Airtel Africa added banking services to its portfolio of Smartcash Payment Service Bank services in Nigeria, building on a domestic remittance-based set-up launched in May as it seeks to enhance financial inclusion in the country.

At a launch event in Lagos, Airtel detailed the bank will now provide services including international remittance alongside issuing debit and prepaid cards.

It stated Smartcash Payment Service Bank aims to bridge the urban-rural financial divide in Nigeria, the operator’s largest market in Africa.

Airtel Africa CEO Segun Ogunsanya remarked the launch will bring “millions of people” into the “financial community”, along with delivering “convenience to those already financially included”.

Previously, traditional banks have dominated Nigerian financial services rather than the operator led models widespread in other countries.

Ogunsanya noted driving digital and financial inclusion in Africa was a “core business focus” for Airtel.

“We are now ready for take-off. Platforms and systems are ready and tested, staff have been on boarded and trained, and distribution platforms have been set up.”

Airtel aims to expand the Smartcash Payment Service Bank beyond Nigeria in the coming months.

The operator and rival MTN first received in-principle approval from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to commence providing mobile money services in the country in November 2021.

Airtel received a full Payment Service Bank licence from CBN in April.