The recent Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) deadline for the country’s 200, 500 and 1000 naira notes to cease being legal tender has resulted in a battle for many citizens struggling to keep up with transactions in online and mobile payments. With banks unable to provide enough new 200, 500 and 1000 naira notes and ATM points, either dispensing old notes or none at all, Nigerians have been left stranded and have to resort to using Point of Sale merchants ( POS) to get money. However, these merchants are just as overwhelmed and some have begun to take advantage of the scarcity of the new notes, extorting customers for their services.
This has resulted in many Nigerians turning to mobile transfers as a solution, but this too has proven challenging. People have been complaining that money transfers are not going through. On more than one occasion I have had to wait almost 24 hours for a transfer to reflect. This has me and many others concerned that the infrastructure of retail banks seems incapable of handling the increased number of transactions being processed as a result of the CBN deadline.
With Nigerians unable to access new notes at the counter, the surge in demand for mobile transfers seems to have put a strain on the technology infrastructure of retail banks, causing servers to become overloaded and causing slowdowns or even Transaction processing failures. By all indications, the servers cannot handle the increased volume of information requests, leading to bottlenecks and slowing down the entire system.
However, on the other hand, last week some Microsoft tools had a global outage and Azure, Microsoft’s global cloud computing platform, was affected. What are the chances that this could be causing banking apps to malfunction and transactions to fail? The possible connection between the fall of Azure and the difficulties in the Nigerian banking system has generated much speculation and discussion among experts.
For context, Microsoft Azure is a critical component of the technology infrastructure for many financial institutions and businesses around the world, including many banks in Nigeria. The platform outage could potentially affect the ability of these banks to process transactions and provide services to their customers. I don’t want to be too dramatic, but this raises some concerns about the reliability and resilience of cloud computing platforms and their ability to support the (ever-expanding) critical functions of financial institutions.
While it is too early to say for sure whether the alleged Azure outage is the cause of the difficulties being experienced by the banking system in Nigeria, the situation highlights the need for a robust and resilient technology infrastructure to support the growing trend towards digital transactions. . The hope is that the Nigerian financial sector will work to find a solution to current challenges and ensure that citizens can access their money and carry out transactions in an easy, secure and timely manner.