Shared Agent Network Will Boost Financial Inclusion, Says CBN

CBN Governor, Mr. Godwin Emefiele

By Emma Okonji

The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has reiterated its commitment to the formulation of appropriate policies through inputs received from the various stakeholders in the Nigerian payment industry.

CBN said the renewed commitment would enhance expansion and growth of agent networks as a prerequisite for enhancing financial inclusion.

This was stated by the Director, Payment System Management of the CBN, Mr. Sam Okojere, at the fourth quarter 2018 edition of PoS Innovation Summit, which held in Lagos recently.

Okojere, who was the guest of honour at the event and was represented by the Assistant Director, Payments System Management at CBN, Mr. Olubukola Akinwumi, also averred that CBN would maintain a balanced approach in protecting the interests of both the consumers and practitioners in the industry.

The event, with the theme: “Pricing and Shared Agent Network viability” explored the dynamics of the Shared Agent Network Expansion Program (SANEF) and its capability to accelerate the achievement of financial inclusion goals of the PSV 20:2020.

Also speaking at the summit, the Keynote Speaker, Dr. Edwin Otieno, who is Head, Agent Banking of Kenya Commercial Bank, shared insights from the strategy employed by the Kenyan institution, which he said, yielded over 96 per cent growth in the volume of transactions and has driven the National Financial Inclusion index by over 16 per cent.

He stressed the need for corporates to continue to provide support to agents on the field through trainings, deployment of enhanced products, documentation of procedures and periodic audit of processes.

The Executive Director and Chief Technology Officer of Global Accelerex Ltd, Mr. Stanley Ugochukwu Peters, stated that the insight and ideas gained from deliberations was a clear indication that stakeholders are united in their desire to drive financial inclusion, and implored all to continue to work together to support SANEF and ensure its success.

Industry stakeholders which include the Nigeria Interbank Settlement System Plc (NIBSS), CBN, Chartered Institute of Bankers of Nigeria (CIBN), commercial banks and other operators in the payment system had developed the SANEF initiative to aggressively roll-out 500,000 agent networks to offer basic financial services across the country.

SANEF is powered by the CBN, banks, NIBSS, licenced mobile money operators and shared agents with the primary objective of accelerating financial inclusion in Nigeria.
The initiative involves on-boarding 40 million low income and unserved Nigerians into the financial system, increasing financial access points from the current 50,000 to 500,000 by 2020 and deepening access to mobile and digital financial products and services such as savings accounts, micro loans, insurance, pensions by Nigerians.

The project seeks to deepen financial inclusion in Nigeria through an integrated ecosystem with strong regulatory oversight, consumer protection and interoperable payment systems with limited concentration risk.
It intends to create a platform for Nigerian owned financial services companies to grow, whilst empowering and creating jobs for Nigerians.

A report by SANEF had shown that the north-eastern and south-east regions have the least access to banking, a report on financial access touch-points released by SANEF showed. With five per cent financial access touch-points for the north-east and seven per cent for the south-east, both regions remain disadvantaged in access to financial services.

South-west leads on financial access touch-points with 54 per cent; south-south with 12 per cent; north-central 11 per cent and north-west 10 per cent.
It also revealed that Nigeria has 5,600 bank branches, 17,600 Automated Teller Machines (ATMs); 15,000 point of sale (PoS) terminals and 51,754 agents as at December last year.