Banks to Accelerate Financial Inclusion with 500,000 Agent Networks


Obinna Chima

Commercial banks in Nigeria in collaboration with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), the licenced mobile money operators and the super agents, on Tuesday disclosed plan to aggressively roll-out 500,000 agent networks to offer basic financial services across the country.

The financial services to be offered under this arrangement include cash-in, cash-out, fund transfer, bill payments, airline purchase, government disbursements as well as remote BVN enrolment to an estimated 50 million Nigerians that are currently under-banked or unbanked.

According to the plan, the CBN and banks would over the next few months roll out new initiatives, products and services to accelerate financial inclusion in Nigeria.

The approved CBN-Bankers Committees roll-out ratio include: North-East -30 per cent; North-West -30 per cent; North Central – 20 per cent; South-south -7.5 per cent; South-east – 7.5 per cent; and South-west -five per cent.

Speaking with journalists at a media conference together with his colleagues, the chief executive of Access Bank Plc/Chairman of the Body of Bank CEOs, Mr. Herbert Wigwe explained that the 10 licenced mobile money operators and super agents are expected to immediately deploy financial services agents’ outlets in underserved urban and rural areas in the country. He said higher priority would be given to the northern geo-political zones of the country where financial exclusion is most prominent.

According to Wigwe, over the next three years, Nigerian banks aim to on-board and formally bank 60 million additional Nigerians, an average of 20 million yearly, as well as enrol 40 million Nigerians for BVN.

He added: “To this end, renewed focus will be given to driving low cost digital access, broadening financial literacy campaign, creating micro loans, micro insurance and micro investment products for the benefit of the excluded, the underserved and low-income Nigerians.

“This agreement reflects our commitment to aggressively pursue the CBN 2020 financial inclusion target in an integrated way with minimal systemic risk to the financial system”

Also speaking at the event, the chief executive of the United Bank for Africa Plc, Mr. Kennedy Uzoka, stressed that the initiative would help take banking services to those that had been excluded from the financial system.

“Be rest assured that people who will come to the network based on the extended infrastructure that we are providing will have access to banking services,” he added.

Responding to a question, his counterpart from Guaranty Trust Bank Plc (GTBank), Mr. Segun Agbaje explained that the difference between share agent plan and other initiatives in the past “is that this is being led by the private sector and the banks.”

“This is not a government-led initiative. As banks, anything we start, we tend to finish. This is not being done for profit.

“Ultimately, profit will eventually come, but initially, the whole objective is to bring people into the financial system.

“And we are using monies that we had already set aside out of the profit that we had made. So, this is an initiative that is essentially for Nigeria and to bring people into the financial system. It is about deepening the financial system,” he added.

On his part, the chief executive of Zenith Bank Plc, Mr. Peter Amango said: “We are poised to providing convenience at affordable cost. We are engaging the telcos and the CBN is in with us on this. We want to bring all those in the rural areas in.”

Also speaking at the event, the chief executive of Diamond Bank Plc, Uzoma Dozie said with the arrangement, the banks are investing in the future, adding that it would be beneficial to the entire nation.