According to the Association of Licensed Telecommunications Operators of Nigeria (ALTON), banks owe telcos 80 billion ($179.1 million) in Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD) fees as of November 2022.
Consequently, telcos may stop offering USSD services if Nigerian banks are unable to pay off these loans.
Banks employ USSD to provide financial services to everyone, particularly the underserved and financially disenfranchised without access to the Internet.
A little background information: In 2019, telecoms notified banks that they would no longer provide USSD services for free and that they wanted to charge clients 4.50k per 20 seconds instead.
Banks disagreed, and so the protracted argument started.
In March 2021, the debt owed to the telcos reached 42 billion ($94.03m), and they threatened
Isa Pantami, Minister of Communications and Digital Economy wrote to Godwin Emefiele, Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, requesting that banks settle their obligation. Additionally, he urged carriers to postpone their decision to stop offering their services.
Following a roundtable discussion, banks decided to lower the USSD transaction charge to $6.08, which would still be paid to the telecoms but would be collected by the banks.
Nothing seems to have changed since then.
According to Adebayo, the bank’s failure to pay would jeopardize the country’s cashless economy objective and have an impact on the economy