By Olaseni Durojaiye
The Micro Pension Scheme (MPS) being packaged by the National Pension Commission (PenCom), took the centre state at the recently concluded Social Media Week (SMW) hosted in Lagos.
A unique event in its 5th year, the Social Media Week Lagos (SMWL) 2017 lived up to its reputation as a world class conference. The SMWL drew attendance from around the continent and beyond and featured scintillating and incisive discussions on an array of subjects ranging from economy to governance, education, technology, business, entertainment, politics, art, pension and banking, etc.
However, it was “PenCom Meet and Greet” and “Fireside Chat with PenCom DG”, which obviously stole the show as she became the cynosure of the platform’s over 180 social media reach and thousands that attended. It was a veritable platform for PenCom to meet with the public in an informal and convivial environment to answer some of the frequently asked questions about the nation’s pension industry.
The PenCom session specifically themed “Micro Pension as the Next Frontier” was in particular an opportunity to sell the Micro Pension Scheme (MPS) where PenCom is blazing the trail in this part of the world.
The panel comprised Femi Longe, a social entrepreneur and Co-Founder of Co-Creation Hub; Comrade Isa Aremu, Vice President of Industrial Global Union and former Vice President of the Nigeria labour Congress; and CEO of Agilent Wireless Ltd, Lawrence Gilbert.
Femi Longe explored the relationship between technology and the MPS. He spoke on the importance of understanding this relationship, along with the need for effective dissemination of the benefits of the Micro Pension initiative.
Lawrence Gilbert discussed the challenges of the informal sector & the value of MPS using traditional savings method.
Both panelists discussed the nation’s current infrastructure challenges and the impact on Micro Pension initiative.
While Femi Longe spoke on the need for flexibility of the Micro Pension initiative and the need to allow participants participate better, Comrade Aremu threw his weight behind the MPS, describing it as “innovative and highly expedient”. Aremu commended the creativity of the current PenCom leadership, noting, however, that despite the great leaps by the Contributory Pension Scheme, an overwhelming majority of Nigerians are not yet captured because they are in the informal sector.
“The MPS is a lifeline to the artisans, traders, and the Nigerian youths who are not in the public or organised private sector”, he added.
The icing on the cake, however, was the “Fireside Chat with PenCom DG”, featuring the PenCom boss, Mrs. Chinelo Anohu-Amazu; first-rate entertainer and CEO of Chocoloate City, Jude Abaga (MI); and Nollywood star and social crusader, Kate Henshaw, with Chioma Chuka moderating.
Mrs. Anohu-Amazu explained the idea behind the MPS, tracing it to the Contributory Pension Scheme (CPS). The DG emphasised the informal sector was “too critical to be left out of the contributory pension scheme”. She assured contributors of the emerging scheme on the “security of their investments” due to the strict regulatory framework in place and encouraged all Nigerians and the social media community to key into the Scheme.
Mrs. Anohu also reminded the audience that the choice of a PFA remained the prerogative of the contributor.
Abaga (MI) encouraged his colleagues in the entertainment industry to partner with PenCom, stressing the need for those in the entertainment industry and Nigerians in general to “save today and secure tomorrow”.
On her part, Kate Henshaw, while emphasising on the need to save for the rainy day, said the MPS would open doors to a more secure future to many millions of Nigerians. She encouraged all women to participate as they are the pillars of the society.
It would be recalled that the MPS featured prominently at the World Pension Summit- Africa Special (WPS-AS), co-hosted by PenCom for the third consecutive time in September 2016.
The rising populations and the insecure future faced by the self-employed have been a source of continuous and serious concern to the government, development experts, managers of the economy, and political leaders for obvious reasons. There is need for a sure way of financial inclusion and pension savings. This makes the MPS and financial inclusion efforts championed by PenCom imperative.
The informal sector constitutes at least 61 percent of urban employment across Africa, while the proportion of Sub-Saharan Africans in vulnerable employment has attained an alarming rate of 85 percent for women and 70 percent for men.
In her presentation at the WPS, Modupe Ladipo, Director, Enhancing Financial Innovation and Access (EFInA), Nigeria, just like other experts, was also of the view that the breakdown of support from extended family at old age due to rising economic challenges have made micro pension and financial inclusion most imperative to enable people in the self-employed category to make hay while the sun shines.
According to her, a 2014 survey on pensions revealed that only about 5.3 percent of the adult population had pension accounts. But the good news is that about 70 million adults in the informal sector are willing to make regular contributions, which, therefore, provides huge opportunity for the MPS to be rolled out by PenCom.
Against this backdrop, it is not surprising that MPS reverberated in a groundswell of interest at the Social Media Week 2017. Many in attendance and those following on various social media platforms were eager to subscribe to the Scheme, when finally launched, especially given the success PenCom has made of the Contributory Pension Scheme.
They expressed absolute trust in the security of their assets. They said PenCom’s presence at the SMWL had also addressed whatever clarifications they needed. They also said the scheme was well designed to address the flexibility of registration, remittance of contributions, and concerns such as lack of regular inflow of income and frequency of access to their contributions when needed.