Is e-Naira acceptance-jinxed?

The e-Naira was introduced over 10 months ago, but its acceptance by stakeholders has been, sort of, jinxed, writes ONYEKORMAKA ASABOR

Technology development has, among other innovations, birthed cashless societies in not a few countries across the world. Part of the innovations is electronic cash, also known as digital currency, which was proposed as one of the most important payment options.

On account of the promises it holds across consumer markets, Nigeria launched its own version called e-Naira, which fits into the Central Bank of Nigeria’s cashless policy, aimed at improving cross-border trade, expanding access to financial services, increasing remittances from a large diaspora base and ultimately boosting the economy.

Many believe that introduction of e-Naira is a product of the 2020 #EndSARS protests; when the government feared that the organisers were getting support from the Diaspora through Bitcoin and other crypto currencies. Then, the existing cryptos were banned by the CBN, which promised to provide a local, safer option.

Assessing the possibility of exploiting the promises, the CBN says half of Nigeria’s estimated 200 million people have been identified with no bank account. It claimed to be hoping to facilitate day-to-day transactions between business owners and their publics across the country through the digital currency.


Once seen as game-changer

Prior to the introduction of e-Naira, which is reputed as Africa’s first Central Bank Digital Currency, it was widely seen to be highly beneficial and dubbed a game-changer. While unveiling the e-Naira at the State House, Abuja, on Monday, October 25, 2021, President Muhammadu Buhari said it would increase remittances, foster cross-border trade, improve financial inclusion and enable the government to make welfare payments more easily.

Alongside innovation, he said, the adoption of a CBDC could improve economic activities and increase Nigeria’s Gross Domestic Product by $29bn over the next 10 years.

His words, “I am delighted to officially launch the CBDC called e-Naira. In so doing, we have become the first country in Africa and one of the first in the world to introduce a digital currency to its citizens.”

Ostensibly bitten by the bug of media hypes that heralded its launch to the banking public, Nigerians literally scampered to various online platforms to download the e-Naira app, and in just 95 days after it was launched, the downloads hit 694,000. A breakdown showed that the total downloads through iPhone Operating System stood at 136,000, while that of Android was 558,000.

Alas, over 10 months down the line, analysts and non-analysts wonder if e-Naira would be widely accepted by consumers and banks like the physical cash, which has been driving the traditional banking system and consumer markets over the years.

But the e-Naira is still struggling for acceptance amid an array of benefits listed by the Nigerian monetary authorities for individuals, businesses and not-for-profit entities. 


Consumer apathy 

It is far from exaggeration that since its introduction in October 2021, not a few Nigerians are at loss to how the e-Naira can be utilised, particularly at the grassroots end of the consumer market. 

Beyond any form of media hype and push-through, acceptance has not been impressive.  Though, this is not unexpected. 

Finance expert, Matthew Egwuenu, says, “The e-Naira has no particular advantage, except that it transfers potential risks, including Internet fraud, to holders of the e-Naira wallet.”

On why he has yet to download the e-Naira app, Kelvin Oluka, an insurer based in Ogun State, told Financial Street, “What is my business with e-Naira when I can easily source physical cash, either through withdrawal from the banks or payments in the course of my trade?” 

Rolly Onyedikachi, a Lagos-based patent medicine seller, said, “With the rate at which scammers operate, I will not put something reasonable in my e-Naira wallet, that is if government makes it compulsory.”

Against the backdrop, it is expedient to say that if the public opinion collected by Financial Street is anything to go by, it would not be out of place to say that the adoption of e-Naira is being dogged by apathy. The reason is not far-fetched, since e-Naira’s acceptability and circulation seem to not have met the expectations of the CBN and Nigerians in general, particularly as it has failed to entice merchants and banks.

Despite that its introduction and adoption were heralded by cheery messages that it would open new frontiers of profitable partnership for progressive innovations by the Deposit Money Banks and introduce a whole new market of digital currency users for financial institutions, the e-Naira is not getting the acceptance it deserves from Nigerians, including merchants and DMBs.


Still strange to vendors?

As Financial Street gathered, cashiers at Shoprite and Spar, who spoke on conditions of anonymity because they were not authorised to speak on the matter, said they weren’t aware of the existence of the e-Naira or how it would function.

Inquests at e-commerce giants, Jumia and Konga, also revealed that no provision had been made for e-Naira payment on their platforms.

A Konga agent, however, said, “We are working to ensure that this payment method becomes available. Once this is done, we will communicate it to our customers.”



A report by Omaplex Law Firm has it that the e-Naira acceptance across the country is threatened chiefly by poor mobile networks and limited spread of Internet-enabled devices.

The report, entitled ‘Omaplex 365: Nigeria 2022 socio-economic and technological outlook’, noted, “This is so because in most rural areas of Nigeria, network penetration is still heavily dependent on 2G and 3G networks, which spells difficulty for e-Naira transactions.

“Again, owing to the indigent status of a significant fraction of the Nigerian populace, owning Internet-enabled devices may be put on hold in favour of more immediate necessities. Accordingly, if the primary purpose of the creation and launch of e-Naira is to promote financial inclusion, the highlighted issues may pose a threat to achieving that goal.”

According to the report, a further concern associated with the launch of e-Naira is the attendant cyber security threats that may arise.

It stated, “Indeed, owing to the fact that the e-Naira is essentially digital, the threats of cybercriminals, compromised networks and possible data losses are all realities that must be tackled head-on.”

But e-Naira usage is low because the app is split into e-Naira speed wallet (non-business users) and e-Naira speed merchant wallet, with both recording about 600,000 downloads combined as at November 27, 2021, according to the CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele.


CBN’s position on acceptability versus reality

From the information gathered on the acceptability of the e-Naira, it would not be out of place to say that it is contrary to the chat with journalists on August 18, 2022 by the CBN boss at the grand finale of the e-Naira Hackathon in Abuja.

He said, “Since the launch of this great initiative, the e-Naira has reached 840,000 downloads, with about 270,000 active wallets comprising over 252,000 consumer wallets and 17,000 merchant wallets.

“In addition, volume and value of transactions on the platform have been remarkable, reaching above 200,000 and N4bn, respectively.”

Emefiele disclosed that despite the successes recorded on the initiative, the bank, in collaboration with private sector operators, has started the second phase of e-Naira.

Whether the table will eventually turn for Nigeria’s CBDC and it starts enjoying patronage like other crypto currencies is a question that hangs in the balance of time.

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