Shares in MTN jumped over 9% on Friday, after Africa’s biggest mobile operator by subscribers got in-principle approval to operate its mobile money service MoMo in Nigeria.
MTN has been looking to offer MoMo in the country for some time. Regarded as one of Africa’s most attractive, untapped banking markets, Nigeria is a key country for any company looking to scale up in financial services on the continent.
The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) gave it in-principle approval on Thursday, MTN said in its statement a day later.
“This is the first step in the process towards a final approval, subject to the fulfillment of certain conditions as stipulated by the CBN,” it said, adding it respected the CBN’s judgment.
Mobile operators like MTN have been pushing further into financial services on the continent, where a large population doesn’t have good access to traditional banking services.
Mobile phone use is far more widespread, however, and operators have found ways to make basic banking accessible using the devices and generate substantial revenue streams in the process.
MTN has said it is looking to become one of the continent’s biggest financial technology firms – an ambition that would be difficult to fulfill without Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country and home to some 200 million people.
Its MoMo service currently has 51 million active users. It said in 2019 it wanted its user base to hit 60 million.
The company’s fast-rising fintech revenues now contribute almost 9% of its total income. (Reporting by Amna Karimi in Bengaluru and Emma Rumney in Johannesburg Editing by Shounak Dasgupta and Mark Potter)