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Mobile money overtakes cash in Somalia

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By Margaret Njugunah

Approximately 155 million mobile money transactions worth US$2.7 billion are conducted in Somalia every month, making it one of the most active mobile money markets in the world.

According to a World Bank finding, mobile money has superseded the use of cash in the country, with over 70 percent of adult Somalis using mobile money services regularly.

Somalia outpaces most African countries in the market, despite its fragility and underdeveloped financial institutions.

Lead ICT policy specialist at the World Bank Tim Kelly says private sector actors have given Somalia a unique opportunity to leapfrog towards widespread financial inclusion.

Read also: Paystack secures $8 million Series A funding round

“World Bank will continue to support the partnership between the Central Bank of Somalia, the National Communications Authority and the key private sector actors as they deliberate on an appropriate regulatory framework for the sector,” Kelly said.

The country, however, lacks robust consumer protection and know-your-customer requirements.

The challenge for policymakers and regulators is how to mitigate system vulnerabilities and avoid macroeconomic effects in the event of service disruptions.

“Reducing costs and promoting greater stability is a top priority for the overall development agenda for the financial sector, ensuring that regulation does not stifle innovation by leveling the playing field is a very close second,” said Thilasoni Musuku, Senior Financial Sector Specialist at the World Bank Finance, Competitiveness and Innovation Global Practice.

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Nigeria’s inflation increases to a record 28-year high in May

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According to official figures released on Saturday, Nigeria’s annual inflation reached a record 28-year high of 33.95% in May, exacerbating the hardships that have stoked popular ire against President Bola Tinubu’s economic reforms.

Inflation increased for the eighteenth consecutive month, up from 33.69% in the previous month.

Tinubu’s measures, which primarily cut energy and gasoline subsidies and devalued the naira twice in a single year, have increased price pressure.
Labour unions, who asked for a new minimum wage through an industrial strike that was called off after two days, have maintained that the reforms disproportionately affect the poor and have left millions of people facing the biggest cost-of-living crisis in decades.

The National Bureau of Statistics data indicated that in May, food and non-alcoholic beverages remained the main drivers of inflation.

The majority of Nigeria’s inflation was driven up by food prices, which increased to 40.66% from 40.53% in the previous month. Analysts say the major causes of Nigeria’s inflation are rising food prices and a declining value of the naira.

The report read, “In May 2024, the headline inflation rate increased to 33.95% relative to the April 2024 headline inflation rate which was 33.69 per cent. Looking at the movement, the May 2024 headline inflation rate showed an increase of 0.26 per cent compared to the April 2024 headline inflation rate.

“On a year-on-year basis, the headline inflation rate was 11.54 per cent points higher compared to the rate recorded in May 2023, which was 22.41 per cent. This shows that the headline inflation rate (year-on-year basis) increased in May 2024 when compared to the same month in the preceding year (i.e., May 2023).

For the third time this year, the central bank increased interest rates in May in reaction to the ongoing increase in inflation. Rates will remain high for as long as it takes to reduce inflation, according to Governor Olayemi Cardoso.

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Nigerian court voids tax evasion charges against executives of Binance

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A Nigerian court dismissed tax evasion charges against two executives of Binance on Friday, following the appointment of a local agent by the largest cryptocurrency exchange in the world to represent it in all legal proceedings about the accusations.

The accusations of tax evasion were refuted by Binance, Tigran Gambaryan, an American citizen who oversees financial crimes compliance for the company, and Nadeem Anjarwalla, a regional manager for Africa and a native of Kenya.

The court’s ruling, according to Binance, demonstrated that Gambaryan was “not a decision-maker at Binance and does not need to be held for Binance to resolve issues with the Nigerian government.”

“We await the court’s ruling on this, discharging Tigran from this matter completely,” a Binance spokesperson said.

Last month, an Abuja court determined that Gambaryan, who is representing Binance, might potentially face trial in the tax evasion case. When its executives were invited to Nigeria and then detained as part of an anti-crypto campaign, Binance CEO Richard Teng accused the country of setting a dangerous precedent in May. The company is opposing the proceedings because it allegedly evades taxes and launders money.

Binance and its executives, Gambaryan and Nadeem Anjarwalla, a British Kenyan who works as Binance’s regional manager for Africa, are accused of four counts of tax evasion. Failing to register for taxes with Nigeria’s Federal Inland Revenue Service is one of the allegations.

Anjarwalla departed the nation in March, but Gambaryan has been detained since February. The two executives were dropped from the tax evasion lawsuit by Nigeria’s Federal Inland Revenue Service, but they and Binance are still accused of money laundering.

Binance declared that the allegations ought to be withdrawn. Both Anjarwalla and Gambaryan refute these accusations as well.

Nigeria has laid the blame for its currency problems on Binance. The country’s currency sank to a record low as a result of persistent dollar shortages, and cryptocurrency websites became the preferred means of trading the naira.

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