Many rural residents, including farmers in the outskirts of Abuja, Nigeria’s capital city, are facing significant challenges as the country’s digital economy continues to grow. Farmer Musa Yakubu, for example, encountered difficulties when trying to send money to his sister at a nearby hospital. Without mobile network services in his area, he had to physically provide cash. Additionally, the lack of electronic payment options hindered the sale of his palm fruits and other perishable produce. Mr. Yakubu attempted an e-payment method through a third party’s bank account, but it failed, resulting in lost sales. This story highlights the consequences of poor mobile telephony services on rural communities like Saimami.
Saimami, a village located in the Kuje area council of Abuja, presents an ideal rural setting for agricultural activities due to its mountainous topography. However, the absence of infrastructure, such as electricity, clean water, and accessible roads, exacerbates the lack of mobile phone network services. Consequently, the Yakubu family and others like them struggle to sustain their livelihoods. For example, Mr. Yakubu’s wife lost her firewood business when buyers no longer came, as they relied on electronic payment methods.
While Nigeria’s government aims to promote a cashless economy, rural communities like Saimami suffer the consequences. The country’s currency redesign policy, which reduced money supply and led to the removal of N2.3 trillion from circulation between October 2022 and February 2023, has particularly impacted rural areas. A Lagos-based organization estimated that the Nigerian economy lost approximately N20 trillion during this period, which further highlights the challenges faced by residents of Saimami.
Mobile banking transactions increased significantly during this time, reaching a record high due to the scarcity of cash. However, the lack of mobile network services in rural areas like Munu hindered many individuals from participating in mobile banking transactions. Lazarus Yunana, a farmer from Munu, emphasized the need for mobile network connectivity to engage in electronic money transfers and expressed frustrations with the unavailability of such services.
Inadequate broadband penetration further exacerbates the situation, as many rural Nigerians do not have access to e-banking services. Furthermore, the absence of government opportunities, such as agricultural loans and financial inclusion initiatives, compounds the challenges faced by rural communities like Saimami. The community members cannot benefit from programs like the Anchor Borrowers Programme due to the lack of bank accounts and banking services in their locality.
Poor mobile telephony services also pose additional risks, as they impede distress calls during emergencies. Insecurity in rural areas further compounds the issues faced by communities like Munu. Without reliable mobile network services, residents are unable to alert authorities or seek help during dangerous situations.
Overall, the lack of mobile network services in rural communities like Saimami and Munu has significant consequences for residents, hindering their ability to engage in digital banking and access essential services. The government and telecommunications providers must prioritize improving connectivity in these areas to ensure inclusive and sustainable development.