The Central Bank of Nigeria announced it would facilitate loans of up to NGN500 million ($1.4 million) to mobile money agents and registered companies in the sector as part of a plan to boost financial inclusion.

Loan terms will be up to ten years, with a proportion of the funds provided by outside investors. Interest rates will be 5 per cent per annum.

Larger mobile money vendor networks will be eligible to apply alongside registered members of the Super Agent scheme, which comprises companies allowed to sell services without a full banking licence.

Applicants must fulfil a list of other criteria including: not have any “non-performing facility” within the business; holding existing assets in at least ten states; having six months-worth of transaction data; and full compliance with relevant financial system rules.

The Central Bank said the policy would “enhance the capacity of the operators to roll out more financial access points across the 774 local government areas in Nigeria, particularly in the financially excluded locations”.

“Efforts by various governments, policy makers and regulators to increase access to finance have not yielded the desired result.”

The document detailing the loan provision was created at the end of 2018 as part of the country’s wider Shared Agent Network Expansion Facility initiative, but only made public this month.