Editor’s Note: November 14, 2018

Nigeria: Just too big to ignore?

South African mobile operator MTN, Africa’s biggest, has announced plans to apply for a mobile banking licence in Nigeria – hoping to deploy the service by Q2 2019.

The news is both exciting – Nigeria is Africa’s biggest untapped mobile money opportunity – and a bit confusing.

MTN is in a high profile dispute with the Nigerian government over $10.1bn of allegedly unpaid taxes and repatriated funds. It’s the latest in a series of standoffs, and has been identified as a risk to financial stability in South Africa.

Against this backdrop further entrenchment feels counter-intuitive, if not ill-advised.

But there is good reason for MTN’s persistence – Nigeria is too big to ignore. It’s the company’s single most important market with around 54m subscribers, and Africa’s biggest mobile market.

It’s a familiar dynamic. While Nigeria’s unpredictable policy and business environment is the source of much frustration, the country’s status as Africa’s biggest economy and most populous nation makes it an essential market.

The result is an unusually high tolerance level for dysfunction among business. Lucky for Nigeria, which often seems to go out of its way to frustrate the private sector.

But everything has limits. HSBC and UBS recently exited Nigeria amid falling investment and concerns about economic stagnation.

From The Continent

South African mobile operator Vodacom is considering partnering with Kenya’s Safaricom to explore investment opportunities in Ethiopia’s untapped telecoms market. The East African country of  around 100m people in June announced much-anticipated plans to liberalize the sector. More: Africanews

Inflation in Zimbabwe has hit a ten-year high of 20.85% according to the country’s statistics agency, jumping by 15.46% in October. The spike is being driven by a severe dollar shortage and price hikes for goods and services. MoreReuters

The Daily Stat

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The duration of a glitch caused by Nigerian telecoms company Main One that routed some of Google’s global internet traffic through China and Russia on Tuesday. More: Reuters

The Global Perspective

Music streaming company Spotify has launched its service in 13 new markets in the Middle East and North Africa, including Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia and Egypt. This follows its launch in South Africa - the first on the continent - in March. More: Variety

The World Bank has reportedly suspended a $300m loan to fund education in Tanzania due in part to a policy of expelling pregnant girls from schools. The move reflects growing unease about policy direction under the country’s populist president John Magufuli. More: CNN

The Daily Follow

CDC Group @CDCgroup: News and updates from the UK’s development finance institution.