South Africa’s MTN, Looking To Build A Monopoly, Blocks Access To USSD Services For Nigerians

April 2, 2021
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Fresh off its hiking of transfer charges on USSD and just over a year after the Nigerian government somewhat pardoned it for not paying over $2 billion in dodged taxes, MTN is looking to drive Nigerian SMEs who sell data and airtime out of business.

The South African behemoth, which is said to have illicitly repatriated nearly $10 billion from Nigeria, has compelled SMEs who aggregate data and airtime sales to push only MTN platforms while at the same time cutting down commissions on sales. Knowing that such an action would bring undue inconvenience to millions of Nigerian, MTN told the hapless partners to “pacify Customers and educate them to use MTNToplt, MoMo channels, as well as the debit card options on MOD or myMTN App.”

MTN, like most South African companies operating in the country, has always seen Nigeria as just a cash cow. Not only has it long sought to monopolize the Telco space, it nearly paralysed Nigeria’s nascent renewable energy sector when it tried to push out independent inverter retailers with its disastrous battery product, and over the past few years has been trying to get its hand on the cash deposits of Nigerians. Meanwhile, even South Africans don’t seem to trust MTN; for example, at the end of 2019, MTN’s revenue grew by 12.6% in Nigeria and 22.9% in Ghana, but in South Africa, revenue only grew by 0.4%.

The biggest casualties of MTN’s aggressive exploitation of Nigeria are not just the SMEs who are seeing their commissions constantly cut down till they die out of business; ordinary Nigerians bear the biggest brunt, without even knowing it. Nigeria has among the most expensive mobile data prices in the world, more than 10 times what Indians pay. Telcos like MTN take advantage of their massive size to keep the price of data high so that they can keep extracting money from unsuspecting citizens and a hapless country, all the while repatriating all the money to South Africa and not paying their fair share in taxes. It is yet to be known if for once, the Nigerian government and even big private institutions will stand up and stay strong to this drowning of Nigerian SMEs and daylight robbery of the country.

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