Cashless Lagos: 62,095 PoS Terminals Turns Inactive
Indications are that there are about 62, 095 unused Point of Sale (PoS) terminals in the Cashless Lagos initiative of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) amid poor connectivity and downtime. This could have far reaching implications as it could hamper the success of the scheme aimed at reducing the amount of physical cash circulating in the economy and encouraging more electronic-based transactions.
A PoS terminal is an electronic device used to process card payments at retail locations. The managing director and chief executive officer, Nigeria Inter-Bank Settlement System (NIBSS) Plc, Adebisi Shonubi, said the clearing house had registered 151,717 PoS terminals on its platform but lamented that only 88,622 units had been deployed as at July 1, 2012. This, according to him, leaves 62,095 registered PoS inactive.
He said: “PoS deployment had been on the increase since December 2011 and the cumulative number of PoS deployed and connected to the Nigeria Inter-Bank Settlement System Plc stood at 88,622 as at July 1, 2012. “This represents an increase of over 100 per cent above the 5,992 recorded as at end of January 2012. The target of purchasing at least 10,000 PoS terminals per vendor has been met for three vendors.” He said that registered PoS on the NIBSS network had reached an all time high at 151,717 at July, 2012. The CBN head of shared services, Chidi Umeano, said though registered PoS on the NIBSS platform had reached 151,717, the “gap between registered vs. deployed, is mostly due to lack of capacity on the part of the PTSPs to meet the demand.”But the NIBSS boss highlighted infrastructure challenges such as power and telecommunications as major factors hindering deployment of PoS in Lagos. He specifically identified incessant GPRS network downtime as a major huddle to be crossed in PoS deployment, saying “every voice network downtime translates to GPRS downtime.” He blamed the telecoms operators for consistent PoS downtime and said many telcos had been engaged to provide workable PoS connectivity solutions. He said NIBSS had made available various technologies such as GPRS, Wi-Fi, CDMA, DSL, LAN to ensure reliable PoS operations.
The Partner/Advisory, KPMG, Bisi Lamikanra, decried the insufficiency and unevenly spread of the over 80,000 PoS deployed in Lagos, adding that there was also the frequent instances of PoS terminals deployed but yet to be configured and setup for use. She particularly detested the difficulty in completing PoS transactions due to frequent network downtime. The Executive Director, Business Development, NIBSS, Christabel Onyejekwe, lamented the slow adoption of the cash-less economy initiative in Lagos. She identified poor awareness on the part of the operators, especially in the informal sector as one of the major problems, adding that there were also challenges with interoperability of networks from the telecommunications operators.
Onyejekwe, however, said that the NIBSS was currently working with the CBN on capacity building for operators, especially the PoS merchants. According to her, the technicalities of mastering the usage of the PoS terminals and other technologies deployed are among the challenges, but stressed that “the training we are presently carrying out will help to tackle that challenge.” She said, “There are still challenges with awareness creation that will drive this initiative. I think we are yet to really enter the informal sector, because the bulk of adoption will come from them. Also, I can say that there are still issues with the interoperability of networks, I mean from the telecommunications operators. The networks are not fast and cheap, as we would have wanted. But I think we are looking at that now.
“The Lagos initiative started on a low pace, adoption has not been at a faster rate and the challenges are obvious. We can’t say we have recorded the required penetration looking at the population of Lagos. We started this race in August last year, but the belief is that by the time we overcome these challenges in Lagos, implementation in other parts of the country won’t really pose a major challenge.” According to her, the CBN/NIBSS training for PoS merchants started some months back and will likely run up until the end of the year. Onyejekwe, who reiterated that there were many challenges facing the cash-less initiative, said, “We are sure that it is going to be a successful process. The awareness will be hyped and there will be more PoS installed in major areas of the country. ATMs too will be deployed in abundance and we shall also encourage usage of payments cards.”
She said that the NIBSS had partnered with the entire telecommunications firm on GPRS services, adding that they were looking at the issue of price reduction. The CBN had set a target of 2015 for the deployment of over 400,000 PoS. It also hoped to accelerate PoS density in the country to 2,247 per 100,000 people by the end of this year. According to the CBN, the PoS density per 100,000 people in Nigeria is 13; India’s is 67; Uganda, 453; Namibia, 338; Malaysia, 1,063; and South Africa, 1,063. The target for Nigeria, according to the bank, is to meet Brazil’s PoS deployment rate of 2,247 per 100,000 people by 2015.
– Business Day