Experts See Technology as Financial Inclusion Enabler

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Nkemdilim Uwaje Begho

Experts who gathered at the ongoing Social Media Week Forum that is holding in Lagos, have highlighted the importance of technology in achieving Nigeria’s financial inclusion strategies, which among others, target a 20 per cent reduction of financially excluded adult Nigerians in year 2020.

The experts who spoke at one of the panel sessions sponsored by Stanbic IBTC Bank, shed light on insights and challenges on Nigeria’s financial inclusion journey, and highlighted new technology trends that would further help to achieve the country’s financial inclusion strategies.

CEO, Future Software Resources, Mrs. Nkemdilim Uwaje Begho, one of the panelists, explained the role of FinTechs in offering new technology solutions that would drive banking operations in achieving the 20 per cent reduction target of financially excluded adult Nigerians. She called for more collaboration between FinTechs and the banks in accelerating technology innovations that would further drive financial inclusion in Nigeria.

Executive Director, Personal and Business Banking, Stanbic IBTC Bank, Mr. Wole Adeniyi, one of the panelists, said the role of technology in financial inclusion drive, was meant to democratise access to financial services, and that Stanbic IBTC Bank, would continue to help in democratising that access, through the offering of demystified banking solutions that would help customers carryout banking transactions with ease within couple of minutes, thereby reducing the time spent in most banking operations.

According to Adeniyi, “The massive investments in banking solutions by FinTech and the banks, are actually driving financial inclusion in a more faster and more convenient ways. Our role as banks is to bring more Nigerians on board and offer them opportunities to be financially included, and we have solutions that give customers access to broader financial services at affordable rates. Our EasyCash for instance, enables customers to experience faster time in accessing loans and other financial services, especially with micro lending services.” He further explained that Stanbic IBTC also support small agro businesses through its Mobile Wallet and the Founders Factory channels, where the bank offers easy access to loans to small businesses in the agricultural sector.

Another panelist, and Head of Information at EFInA, Dayo Odulate Ademola, while citing the 2018 data on financial inclusion that was released by EFInA, said although, the number of adult Nigerians that were financially included was on the rise, the growth rate is not proportional to the growth of the country’s population, as about 36.6 per cent of adult Nigerians are still financially excluded. She said the fastest way to match financial inclusion growth with population growth, was to apply technology solutions, which according to her, have helped Nigeria to leapfrog her infrastructure challenges as a nation. “Technology has enabled us to have access to financial services in recent times, using technology as a bedrock,” Ademola said, adding that between 2016 and 2018, about 9.4 million Nigerians relied solely on informal financial services, but that technology has helped in reducing such gap.

Speaking about government regulation on financial services, Ademola said there was need to put regulation in place for the protection of consumers but that such regulation must not stifle technology growth. She called for harmonization of different data that are sitting in silos at different ministries of government, to enable Nigeria boost her financial inclusion drive with the right identity of adult Nigerians.

CEO, 3Line Card Management Limited, Mr. Femi Omogbenigun, who also spoke as a panelists, said: “Technology has helped us to design products for the financially excluded adult Nigerians, and several people are using our products to access banking services in a more convenient way, without going to the baking hall. There is need for increased partnership between banks and agent networks.” Speaking on the challenges of agency banking, Omogbenigun said poor telecommunications network, most times, pose challenges for agency banking in terms of debit and credit transactions.