Over the last few years, Open Banking has grown rapidly. The banking revolution has gained momentum worldwide, including in the ‘Giant of Africa,’ Nigeria.
Developments in Nigeria
The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) published the Regulatory Framework for Open Banking in February 2021, displaying guidelines for adopting Open Banking in the country and data sharing.
Building on this, in May 2022, the CBN released the Exposure Draft of the Operational Guidelines for Open Banking in Nigeria. The CBN has released detailed instructions on their responsibilities, expectations, data sharing, and customer experience standards.
Speaking to Marie Walker, Co-founder of Open Future World, she explains, “Open Banking in Nigeria is a fascinating prospect, not least in financial inclusion. While local fintechs are already building Open Banking infrastructure and innovative lending products, regulation and standardization will help drive this movement forward. The operational guidelines are therefore a welcome step which will be watched closely by the rest of Africa.”
The regulation will be through an Open Banking Registry (OBR) that provides oversight, enhances transparency in Open Banking operations, and ensures that only licensed institutions participate. They will be identified by their respective business registration numbers issued by the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC). Companies requesting access will have to comply with the Nigeria Data Protection Regulation.
The framework sets out standards for API Providers, Consumers, and Customers and covers:
- Payments and remittance services
- Collection and Disbursement services
- Credit v. Personal finance advisory and management
- Treasury Management
- Credit ratings/scoring viii. Mortgage
- Leasing/Hire purchase
With 206 million people and the highest remittances in Africa, Nigeria is currently the 7th most populous country in the world. In 2020, $17 billion was sent from abroad to Nigeria, according to the World Bank. Therefore, Open Banking could have a profound impact on many lives. Adedeji Olowe, founder of Lendsqr and Trustee of Open Banking Nigeria, agrees, “the average African adult would have access to more and better loans because Open Banking provides how lenders can have access to alternative data to compute the eligibility. The lack of credit history for the average African has been a barrier to date.”
There has already been rapid progress in banking in the country, as 45% of Nigerians are banked in 2020, up from 40% in 2018. The EFInA Access to Financial Services in Nigeria 2020 Survey found that 51% of Nigerians in 2020 have access to formal financial services, which include banks, microfinance banks, mobile money, insurance, and pensions, up from 49% in the previous year.
“More Africans could be lifted out of poverty as they access financial services through financial inclusion. With open banking, fintechs can easily open accounts and serve the excluded. Fintechs would bloom and grow as access to better APIs reduces the friction to their growth and ability to serve their customers,” Olowe continues.
Open Banking Risks
However, Olowe notes there are also risks to adopting Open Banking in the region. “Open banking is new and can be easily misused by bad actors – expect a spate of digital fraud to increase significantly.
There would be an increased number of data breaches and privacy issues as open banking opens the spigot to more data that can be easily misused.”
Indeed fraud remains a significant problem in the country. Sophos Group reported that 86% of Nigerian companies had been affected by cyberattacks recently. Although the Nigerian Cybercrime Prevention and Provision Act 2015 has been a useful deterrent, it has been largely inadequate in preventing the vulnerability of major institutions like banks.
The implementation of Open Banking initiatives is still in its infancy in Nigeria and worldwide. More still needs to be done by the regulators, banking industry, and the public to ensure consumers are ready and protected and that it is inclusive. Nevertheless, creating a cross-industry data-sharing ecosystem in Nigeria is an exciting and innovative project.