Experts Identify New Ways to Deepen Financial Inclusion

Emma Okonji

Experts that attended the Inclusive Finance Nigeria Conference and Awards (IFINCA) have identified new ways through which the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) can extend the boundaries of financial inclusion strategy in order to realise its goal.

In a circular, the CBN had said it was not meeting any of the financial inclusion target agreed and contained in the 2012 Financial Inclusion Strategy.

IFINCA is a national policy platform on financial inclusion setup with the objective of enabling cross-pollination of best practices and breakthroughs, specifically to influence Nigeria’s financial inclusion strategy and campaign.

According to the CBN, Nigeria achieved 60.3 per cent in 2012. It declined to 58.4 per cent in 2016 against a target of 69.5 per cent, which translated to financial exclusion of about 41.6 per cent.

However, to ensure the CBN achieve its policy thrust, the analysts who spoke at IFINCA said it was important to ensure that the under-banked and the unbanked are offered inclusive financial services.
In her keynote address, Managing Director/CEO of Shared Agent Network Expansion Facility (SANEF), Ronke Kuye, identified the following major service areas that are required in order to deepen financial inclusion in the country.

These are the provision of sustainable job opportunities, stronger bank operation, reduction of inequality, creation of empowerment programmes, reduction of formal financial services and a boost in financial security and operation.

While addressing the theme of the event, which asked, “Is it time to reinvent and push the boundaries; she noted that for the financially excluded to be brought into the financial net, certain initiatives must be adopted. “

Kuye informed that the CBN was making an effort to ensure that financial inclusion target is met by initiating the mobile money agents, SANEF and agency banking services. Through the initiatives, SANEF had rolled out 156,000 agents. To meet its target of 250,000 agents, SANEF is required to capture another 94,000 agents before the end of 2019.

The impediments that are slowing down the wheels of financial inclusion in Nigeria, according to her, include high cost of banking transaction, lack of attractive financial products, inadequate financial literacy programmes, poor customer service, inadequate infrastructure and cumbersome banking process.
To overcome these impediments, she explained that the industry stakeholders must close ranks and work together and create sustainable synergies that will promote financial inclusion.

“All the regulators and central service providers, agency banking such as SANEF and other developmental organization, super agents, fintech and telcos and the microfinance banks, state governments and the security agencies must work together in order to bring the Nigerians that are excluded into the financial ecosystem”, she said.

The Divisional CEO of Interswitch Financial Inclusion Service, Mrs. Titilola Shogaolu, while explaining what was still missing in financial inclusion in Nigeria, she said: “There’s an existing gap despite various initiatives that have been deployed by relevant stakeholders.”

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