Citigroup Inc. said Nigeria’s efforts to crackdown on identity theft are making it more attractive to start a consumer banking business in Africa’s most-populous country.
More banks are rolling out consumer banking in Nigeria because individuals dealing with banks in Africa’s biggest economy are increasingly “who they say they are,” Akinsowon Dawodu, chief executive officer of Citibank Nigeria Ltd., said in an interview. A lack of security around identification has been an impediment to personal banking in the country in the past, he said July 3 in the commercial capital, Lagos.
Nigeria’s central bank is requiring customers to provide fingerprint identification, a system it started introducing with commercial lenders in February 2014. A deadline for customers to get bank verification numbers has been extended to Oct. 31 so that Nigerians living abroad can enroll. People who don’t comply will lose access to their accounts, the regulator says on its website.
The system, combined with a growing network of credit bureaus that collect information on customers, “makes the consumer proposition fairly viable,” Dawodu said.
An entry into consumer banking would enable lenders to market products like personal loans and mortgages in the West African nation of 170 million people, where the New York-based bank provides corporate banking services. The economy in Nigeria, Africa’s biggest oil producer, is forecast by the government to grow 3.9 percent this year.
Citi itself doesn’t plan to enter consumer banking in the country, Jeffrey French, a London-based spokesman, said in an e-mail on Tuesday.
The central bank said in June last year that the absence of a unique identifier had curbed growth in credit cards and credit-related products. The bank verification number system is intended to combat cybercrime and identity theft, among other offenses, it said.
The credit bureaus were conceived to strengthen risk management at banks after a debt crisis caused by loans to stock speculators and fuel importers threatened the industry with collapse in 2008 and 2009.
(In an earlier version of this story, Citi corrected statement made by Nigeria CEO in second, fourth, fifth paragraphs that company is looking at starting consumer banking in the country.)