Nigerian Regulator Restores WorldRemit, 10 Other Money Transfer Operators

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Written by Kevin Mwanza

The Central Bank of Nigeria has given new operating licenses to 11 International Money Transfer (IMTOs) service providers, in efforts to open up the market and make foreign exchange readily available to the nation’s low income earners.

WorldRemit, a leading online remitter globally and which sent more than 40,000 transfers monthly to Africa’s biggest economy before it suspended its partnership with local correspondents over new regulations in early August, made a return to the West African nation in the new licensing round.

Other operators licensed by CBN include UAE Exchange Centre LLC, Wari Limited, Weblink Internal Limited, Small World Financial Services Group Limited, CP Express Limited, Fiem Group LLC DBA Ping Express, Cash Pot Limited, DT&T Corporation, Trans-Fast Remittance LLC and Wari Limited.

They join Western Union, MoneyGram and Ria Money Transfer that were cleared earlier this month by CBN, when it suspended hundreds of global remittance firms from operating in Nigeria.

“In furtherance of efforts to liberalize the Foreign Exchange Market, ensure liquidity and make foreign exchange more readily available to low end users, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has licensed more International Money Transfer Operators (IMTOs) to operate in Nigeria,” Isaac Okorafor, acting director of corporate communication at the financial regulator said in a statement.

Ismail Ahmed, founder and CEO of WorldRemit, commended the CBN fr restoring its operation license in the country, terming it as “commitment to building an enabling environment and level-playing field for international money transfer services to Nigeria”.

“The new environment will help to bring the estimated 50 percent of remittances to Nigeria that currently go through unregulated, informal networks into the formal channels,” Ahmed said in an emailed statement.

All the new money transfer operators were registered after meeting all the requirements contained in the Guidelines on International Money Transfer Services (2014) in the West African nation.

Operators in Nigeria are required to remit their foreign currencies to their agent banks to be converted to Naira (national currency) for further disbursement to users, according to a July circular from CBN, The Cable reported.

Profits from the foreign currency are sold to operators in the Bureaux De Change across the nation.

The move comes barely a month after financial regulator warned Nigerians, at home and in the Diaspora to be wary of operators who were illegally conducting operations, posing a danger to the economy.

Last week, through a circular titled ‘Illicit international money remittances through the banking system,’ CBN directed locals banks to scrutinize their clients before authorizing any transaction to ensure no illegal deals and remittances are conducted, Vanguard reported.

According to World Bank, Nigeria has the leading remittance from the diaspora on the continent, valued at $21 billion.

Africa’s biggest economy is also the most populous nation and presents a rich yet largely unexploited market for international money transfer service providers.