Africa's largest provider MTN became the first telecommunications firm to launch a mobile money operation in Nigeria, a move opening up transfers to millions of people without bank accounts.

Similar systems, which allow customers to send and receive money via their mobile phones, have already proved popular in key markets on the continent such as Kenya.

Nigeria, Africa's most populous nation, last year eased restrictions to allow telecoms companies to provide financial services and MTN was granted a “super agent” license in July. That came after the telecoms giant resolved a series of long-running disputes with Nigerian regulators and floated its shares on the stock exchange in the West African country.

Other key players including Airtel are reportedly also pushing for licenses to offer mobile money services in Nigeria.

MTN says that more than 50 million people in the oil-rich country have no access to bank accounts. The telecoms firm said it plans to expand the range of financial services offered once the central bank in Abuja grants approval for a further Payment Banking License.

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