Nigeria’s central bank digital currency, the e-Naira launched about fourteen days ago and amid several challenges and quite a low rate of adoption, the central bank digital currency has gotten off to quite a remarkable start.
The first challenge the e-Naira faced was a postponement in its launch date. This, in its own way, affected the seemingly non-existent faith that Nigerians had in the e-Naira and the government’s ability to launch it. According to the government, launching the e-Naira on the 1st of October would have affected the activities planned to commemorate Nigeria’s 61st independence anniversary. The central bank failed to release the new date for its launch not until weeks after, completely leaving the central bank digital currency’s advocates and citizens who were anticipating its launch in the dark.
The e-Naira finally launched on the 25th of October alongside its speed wallet for individuals and merchant wallet designed to hold the digital currency. Shortly after its launch, about twenty-four hours after, the e-Naira suffered some setbacks and its speed wallet for individuals completely disappeared from Google Playstore, the major download hub of apps for Android users. Speculations were that the wallet app was taken down over bad reviews and comments but it was later revealed by the Director of Corporate Communications, Osita Nwanisobi, that the app had been taken down from Google Playstore to fix some glitches. This is plausible because, although the app wasn’t taken down from Apple’s App Store, it had been updated.
Before it disappeared from Google Playstore, the e-Naira wallet had amassed over 100,000 downloads amid bad comments, low ratings and below-the-line reviews. The wallet had a rating of 2 out of 5 stars. On Apple’s App store the wallet had a rating of 2.5 out of 5 stars. The app also faced a lot of criticisms from Nigerians. Many people complained about many things like bad design to slow response to asking for private information, etc. One good thing about these complaints, however, was that the Central Bank provided immediate feedback/response to these complaints.
The e-Naira speed wallet had more downloads and reviews on Google Playstore than Apple’s App Store, and this is because more people using Android devices compared to the expensive and rather luxurious Apple devices. A user with the name Kingsley Iyamu complained about being unable to verify his Bank Verification Number on the e-Naira speed wallet app. Other users also complained about facing the same challenge. “I have repeatedly contacted your official social media customer care to complain about this issue of ‘BVN used too many times’ and they seem not to know what I am talking about. The error message of ‘BVN used too many times’ is your fault because you didn’t send the OTP so I had to register again. Is there a number or an email I can call to reset this?”, he wrote.
Other users complained about being unable to register their emails on the app. Ismail Bakare, another user, mentioned that “I did attempt signing up thrice with my email linked to my bank. The OTP wasn’t sent so I used another of my email which was successful…”.
A review from a user on Apple’s App store read “after downloading the app and signing up it kept issuing error, later I found out that my date of birth was not really correct, but it was horrible cos I picked the right year later I lookup to see it was not effective and I needed to enter it manually. Having done that, on clicking signup I saw there has been 3 attempts on the bvn, contact customer support, ok fine, where is the customer support? Can not be found. How is signup error would amount to contact support?? I think it should be when login details not correctly entered for multiple times, that then u issue such support refer”.
What this basically means is that the problems faced by individuals are all interwoven as the signup process involves providing a prospective user’s email, BVN and an OTP that would be sent to them.
Popular Nigerian tech YouTuber Fisayo Fosodu has been sharing his thoughts on the e-Naira and its related wallet. Ahead of its initial launch, the tech YouTuber tweeted that the e-Naira may not be launched on the 1st of October; the initial date set aside for its launch. Turned out he was right about the launch being postponed. Fisayo Fosodu, who has been repeatedly accused of being paid to promote the e-Naira, has constantly taken to Twitter to constantly share his ideas and observations about the e-Naira and its complementary speed wallet.
On the 27th of October he tweeted that “unfortunately, the e-Naira has launched with a really bad rating on the Playstore. Rated 1.9/5 from 2,904 people after around 100k downloads. Most of the errors are ‘email not attached to BVN’ errors which 3 of my own friends also experienced”.
Another tweet he shared that same day read “I successfully registered though and was able to activate my e-Naira wallet. Unfortunately, I’ve not been able to make any successful transaction yet from my bank but it will most likely be an update issue. He also attached screenshots, one showing that he had successfully registered and the other showing that an attempted transaction had failed.
He also tweeted observations about the e-Naira wallet. One tweet read “Lastly, if you sign up with the e-Naira using one bank, you might not be able to make transactions using your own account on other banks”. Another tweet noted that the app doesn’t work well on Android and that the help section link leads nowhere. The tweet also stated that “Support” leads to the CBN homepage via the app on iOS and was also not mobile-friendly. “This section of the e-Naira app is broken on Android, but the links work well on iOS. Support – Goes to CBN homepage (which is not mobile-friendly). Help – Simply has no link”, he tweeted alongside a video explaining this.
Another tweet of his, shared later that same day, was rather positive. “P2P works well on the e-Naira app btw. @PiousGeek sent me 50 eNaira. It seems it’s only GTBank users that have a good experience…”, the tweet said.
As of Sunday, the 7th of October, the e-Naira speed wallet app had a rating of 2.9 stars out of 5 from over 4,000 people on Google Playstore. Downloads had still not left the 100,000 mark.
On Apple’s App store, it ranked 23rd among other Finance apps. Ratings stood at 2.5 stars out of 5 from almost a thousand people.
Although a lot of work obviously still needs to be done about the e-Naira and its wallet, it has lots of prospective. The e-Naira, like any other central bank digital currency, could help make foreign and domestic remittances be completed seamlessly, narrow the financial inclusion gap among other things. For now, the e-Naira’s biggest challenge may be the rate of adoption which is quite poor for a country with 206.1 million people, as of 2020. The central bank could try raising the adoption rate by giving people a reason to use the e-Naira through incentives. For instance, after its adoption of Bitcoin as a legal tender, El Salvador dished out small amounts of the cryptocurrency to citizens to encourage them to use Bitcoin. This worked quite well amid huge criticisms, as the country reported 2.1 million people actively using the country’s Chivo Bitcoin wallet. Nigeria’s central bank could also try new sensitization programs aimed at making people more aware of the e-Naira and its benefits. Either way, a lot could be done by the central bank to increase the use of the e-Naira in the country.