Main trends

The rise in uptake of smartphones in Nigeria has resulted in the use of several mobile apps. The SimilarWeb app store ranking for of September 2018 listed the following 25 apps in this order of ranking: 1) Whatsapp 2) Google Go, 3) Messenger 4) Instagram 5) Facebook Lite 6) Telegram, 7) Truecaller 8) Messenger Lite 9) Opera mini 10) AliExpress 11) Facebook 12) Xender 13) Opera news 14) Caller Location 15) Snapchat 16) Word Link 17) VSkit 18) StarTimes 19) 20) MyMTN 21) Word Cross 22) Period Calendar Cherry-Track menstrual period 23) Empty 24) Cheetah keyboard 25) Temple run.

On the other hand, despite the growth of mobile phone ownership in Nigeria, the uptake of mobile money has been, at best, limited. Cash remains the most popular form of payment in Nigeria. According to estimates of the Nigeria Central Bank, there are about 50 million unbanked Nigerians with only 6 percent of financial transactions in the country conducted through mobile money. The CBN has registered about 21 mobile money operators but only a few of them are active. Some of the active money operators are those operated by commercial banks such as United Bank for Africa/AfriPay (U-Mobile), Zenith Bank (EazyMoney); Guaranty Trust Bank (GTMobile Money), FirstBank/Pridar (First-Money), Stanbic IBTC (*909# Mobile Money) and Ecobank (Ecobank Mobile Money). However, Paga, a private operator, is the leading mobile money operator in Nigeria. Telecom operators adduce the poor penetration of mobile money in the country to the unwillingness of the CBN to allow mobile telecom companies to operate mobile money in the country.

In addition, there are other telecommunication-based platforms that have enabled subscribers to access services such as health advice, educational tools and government services. According to the GSMA report on digital inclusion and the role of mobile in Nigeria, mobile operators and local investors are leveraging mobile communication to deliver content to subscribers.

Some of these include:

  • the Nova-Lumos mobile electricity, a joint venture between MTN and Nova-Lumos to provide electricity to MTN subscribers resident in rural areas that are not connected to the electricity grid
  • the m4change programme, a e-health project that supports the health of pregnant women and new mothers in Abuja and Nasarawa state;
  • Glo-National Health Insurance, a partnership to enable Glo Subscribers to access healthcare in exchange for premia paid over the phone;
  • the Nokia Life+ English Teacher mobile app, a partnership with UNESCO that enables that allows primary school teachers access professional support free of charge;
  • iPolice, an e-government project enables Nigerians to report crimes and provide other information to the police.

Despite these laudable efforts of digital inclusion, a widening digital divide has emerged between rural areas and city centres. This is caused by the lack of requisite digital infrastructure for mobile telecommunication in rural regions.