Despite CBN RT200 FX Programme, Forex Scarcity Worsens
By Dipo Olowookere
Over a year ago, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) announced that it was coming up with an initiative designed to attract $200 billion inflow from non-oil exports over the next three to five years.
The initiative, the RT200 FX programme, was to ensure exporters channel their inflow through the official window and sell it through the Investors and Exporters (I&E) segment of the foreign exchange (forex) market.
While speaking in November 2022 at the second edition of the RT200 Export Summit in Lagos, the governor of the CBN, Mr Godwin Emefiele, informed the audience that about $4.987 billion had been repatriated into the country by non-oil exporters, higher than the $3.190 billion achieved in 2021, noting that, “Of this amount, only $1.966 billion qualified for the rebate program, and $1.559 billion was sold at the I&E window or for own use.”
He stated that the central bank had met just 3 per cent of the RT200 FX target in nine months.
Business Post observed that this scheme, designed to boost FX supply in the country, has not solved the liquidity crisis in Nigeria, as many customers are unable to access forex.
Also, the external reserves of the nation have continued to deplete very fast despite a slight improvement in the prices of crude oil benchmarks in the global market.
Data obtained by this newspaper from the CBN showed that as of Monday, April 3, 2023, the amount left in the reserves stood at $35.415 billion, 0.64 per cent or $228 million lower than the $35.643 billion as of Monday, March 27, 2023.
It was observed that customers who approach banks for FX have been finding it difficult to get allocation because of a shortage in supply.
Also, withdrawing forex from domiciliary accounts has been cumbersome for many customers as banks are unable to honour their requests, and when asked to transfer to another domiciliary account, this is only honoured if the receiver operates such an account with the same bank.
“I went to withdraw from my domiciliary account last week, but I was told it was impossible because there was no cash available. When I requested to have the funds transferred to a forex trader, who uses another bank, I was informed it would not be possible except I get someone who operates a domiciliary account with my bank,” a customer of one of the tier-1 banks, who identified himself as Mr Kingsley Oche, told this reporter.
Similarly, commercial banks in the country have blocked the transfer of funds into cards from foreign payment platforms like PayPal.
Before now, Nigerians doing remote jobs get payments via PayPal and transfer their funds through prepaid and debit cards of Nigerian banks, but most of them have been unable to get their funds since December 2022 because of the FX crisis in the country.
“I am already frustrated by this forex issue in the country,” Mr Goke Akinsanya told this newspaper, noting that this situation has left him without much to spend.
Also, those who receive funds from International Money Transfer Operators (IMTOs) like Western Union have been having a slight challenge getting their money over-the-counter in Nigeria because of the forex scarcity.
However, there are indications that things might get better when the next administration takes charge of the control of the economy next month.