|Image Credit: The Punch|
"A new survey has revealed that only 400,000 people are registered with mobile money operators in Nigeria out of 28.6 million adults operating bank accounts in the country.
The survey, which was carried out by Enhancing Financial Innovation and Access, stated that 4.8 million adults were aware of mobile money but 400,000 people actually have registration with mobile money agents."
My grouse with this report is obvious. There can't be just 400,000 registered mobile money subscribers in Nigeria. Not unless Paga and Stanbic IBTC are actively padding their subscriber figures. Going by the latest numbers from just those two mobile money operators, 400k figure is patently false.
Not quite two weeks ago, I wrote about how Stanbic has jumped ahead of Paga in signups, citing their official figures of 600k and 350k respectively. And that's not even considering the users signed up to the other competing platforms. Even if we were to allow for severe user overlap across platforms, the figure should be waaaaay north of 500k, definitely not south of it.
Apart from the fact that the number defies current logic, I have two other bones to pick.
The first is that it's hard to verify. There are no links to the actual report. Which is hardly surprising -- it is the Punch we're talking about here. I've tried to get in touch with EFinA for comment, but so far nothing. I suspect that the said survey isn't necessarily wrong, likely just dated, and the Punch reporter was too lazy to grant us the benefit of that context.
The second is its significant potential to mislead. My first instinct was to ignore it as another example of nonsense journalism, but I can't leave well enough alone. You'd think that a platform that lays claim to being Nigeria's most widely read newspaper would take it upon itself to ensure that even a little journalistic rigour is applied to reports such as these. Because of that report, quite a few people will come off with the impression that there are indeed no more than 400k mobile money subcribers in Nigeria right now -- a figure should have been shown to be obviously erroneous in the presence of a little logic and Google. At the very least, the Punch could have contextualised their report on the EFinA survey with dates.
Unfortunately, this sort of slipshod reportage is fairly commonplace. The other day, I came across a November 2012 piece reporting that Nigerian smartphone adoption is now at 40 percent. 40 percent, really? I couldn't help wishing I was living in that reporter's parallel universe. Seriously, we need to try harder.
How many mobile money subscribers are in Nigeria? To be honest, that question is not easy to answer. Mostly because save for Paga and Stanbic, the operators have been stingy with the figures. But even the most uninformed guesstimate should put the number closer to a million, if not more -- it is certainly not 400,000. You don't need a survey to tell you that. Just a little back-of-the-envelope math.