Experts at the Inclusive Finance Nigeria Conference and Awards [IFINCA] have identified the various ways the Central Bank of Nigeria [CBN] can extend the boundaries of financial inclusion strategy in order to realise its goal.
In a circular, the CBN had said it is not meeting any of the financial inclusion target agreed and contained in the 2012 Financial Inclusion Strategy.
IFINCA is a national policy platform on financial inclusion setup with the objective of enabling cross-pollination of best practices and breakthroughs, specifically to influence Nigeria’s financial inclusion strategy and campaign.
According to the CBN, Nigeria achieved 60.3 per cent in 2012. It declined to 58.4 per cent in 2016 against a target of 69.5 per cent, which translated to financial exclusion of about 41.6 per cent.
However, to ensure the CBN achieve its policy thrust, the analysts who spoke at IFINCA said it’s important to ensure that the under-banked and the unbanked are offered inclusive financial services.
In her keynote address at the event, Managing Director/CEO of Shared Agent Network Expansion Facility [SANEF], Ronke Kuye identified the following major service areas that are required in order to deepen financial inclusion in the country.
These are the provision of sustainable job opportunities, stronger bank operation, reduction of inequality, creation of empowerment programmes, reduction of formal financial services and a boost in financial security and operation.
While addressing the theme of the event, which asked, is it time to reinvent and push the boundaries; she noted that for the financially excluded to be brought into the financial net, certain initiatives must be adopted.
Kuye informed that the CBN is making an effort to ensure that financial inclusion target is met by initiating the mobile money agents, SANEF and agency banking services. Through the initiatives, SANEF had rolled out 156,000 agents. To meet its target of 250,000 agents, SANEF is required to capture another 94,000 agents before the end of 2019.
The impediments that are slowing down the wheels of financial inclusion in Nigeria, according to her, include high cost of banking transaction, lack of attractive financial products, inadequate financial literacy programmes, poor customer service, inadequate infrastructure and cumbersome banking process.
To overcome these impediments, she explained that the industry stakeholders must close ranks and work together and create sustainable synergies that will promote financial inclusion.
“All the regulators and central service providers, agency banking such as SANEF and other developmental organization, super agents, fintech and telcos and the microfinance banks, state governments and the security agencies must work together in order to bring the Nigerians that are excluded into the financial ecosystem”, she said.
The Divisional CEO of Interswitch Financial Inclusion Service, Mrs Titilola Shogaolu while proffering on what’s still missing in financial inclusion in Nigeria, she said “there’s an existing gap despite various initiatives that have been deployed by relevant stakeholders”.
She therefore identified lack of identity card, which is needed for bank accounts opening as a barrier to digital financial inclusion.
She said the following must be implemented to achieve financial inclusion in Nigeria. These are maximum security, alignment and collaboration, provision of simple financial service, attractive benefits, building trust, financial literacy and creation of the multi-lingual channel.
Speaking on the yardsticks for measuring financial inclusion, the Managing Director/CEO of Xpress Payments Solutions, Oluwadare Owolabi said the results and goals of financial inclusion could only be measured through the provision of access to affordable financial service that meet people’s needs, secured financial services, the establishment of proper financial institutions that cater to the needs of the poor and the use of agency banking.
He identified “access indicator” – the number of bank branches, PoS devices, number of bank accounts and remittances, banking agents, loans and savings with the banks, level of literacy among others – as an important means to deepen financial inclusion and bring more Nigerians into the formal financial service.
The Managing Director/CEO of E-Settlement and of Paycentre, Olaoluwa Awojoodu in his presentation on the viability of agent banking networks stressed that the challenges facing financial inclusion must be pulled down before the CBN achieve its goals.
He listed these challenges as the unavailability of affordable banking services, threesome documentation and onboarding process, low literary level, non-presence of banks in a rural area and “negative view of banks as being overly complex”.
He said his team carried out a survey and realized that many local areas lack access to financial services, adding that 80 per cent of the banks in Nigeria are sited in Lagos while other states are suffering. “We need to tackle these barriers in order to promote financial inclusion for suitable economic development”.
Explaining how the banks can apply themselves to extend the boundaries of financial inclusion while speaking during the Future of Financial Inclusion panel sitting, the Managing Director and CEO of Precise Financial Systems, Dr Yele Okeremi noted that Nigerians are not interested in the banks but in banking services; as such, the banks must “reengineer their minds by deploying technological innovations that will make them lead the space”, he emphasized.
In similar vein, the Head, Executive Support and Corporate Strategy of Grooming Centre, Nnaemeka Nwachukwu delved into how technology is disrupting the financial inclusion space and redefining all sectors of the economy.
He said Grooming has completed the bank processor information to boost financial inclusion and that the motive is to work optimally with technology and address challenges facing financial inclusion.
“There are technological infrastructure deficiencies in the rural part of the country which we are working towards addressing by partnering with major stakeholders in the industry. We are also training some Nigerians on how to use some technology especially software to access data. But the industry needs to do more”, he noted.