Four telecoms operators in Nigeria which include Glo, 9mobile, Airtel and MTN have resolved to invest more in the financial inclusion initiative of the Central Bank of Nigeria.
The telcos came together at a meeting recently, where they resolved to clearly articulate their commitment to deepening financial inclusion and providing Nigerians with access to a range of affordable financial services.
Reiterating their commitments as industry stakeholders, the telcos said they remained the largest investors in telecoms in Nigeria, and have decided to come together to deliver a concrete commitment to Nigeria – a promise to materially improve financial inclusion rates and to deliver access to financial services to 90 million customers over the next 30 months.
The resolve of the telcos was not unconnected with calls for level playing field for mobile network operators to be allowed to participate fully in the country’s mobile money industry.
According to the telcos, following the issuance of Nigeria’s first mobile money licences in 2009, the journey towards financial inclusion has been slow, as current financial exclusion levels stand at over 40 per cent.
“There is a significant gap to be covered in order to meet Nigeria’s target of 20 per cent financial exclusion by 2020. In Nigeria, telcos are excluded from accessing mobile money licences directly under current guidelines, while in most sub-saharan African markets where mobile money is successful, telcos are given a level playing field,” the telecoms operators said in a joint statement at the recent meeting.
The meeting was facilitated by the Academic Director and Senior Fellow at Lagos Business School, Yinka David-West, who said: “Far beyond financial inclusion rates in Nigeria, we also have to examine how people currently considered to have access to financial services stack up when evaluated against the criteria for true financial inclusion, i.e. access to a full suite of quality financial services, provided at affordable prices, in a convenient manner.
“When evaluated against this definition, it is clear that as a country, we have to work, not just to drastically increase the number of financially included persons, but also to increase the quality of inclusion and access we give, especially if we hope to positively impact the economy and the quality of the lives of Nigerians in any meaningful way.”
The telcos argued that telecommunications industry recognises that with an issue as critical as financial inclusion, it is important to focus on sustainable solutions. This requires inclusivity and collaboration of varied solutions providers in order to achieve real results. The telecommunications industry has the capabilities, technology, infrastructure, distribution network and subscriber base that can quickly be leveraged to provide these solutions.
According to the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), the industry has a reach of 86 per cent of the country, with 162.3 million customers, representing the single largest customer base of any industry in Nigeria.
The industry players have a combined presence in 773 local government areas across the country further emphasising their ability to reach especially hard to reach areas of the country in a bid to deepen access to financial services.
They also have 1,000,000 unique agents already in place selling airtime across the country, creating a strong distribution network that can quickly be converted to established mobile money agent networks.