BD Insider, Letter 134

In BD Insider, Letter 134, we examine Nigeria's plan to auction two additional 5G licenses, South Africa's crypto stance and why Wise is halting dollar transfers to Nigeria.

BD Insider, Letter 134
NCC 5G licence.

Last week, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) imposed an immediate visa ban on Nigerian nationals. The UAE did not disclose the reason for the ban. Prior to this complete ban, the UAE had attempted to restrict the flow of Nigerians into its country. They put forward a visa policy that denies Nigerians under the age of 40 tourist visas. The only caveat to that policy was for those applying for family visas.

This is a sad development and could impact Nigerian tech workers who are looking to emigrate to Dubai to benefit from its tax-free regime. Also, it could hinder and force big techs like Amazon, who want to hire for the EMEA region but situate their staff in Dubai, to rethink their strategy.

Anyway, we expect the Nigerian foreign affairs ministry to look into this.

In an unrelated development, Spotify has invested $100K into 13 African podcasts—including Nigeria's I Said What I Said and Tea With Tay—through its Africa Podcast Fund launched in May 2022.

MTN Nigeria has also disclosed its plan to invest $150K into 100 Nigerian SMEs through its Blow My Hustle initiative.

For Letter #134, we examine:

  • Nigeria's plan to auction two additional 5G licenses for $547.2 million
  • South Africa's latest and conflating crypto stance
  • why Wise (formerly, TransferWise) is halting dollar transfers to Nigeria

and other noteworthy information like:

  • the latest African Tech Startup Deals
  • BD Trivia: The odd one!
  • opportunities, interesting reads and more

The Big Three!

1.  Nigeria's telco regulator to auction two additional 5G licenses for $547.2 million

The News: The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has disclosed that it is auctioning the remaining lots of 2 x 100MHz in the 3.5GHz spectrum band to support 5G deployment in Nigeria.

NCC is the independent National Regulatory Authority for the telecommunications industry in Nigeria.

How it will work: According to an NCC Information Memorandum, the reserve price for the 10-year licence tenure is $273.6 million per slot. Applicants for the spectrum do not have to be licensed network operators in the country. Yet, they will need a unified access service licence (UASL) on or before January 23, 2023, if their bid is successful.

Licence requirement for successful 5G bidders in Nigeria

A Unified Access Services licensee can provide wireline as well as wireless services in a service area.

Reuben Muoka, NCC's Director of Public Affairs disclosed that the commission will hold a public consultation regarding this latest development on November 15, 2022.

Zoom out: Recall that, in February 2022, MTN Nigeria and Mafab Communications Limited made their full payment of $273.6 million each for a 5G spectrum licence after emerging winners of the 3. 5 GHz spectrum auction.

Although MTN has rolled out the 5G mobile network, Mafab suspended roll-out till December 2022, due to delays in receiving its UASL.

At the moment, less than 1% of mobile phone connections in Sub-Saharan Africa are on 5G. This number is not expected to grow this year but is likely to reach 7% in 2026, per a report by Ericsson, a Swedish networking and telecommunications company that partnered with MTN Nigeria for its 5G trial in 2019.

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The News: Starting October 19, 2022, South Africa's Financial Sector Conduct Authority (FSCA) declared crypto assets as financial products under the Financial Advisory and Intermediary Services (FAIS) Act.

Despite this recognition, FSCA's head of regulatory frameworks, Eugene Du Toit said that cryptocurrencies are not legal tender in the country.

The FSCA has also published a Policy Document supporting the Declaration. The Policy Document clarifies the Declaration's effect, including transitional provisions, and the approach the FSCA is taking in establishing a regulatory and licensing framework that would be applicable to Financial Services Providers (FSPs) that provide financial services in relation to crypto assets.

Why it matters: With this official recognition, FSCA and other regulators will be able to tackle crypto scams and protect customers.

What it means: Per the Declaration, Unathi Kamlana, the FSCA'S Commissioner, a crypto asset means a digital representation of value that:

  • is not issued by a central bank, but is capable of being traded, transferred or stored electronically by natural and legal persons for the purpose of payment, investment and other forms of utility;
  • applies cryptographic techniques;
  • uses distributed ledger technology.

In addition to the Declaration and Policy Document[pdf], the Authority also published a general exemption for persons rendering financial services (advice and/or intermediary services) in relation to crypto assets, from section 7(1) of the FAIS Act.

The exempted participants include crypto asset miners and node operators performing functions in respect of the security and health of the network as well as persons rendering financial services in relation to non-fungible tokens.

Zoom out: In July 2022, the South African Reserve Bank (SARB) also recognised cryptocurrencies as financial assets. With the aforementioned moves, South Africa has joined the list of other African countries with conflating crypto stance.

In the last letter, we told you that the Bank of Namibia (BoN) disclosed that although the Namibian Dollar is still the only recognised legal tender, merchants are allowed to accept payment in the form of cryptocurrencies.

Recall that in April 2022, the Bank of Uganda instructed all licensed entities to desist from facilitating cryptocurrency transactions. However, in an interview in May 2022, the Bank said that it "hasn’t banned cryptocurrency, we have simply applied some speed brakes".

In the same month, Nigeria's Security Exchange Commission said that entities that intend to offer crypto-related services or products in Nigeria must secure a Virtual Asset Service Provider (VASP) licence. This regulatory position contradicts the Central Bank of Nigeria's stance on cryptocurrency in the country.

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3. Wise halts dollar transfers to Nigeria

The News: Starting November 1, 2022, international money transfer operator, Wise (formerly TransferWise) will suspend dollar transfer transactions to Nigeria.

"Unfortunately, we can no longer support USD transfers to Nigeria. We’re doing this because we’re currently not able to offer our customers the service they’d expect from us," a Wise spokesperson stated.

Why this is happening: Analysts have speculated that beyond customer service issues, the recent foreign exchange (FX) restrictions by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) might be the reason behind the suspension.

In a bid to curb the FX shortage and the weakening of the naira, the CBN has been mopping up dollars in the market.

Recall that, the CBN in 2021 stopped dollar sales to Bureau De Change operators and instructed Deposit Money Banks (DMBs) to set up teller points in designated branches to serve FX requests for Personal Travel Allowance (PTA), Business Travel Allowance (BTA), tuition fees, medical payments, SMEs transactions amongst others, in order to meet legitimate FX demands.

The DMBs have not met up to these expectations thereby leaving a gap for black market operators to fill, many of these financial institutions have set caps on dollar transactions via local debit cards.  

Zoom out: In April 2016, Wise (then TransferWise) disclosed that it will no longer support Naira transfers, a decision that was preceded by an FX crisis.

Later in 2020, the CBN said that Wise and Azimo were both unauthorised as International Money Transfer Operators (IMTOs) in Nigeria.

Nigerian fintech, Rise on October 14, 2022, also informed its customers that it will "no longer provide FX to users who did not fund in FX or do not have non-Nigerian bank accounts"—Wise is probably Rise's provider.

This link is similar to the incidence with Union54, and several virtual dollar card providers in Africa.

🧩 BD Trivia

These logos have been arranged according to various sectors, pick the odd one out:

💰 State of funding in Africa

Moove is on the move! The mobility-fintech company secured £15 million ($16.7 million) from Emso Asset Management to scale up its UK operations. This is the fourth time the company has raised this year making it a total of $150 million—in equity and debt funding.

The table below details how African startups jointly raised over $79.20 million last week. Get free access to our carefully-curated, real-time updated Funding Database for 2022.

African startup deals from October 14 - 23, 2022. 

📚 Noteworthy

Here are other important stories in the media:

💼 Opportunities


Every week, we carefully curate open opportunities in Product & Design, Data & Engineering, and Admin & Growth.

Product & Design

Data & Engineering

Admin & Growth

Other opportunities

  • For law students interested in tech law: Vazi Legal Internship application for the 2022 Winter Cohort is open.


This Friday, October 28, 2022, by 7:00 PM (WAT), we are hosting a Twitter Spaces to discuss how startups can build and manage online communities.

The conversation will be led by David Adeleke, the Founder of CMQ Media; Peace Obinani, Product Marketing Manager at Piggyvest and Jeremiah Ajayi, Senior Content Marketer at Stears.

Set a reminder!

To advertise with us, please reach out to david@benjamindada[dot]com, and cc: hello@benjamindada[dot]com.  

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