Lagos/Kano — Every few days, Tasiu Abdurrahman takes the money he makes from selling spices in Nigeria’s biggest northern city and buries it in his yard. He closed his bank account eight years ago after growing disillusioned with standing in long lines for hours to deposit or withdraw cash. Abdurrahman is one of about 50-million of the unbanked in Nigeria, which, despite having Africa’s largest mobile phone market, is only just opening up to the technology to bring banking to its estimated 200-million people. "My business partners need cash," said Abdurrahman as he juggled two mobile phones at his ginger and tamarind stand, one of many dotting the streets in Kano. "If they all opened bank accounts, I would be happy to."

Financial inclusion in Nigeria — which vies with SA as the continent’s biggest economy — has gone backwards as the regulator blocked network operators from applying for mobile-money licences that would allow cash transfers without the need for a bank account. B...

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