USSD payment platform opens up Nigeria’s mobile banking channel


Management at Nigerian FinTech-focused firm Guaranty Trust Bank (GTBank) has confirmed that the total value of transactions processed on its USSD-enabled payment and service delivery platform has exceeded NGN1 trillion.

GTBank’s 737 platform is a USSD-based service delivery channel and its success prompted several other Nigerian banks to rollout their own USSD-powered mobile banking services, according to MD Segun Agbaje.

“Within a year of the introduction of the service, the bank recorded an uptake of over three million customers, with over N1 trillion in transaction on the platform. The platform had gained ubiquitous acceptance and global recognition,” said Agbaje.

Agbaje says part of the reason for the platform’s success has been its accessibility on all types of mobile phones – unlike banking apps that can only be used by a limited number of subscribers who can afford them.

The concept has been a key motivation for FinTech startups eager to partner with telecoms companies and banks, to rollout USSD-based value-added services – but who have been largely unsuccessful due to the reluctance of telecoms and regulators to open up the channels to startups preferring to support banks instead.

Commenting on the success of GTBank’s service, Lanre Adeloye, Co-Founder of health startup SaferMom, said only companies like GTBank could afford the process involved in rolling out USSD services in Nigeria – acquiring the short code itself he said is expensive and beyond the reach of many startups.

“Even when startups are able to raise the funds required, it often takes a longer time, a minimum of six weeks, before they can procure the short code. And after the short code has been paid for, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) can easily shut it down at will. Most VAS providers want to make quick money and they are always looking for companies who will launch a USSD service with high volume. ” Adeloye said.

The success potentials of the USSD platform is one of the channels that the GSMA has enjoined telecoms companies and startups to aggressively pursue in order to enhance partnerships in the ecosystem.

In its report on Building Synergies: How Mobile Operators and Start-ups Can Partner for Impact in Emerging Markets, the GSMA urged operators to offer a wide range of tools that startups can use to achieve growth