Driving pervasive broadband penetration is the panacea to financial exclusion in Nigeria says the Executive Vice-Chairman, Nigeria Communication Commission (NCC), Prof. Umar Danbatta.
Delivering the keynote at The Bullion Lecture, an annual event organized by the Center for Financial Journalism, Danbatta identified affordability, accessibility, awareness, and understanding as major barriers to Nigeria’s financial inclusion efforts.
The fifth edition of the event, which held on Thursday, March 11, had as the theme: “Driving Pervasive Broadband Penetration to Deepen Digital Financial Inclusion for Nigeria’s Social and Economic Transformation”.
The NCC boss elaborated on the needs for enhancing Nigerians digital financial inclusion as it is an enabler for seven out of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals of 2030.
This is on the premise that financial inclusion is considered a key enabler to reducing extreme poverty, and boost shared prosperity, and countries with high mobile money account ownership have less gender inequality.
TechEconomy.ng reports that the Enhanced Financial Innovation and Access, EFInA, an organization that promotes financial inclusion and conducts biennial reports on Nigeria’s financial inclusion industry defines financial inclusion as ‘the provision of a broad range of high-quality financial products, such as savings, credits, insurance, payments, and pensions, which are relevant, appropriate and affordable for the entire adult population, especially the low-income segment.
According to Danbatta, “Being able to have access to transaction accounts becomes the first step towards broader financial inclusion since a financial account allows people to store money, send and receive payments.
“A transaction account serves as a gateway to other financial services such as credit and insurance, start and expand a business, invest in education, health, manage risk, and improve the overall quality of lives.”
He said that policy efforts to develop financial services have focused on the urban areas neglecting the rural areas.
“Until recently, policy efforts to develop financial services have focused on the formal banking sector and its intermediating function in converting savings into investment.
“This meant that the urban population enjoyed access to financial services while financial institutions neglected the low-income population and rural area users.”
According to him, “1.2 billion adults have gotten access to an account since 2011. Today, 96 percent of adults have an account. 1.7 billion adults are still unbanked globally. Half of the unbanked people include women, poor households in rural areas, or out of the workforce.
“This, thus, hinders women from being able to effectively control their financial lives,” he said.
On the reasons why people are unbanked, Danbatta identified affordability, awareness, and understanding, and accessibility as the major barriers to financial inclusion.
The EVC explained that the high-interest rates on loans, high premiums o insurance products, and minimum balance on accounts make it unaffordable to low-income earners; that the lack of awareness as to the availability of products and how they are structured, priced, and used also serve as another barrier.
He said: financial products are typically offered in urban areas and near high-income earners, and subject to heavy bureaucratic process makes it un-accessible to low-income earners.
“This lack of adequate access to formal financial services is the reason why most people in all regions, with exception of high-income earners, borrow from families and friends.”
The Global Findex report shows that three out of four of the world’s poor do not have a bank account, not only because of poverty, but also due to cost, travel distance, and paperwork.