The eNaira, Nigeria’s central bank digital currency (CBDC) issued by the Central Bank of Nigeria as a legal tender was made available to the public on October 28, 2021, despite several initial postponed launch dates. And with over a month since its debut, the country’s ‘digital currency’ has not really generated as much buzz as it should and worse, its users’ ratings have perhaps given an idea on why the launch was too early.
Despite the hope that the government is finally leaning towards technology and innovation, many have vowed never to patronize the digital currency since it is the brainchild of a government whose policies have largely been anti-youth and anti-people.
In this post, the FinancialSlot team studies a handful of indicators that suggests that the country’s digital currency could be a white elephant project at the end of the day.
1. Government vs. The Youths
The Buhari-led regime has never hidden its disdain towards the Nigerian youths since the former military dictator assumed power in 2015. Ironically, the youths whom the president’s party, the APC, built their manifesto around in 2015 would soon come to be internationally known as ‘lazy and uneducated’ according to Muhammadu Buhari at a Commonwealth event in London in 2018. While the youths lashed out at the president across social media platforms and the presidency claiming the president did not mean ‘all youths’ but ‘most’, the relationship of the country’s number one citizen and the youths have gone frosty ever since.
Perceived persecution of government agencies against the youths and the silence of the government has further deepened the crack between the country’s youths and her government. With the youths making up 45.54% of the country’s population, every move of the government, particularly unfavourable, is seen as an assault and an attempt at frustrating them.
Ironically, the Nigerian government needs the youths in order to make the eNaira a success. With the ever frosty relationship between the duo, nearly half the country’s population who hold the largest share of internet users in the country could easily frustrate the government’s innovation.
The #EndSARS protest that rocked the country in October 2020 will definitely go down as one of the most organized protests in the history of Nigeria. From pent up anger over incessant police brutality to calls to demands for good governance and calls for the resignation of President Buhari. The clampdown on the country’s youth in order to prevent a spiralling revolution ended up worsening an already terrible relationship between youths that have had enough of its government and a government that failed to diplomatically handle the situation.
A section of the youths believes activities of the #EndSARS gave rise to the creation of the digital currency; something the government could control, similarly with blocking of bank accounts associated with the #EndSARS protest.
3. Crypto ban
Before cryptocurrency was banned by the government, Nigeria was the largest crypto market in the world, with 32% of respondents. An excerpt from an article on Yahoo! News reads:
Africa’s largest economy is the king of cryptocurrency. In Nigeria, 32% of respondents — nearly 1 in 3 — report having used or owned one type of crypto or another in 2020. By comparison, just 6% of Americans reported the same.
According to Bitcoin.com, Nigeria’s unique culture and circumstances are fueling the trend. One of the biggest influencers is poverty, a condition suffered by 87 million of Nigeria’s 200 million people — and crypto transactions are cheap. Another reason for the trend is that Nigerians are much more likely to make payments and send money using their phones. Finally, double-digit inflation is the rule, not the exception, in Nigeria, and cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, which are capped to a finite number of coins, serve as a hedge against inflation.
The ban on cryptocurrency in Nigeria not only bit hard on a section of the country’s youths who had found ways to financially empower themselves but also complicated and further gave rise to the number of unemployed and poor Nigerians. The government’s move to swiftly ban crypto during the now-iconic protest further affirmed that it was not on the side of the youth; a belief that most youths who have chosen not to patronize the eNaira still hold firm. “Placing a ban on cryptocurrency and launching a digital currency/wallet using blockchain technology is akin to taking five steps backwards and a step forward,” says a Tweep who claimed he is on a mission to discourage youths from using the government’s digital currency.
What’s worse is that the government, through the CBN not only monitored or came down heavy on crypto traders, those who have at some point traded cryptocurrencies also had their accounts permanently blocked by their respective banks.
4. Debit card/bank app tautology?
Some have claimed the eNaira is irrelevant since traditional banks provide both debit cards and bank apps, which work exactly like the eNaira and even better. Despite being a digital currency, funding of the eNaira wallet can be done through your regular bank app from your bank account, via cash through an eNaira verification agent, or over the counter at a designated bank branch or a SANEF agent. Question is, “why go through all these stress just to fund a wallet when your debit card or bank app can conveniently do it?”, “what special advantage does the eNaira wallet hold over monies in bank apps/accounts?” In reality, the answer is NONE. Although, the CBN claims it is accepted nationwide but this is not the case for online shopping/payment required sites.
If anything, the supposed innovation of the eNaira in the area of outperforming debit cards or bank apps and serving as a better, more efficient payment platform is a huge miss. On the issue of withdrawal from wallets, several users have claimed they found it difficult to withdraw. This and more can be seen directly in the reviews against the app on Google PlayStore.
5. Nigerians’ perception of the government
Nigeria’s government of the day has clearly moved against technology and innovation and has antagonized youth-centric technology businesses and even ended up crippling them through deliberate policies and immediate laws. Some of these companies have been forced to relocate abroad in order to stay afloat. Twitter’s decision to establish its African HQ in Ghana instead of Nigeria cemented not just what Nigerians thinks of her government but also what the international community believes. As a matter of fact, most youths on Twitter and other social media platforms hailed Twitter for the ‘smart move’ which did not exactly go down well with the government.
The perception Nigerian youths have of her government is simple; if the Nigerian government is overseeing it, involved or is a partner then it cannot be good, tech or no tech.
6. Terrible users’ experiences
Since its launch on October 28, 2021, the eNaira has enjoyed over a hundred thousand (100,000+) installs and currently has 3.2 ratings from over five thousand reviews. However, there is no denying that the launch was either rushed or that the CBN team tasked with overseeing to the project handed it to baby developers as there are over a thousand complaints about the app’s functionality—almost pointing to the same thing.
Almost all the negative reviews against the app stem from login/registration issues, ‘already used BVN’, OTP issues, and email verification links taking as long as 72 hours! Below are some user reviews against the app:
Since after successful sign up, I’ve not been able to sign in, after several emails and calling customer care, nothing has been done about it. I think the takeoff of this app was rushed without test running its smooth operation. Updates to enable the app function smoothly is necessary especially on the issue of signing in among other issues.- Atang Adams
Hello…I really don’t understand. The initial time you guys launched I tried to register there was no room for inputting email address and I guess the profile was created. Now that the stuff has been corrected, I am unable to login or reset my password because there was no room in the first place to put in my mail. If I try to create a new account it tells me I already have an account with the bvn. How can I have an account that I have no access to? – Chuks Stephen
I hardly give a low rating but this app deserve even less than a star. Update is almost everyday, why the urgency in rushing the app out for use. It’s difficult to fund the app. Infact it’s not accepting transfer from some bank app. After several attempt, I was debited but nothing is in my wallet. An ordinary wallet with only holding features (just deposit & withdrawal) from banks app yet not working properly….mtchew. It’s even better we keep transferring to ourself with our banks apps sef – Adeboye Adenyi
It is so frustrating that I registered expecting the OTP/token delivered to my email provided with my account number and bvn, only for the app to disappear on playstore and after it restored back I updated the app only to find out that the bank account have been registered still all effort to login prove abortive. I tried forgot password still I could received any mail or link for password reset. This is absolutely rubbish. Why can’t we get things done rightly in this country? This is sad. – Ahmed Abayomi Fasasi
Seeing so much complaints discourages anyone from registering this thing! I’ve been hearing about the lunch of this digital currency and just today I said let me see what is like, and yeah I’m not surprised that this is another disappointment as usual from FGN and I’m wondering why the lunch when you know you’re not ready?.BTC is doing fine you banned it to bring this trash that won’t work ever!!! You guys should better shot this nonsense down and stop wasting our time and data!!! – Saviour Enema
7. Unavailability of eNaira as a payment gateway
With the unavailability of the eNaira as a payment gateway, it is almost impossible to believe it will enjoy committed patronage beyond two years since online shopping is now the norm across Nigeria. As a digital currency with no online gateway feature, the eNaira clearly stands no chance when compared to both debit cards and bank apps as these two can conveniently be used to checkout on Nigerian shopping platforms.
8. Internet access before usage
Although, it is expected that a digital currency would require internet access before usage. A turn off as some claim is having to periodically login into the app to carry out transactions. In the absence of internet availability, one is temporarily cut off from it.