Airtel Africa has teed off operation in its recently licensed Nigerian payment service bank unit SmartCash PSB, the wireless operator said in a note to the Nigerian Exchange on Thursday.
SmartCash PSB joins 9PSB, the payments subsidiary of telecom firm Etisalat, as the second telco-run PSB to launch in Africa’s largest economy, with Momo PSB (owned by MTN Nigeria) and Money Master PSB (owned by Globacom) expected to join the fray any moment soon.
For a start, services will be offered at certain retail touchpoints before operations will be extended to other parts of Nigeria over the next few months.
“This is the beginning of our journey to revolutionise the financial services landscape in the country,” said Segun Ogunsanya, Airtel Africa’s chief.
The move is “to help further digitise the economy, and most importantly to help bank the unbanked by reaching the millions of Nigerians who do not currently have access to financial services by delivering current and savings accounts, payment and remittance services, debit and prepayment cards and more sophisticated services,” Mr Ogunsanya added.
Airtel Africa, listed in Lagos and London, announced receipt of full licence approval for the PSB unit from the Central Bank of Nigeria in April after years in the works.
Its mobile money business on the continent already carries a valuation of $2.65 billion on a cash and debt free basis, and a separate listing of that operation is in the pipeline, with management envisaging its delivery in three years.
The company, which operates in fourteen countries on the continent, is the African division of India’s second-largest telecom firm Bharti Airtel, founded by billionaire entrepreneur Sunil Mittal.
For last year, Airtel Africa’s profit after tax leapt by more than four-fifths to $755 million after revenue hit $4.7 billion.