Mrs. Chika Nwachukwu, a petty trader, has never operated a bank account before because she works from dawn to dusk and does not have time to visit the banking hall to deposit money.

As a result, she spends money on things unplanned for, loses money or keeps it in less than ideal places.

Many people like her belong to the un-banked population of Nigerians estimated to be about 80 million as statistics show that less than 22 million bank accounts actually exist in the country's banking industry.

This limited access to financial services provided by the banks, according to Nwachukwu, stunts her drive to self reliance.

However, the news that MoneyBox, a mobile money transfer service, newly introduced to Nigeria, will give her the opportunity to save money, make payments, transfer funds, deposit and withdraw cash through her mobile phone; gives her hope that respite is underway.

For the purpose of enlightening people like Nwachukwu better, the Managing Dircetor, MoneyBox Africa, a mobile money operator approved by Central Bank of Nigeria, Mr. David Kaye, recently cornered by our correspondents, describes the product as an innovative savings and payment system based on the use of scratch card and enabled by any mobile phone.

He says, 'Our product, MoneyBox, puts people in control of their financial transactions, making it possible to execute those transactions using any mobile phone, anywhere, anytime, on any network, with any bank and by any individual.'

Kaye adds that the product is a very accessible one in that it requires minimal documentation, 'easy as buying a scratch card; and as fast as sending SMS.'

According to him, it delivers immediate transaction confirmations to senders and receivers thereby boosting relationships between friends, family and business partners, most especially between the bank and the un-banked.

So for Nwachukwu, all she needs, according to Kaye, is to purchase MoneyBox scratch card for the amount desired to be saved and remotely send the money to the desired bank account.

Speaking on how it works, the Chief Finance Officer, MoneyBox Africa, Mr. Damien Oguchi, says, 'All that is required from the user is a name, address and phone number. For up to N3, 000 per transaction and N30, 000 per day, all you need to use MoneyBox is your mobile phone and a MoneyBox scratch card.'

'Customers can open Accounts-on-the-Street, deposit money directly into the account, top-up phone credit, pay utility bills and insurance, send and withdraw money at agent locations or ATM, get access to loans and make investment,' he adds.

These financial possibilities become reality because the MoneyBox subscriber is empowered to access financial services in a convenient, safe, fast and reliable way via the mobile phone, Oguchi notes.

The Secretary, United Kingdom Department for International Development, Mr. Douglas Alexander, says, 'Advancements in technology and growth in mobile phone use is changing how we all live our lives and has the potential to give people access to financial services no matter where they live.'

Speaking against the above background, the MoneyBox Africa boss, asks, 'how come banking industry which has been in Nigeria for over a century does not command more than a fraction of the market success and popular subscription currently enjoyed by the mobile telephony industry?'

He says, 'On the one hand, when one looks at the statistics for a country of over 140 million people, with over 70 million individual mobile phones, an estimated potential of over 87 million bankable individuals, with limited options for and access to financial services, and one adds those statistics to the fact that less than 22 million bank accounts actually exist, it is easy to see why market penetration for the banks and banking services have met with less than 17 per cent success.'

'On the other hand mobile phones have achieved over 67 per cent market penetration. This huge disparity is partly due to the fact that it is easier to obtain a mobile telephone starter pack than to obtain even a simple bank account – mainly due to the different flavours of regulatory constraints faced respectively by the mobile telecoms and banking industries.'

Kaye states that traditional approach of commissioning new bank branches in an attempt to increase banking reach is not only costly but also not effective for the banks.

But with the mobile money transfer product, he says, 'our partner banks are not only able to overcome this paradox but are also able to bring the bank to the un-banked masses, rather than wait for the un-banked to come queue up in the banking halls.'

He further says,' This win-win arrangement delivers mass market banking and financial services in a cost-effective manner, allowing banks to increase their reach, acquire customers at lower costs through the deployment of virtual banking tools, while giving to the hitherto un-banked masses, a new lease of life.'

Kaye stresses that it is also an advantage of MoneyBox enabled partner banks, that the MoneyBox scratch cards and the Accounts-on-the -Street can be used to deposit money into existing bank accounts.

The Chief Sales and Marketing Officer of the company, Mr. Ayodeji Ige, says security measures have been put in place to ensure safety of subscribers' money in the instance of phone theft.

Kaye further notes that MoneyBox Africa Limited was recently awarded N250m by Africa Enterprise Challenge Fund to help fund the launch of its mobile money service in Nigeria and West Africa.

Speaking on the grant, the AECF Director, Mr. Hugh Scott, says, 'By helping enterprises to build successful business in Africa, we believe that we can make market systems work better and generate wealth that benefits the entire society. Through the extension of the reach of the banks and allowing people to save, make payments and transfer money to their families, we believe that MoneyBox Africa has the potential to transform the economic outlook for literally millions of people.

I also firmly believe that in due course many of the people who use the service will, through the empowerment that a savings and payments' culture delivers, become business people themselves, creating a truly sustainable economy.'