeria officially launched the eNaira in October 2021 and announced that nearly 500,000 consumers had downloaded the eNaira digital wallet in November 2021.

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