mobile money, WHO | Mobile money can boost immunisation in Nigeria, Technology Times

WHO | Mobile money can boost immunisation in Nigeria

WHO | Mobile money can boost immunisation in Nigeria

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World Health Organization (WHO) says that field experience has shown that mobile money can bring efficiency into immunisation campaigns in Nigeria.

Ibrahim Al-Asi Abdullahi, Finance Officer with WHO made this known to participants at the Brand Journalists Association of Nigeria (BJAN) 4th Annual Brand & Marketing Conference on “Mobile Money in Nigeria” held in Lagos.

Abdullahi who likened mobile money to the “magic portion to all the challenges associated to immunization campaigns in Nigeria.”

According to him, “WHO believes that there is need for rapid mobile money system uptake as the system would help “reduce cost, ensure beneficiaries are paid the right amount at the right time with an audit trail as well as avoid all the crowding at payment sites.”

He told attendees at the event that WHO partnered the Federal Government of Nigeria through the Federal Ministry of Health and other development partners to undertake intensive immunization campaigns against polio and other vaccine preventable diseases.

The WHO Finance Officer is of the opinion that “looking at Mobile Money as a banking service appears elitist with beneficiaries being redirected to the formal banking channels” and in such a situation, “what is the fate of the rural man at Ngaski, Isin, Borgu or Doguwa?”

mobile money, WHO | Mobile money can boost immunisation in Nigeria, Technology Times
Mobile phones on display at Ikeja Computer Village in Lagos

Abdullahi explains that since 2004, the organisation has been tasked with the payment of the ad-hoc personnel engaged in the various supplemental immunisation campaigns.

He revealed that in a national campaign involving all the 36 States and the Federal Capital Territory,  378,890 ad-hoc personnel are engaged and paid, explaining that these beneficiaries are grouped into 272 payment point spread across the states with turnover rate per round being around 20-30%.

According to him, “Cash is still the dominant mode of payment and the cost of operating these payment centers for every round is about N73million. WHO pays about N210million to supplement the transport allowance to the beneficiaries to travel to the payment sites.

“Some payments sites pay as much as 7000 beneficiaries in a day posing enormous security risk especially in the North-East. Added to all these, we have to contend with the logistical nightmare of CIT services especially in the North Central, North-East and North-West States.

Abdullahi says that this cost can be drastically reduced and the immunisation  process can be made easy if mobile money system is adopted in Nigeria.

The WHO Finance Officer further noted that the organisation commenced a pilot payment with Mobile Money to a group of beneficiaries in Kaduna and Kano States in May 2015, and the experience has been mixed and tempered the organization’s enthusiasm.

Stressing the major challenges associated to immunisation campaigns in Nigeria, he says that , “public awareness is still very low. For many of our beneficiaries, they are only hearing about mobile money for the first time.

“The second major challenge is that of identification of beneficiaries. Whereas in countries where successes have been recorded with Mobile Money, wallets were tied to a National ID card database, we do not have a validation platform of who actually own a mobile number. Mobile Money require trust to succeed, unfortunately, this challenges makes it open to fraud.

He also notes that “the literacy level of a large number of our beneficiaries is very low or zero in some instances. Changing OTP or operating the wallet is a big challenge. Large swats of rural areas still do not have mobile network and some networks charge N4 for every USSD message to transact.”

Also, for mobile money to take off, “agents have to be on-boarded specifically to cater for our needs and we are restricted to only agents of our service provider.”

According to him, “the cost of transaction is also a concern as it ranges from 150-300 to transfer within the band of N5,000.”

Abdullahi further revealed that WHO recently did some assessment of beneficiaries in Kano and Kaduna and found that 97% actually owned mobile phones and this, according to him, “is a great positive for Mobile Money considering their demographics.”

According to the WHO exec, “we have witnessed a high level of enthusiasm from beneficiaries over the prospect of taking their destinies in their hands with mobile wallets as against cash payments. We have observed a developing savings culture on the wallets or the migration to the formal banking sector. We are hoping that in spite the challenges, 2017 will see massively migrating to Mobile Money payments.”

Speaking on the bank-led model of mobile money system adopted by the Central Bank of Nigeria, Abdullahi says that “comparing with other countries with a higher success rate with Mobile Money, is the bank focused Mobile Money framework adopted in Nigeria achieving the desired impact of deepening the Mobile Money ecosystem?

The WHO Finance Officer is of the opinion that “looking at Mobile Money as a banking service appears elitist with beneficiaries being redirected to the formal banking channels” and in such a situation, “what is the fate of the rural man at Ngaski, Isin, Borgu or Doguwa?”

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Elizabeth Edozie Technology Journalist @Technology Times 08077671659 elizabeth.edozie@technologytimes.ng