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        *Reviewed 30th August 2021*

As technology continues to change the financial industry from what we used to know, many tools are at the forefront of driving that change and USSD is one of those tools.

Broadly speaking, there are different avenues for financial transactions. These include USSD channel, mobile apps, internet banking and ATMs, etc. The fastest of those avenues is USSD.

“USSD” also known as “Unstructured Supplementary Service Data” is a communication service deployed on mobile phones in most cases for purposes of mobile financial services. When you dial a number that starts with asterisk (*) and ends with a hash (#), you are using USSD.

Some examples of USSD codes are: *737# *770# *329# 

The beautiful thing about USSD is that it allows for ease of financial transactions at low cost and without requiring access to the internet. Unlike SMS, USSD technology does not affect phone storage. There is at present no other platform that aids an all-inclusive access to financial services as much as USSD does. That is because it is relatively cost effective, user-friendly and accessible to the poor and underbanked/remote locations as much as it is to the wealthy and urban areas.

Below are some of the service providers that provide financial services through the use of USSD in Nigeria:

a. Financial institutions: Some of the services provided through the channel include, account opening, balance and other enquiries, money transfer, airtime vending, bill payment and so on.

b. Mobile Money Operators (MMOs): These are entities duly licensed by the CBN to provide mobile payment services to the banked and unbanked customers. Examples are Paga Mobile. First Banks' Firstmonie and so on.

c. Mobile Network Operators (MNOs): More popular examples are the major telecommunications network providers like MTN, Glo, 9mobile and airtel.

d. Value Added Service Providers/ Aggregators (NCC Licensees): An example under this category is GenieNG.


Eligibility for Unique Short Code

Since USSD is usually used on mobile phones to power financial services, the following are the two regulators that have key roles to play in regulating the use of USSD:

-          Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC).

-          Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).

The NCC has the primary responsibility of issuing USSD codes. However, all CBN licensed entities (other than mobile money operators) must first obtain a letter of no objection/introduction from the CBN before they can apply to the NCC for a USSD code. For insight on the statutory powers of the NCC as a regulatory agency for the telecommunications industry you can read my article on Cancellation Of Ussd Charges By Ncc.

One of the requirements for obtaining USSD codes from the NCC is for the Applicant to have a Value-Added Service (VAS) license. USSD codes can be processed within a week or more while a VAS license may take a bit longer because of the processes involved. Where there is an immediate need for a USSD code and you do not have a VAS license, you may choose to approach any VAS licensee for negotiation in order to use the licensee's short code. 


You can also seek guidance from the Law Accent team to supervise the negotiation and process your USSD code.