“Develop Incentives to Encourage Informal Sector into Digital Economy”

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Esigie Aguele

Ugo Aliogo

Federal Government has been urged to create additional incentives to motivate citizens to participate in the national identification programme.

This advise was based on data from the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) that showed the agency’s database had only captured about 42 million of approximately 200 million citizens and residents in Nigeria.

Speaking recently at the Digital Identity Matters webinar to commemorate the second edition of International ID-Day in Nigeria, Chief Executive Officer, VerifyMe Nigeria, Esigie Aguele, stated that identity was a core issue in people’s lives.

He affirmed that concerted efforts must be made to ensure that all citizens have an official identity, particularly the economically challenged who need to be supported.

He said: “As a developing nation, the focus right now should be on social and financial inclusion so people who are not documented can get access to services. Digital identities are a key component to transforming the informal sector and providing growth opportunities for business. With digital IDs, they can grow into small and medium-sized businesses able to access microcredits, small loans and insurance to scale even further.

“Let’s take the fisherman who is most likely in the informal business demographic. His incentive may be to grow his business and make more money. Having become digitized, he can increase the types of payments he can collect because not everybody deals in cash. He can also take his business to areas where he is not physically present, and now he is no longer a person-to-person business. Maybe, he even wants to buy a bigger boat to get more fish, so he needs a loan. These are all financial incentives for him to get into the digital economy. There is also the social inclusion incentive which relates to government social protection and social investment programmes. These may be in the form of education for the fisherman’s children.”

In his remarks, the Group Managing Director, Interswitch, Mitchell Elegbe, explained that the fundamental approach would be to segment the population and develop an appropriate incentive for each group.

Continuing, he added: “Due to COVID-19, I had to transfer money to a meat seller because he refused to take cash. Money was the incentive for the meat seller to get a bank account. However, it’s not going to be one-size-fits-all. If the government says it will begin paying Nigerians who don’t have jobs but that they need a NIN to qualify, many people within the category will come forward to register. Once we have this mindset, that it comes down to creating incentives, I believe more people will be drawn into the system.”