World Bank Lists Nigeria among Countries with Huge Unbanked Population

Nume Ekeghe

The World Bank has named Nigeria as one of the seven countries that contribute to half of the global population that is unbanked which was pegged at 1.7 billion people.

The bank also noted a majority of the unbanked population in Nigeria are women.

This was stated in the ‘2021 Global Findex 2021 Report’ released by the World Bank yesterday, where the multilateral institution listed Nigeria alongside Bangladesh, China, India, Indonesia, Mexico and Pakistan as where nearly half of the about 1.7 billion adults remain unbanked in the world live.

It stated: “Globally, about 1.7 billion adults remain unbanked — without an account at a financial institution or through a mobile money provider. Because account ownership is nearly universal in high-income economies, virtually all these unbanked adults live in the developing world. Indeed, nearly half live in just seven developing economies: Bangladesh, China, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Nigeria, and Pakistan.

“Fifty-six percent of all unbanked adults are women. Women are overrepresented among the unbanked in economies where only a small share of adults are unbanked, such as China and India, as well as in those where half or more are, such as Bangladesh and Colombia.

“Poor people also account for a disproportionate share of the unbanked. Globally, half of unbanked adults come from the poorest 40 percent of households within their economy, the other half from the richest 60 percent. But the pattern varies among economies.

“In those countries where half or more of adults are unbanked, the unbanked are as likely to come from a poorer household as from a wealthier one. In economies where only about 20–30 percent of adults are unbanked, however, the unbanked are much more likely to be poor.”

However, the World Bank noted that mobile money has in recent years driven increased financial inclusion particularly in Africa.

According to the World Bank, the COVID-19 pandemic spurred financial inclusion–driving a large increase in digital payments amid the global expansion of formal financial services.

“In Sub-Saharan Africa, mobile money adoption continued to rise, such that 33 per cent of adults now have a mobile money account, a share three times larger than the 10 per cent global average.

“Although mobile money services were originally designed to allow people to send remittances to friends and family living elsewhere within the country, adoption and usage have spread beyond those origins, such that three out of four mobile account owners in 2021 made or received at least one payment that was not person-to-person and 15 per cent of adults used their mobile money account to save.

“Opportunities to increase account ownership in the region include digitalising cash payments for the 65 million adults with no account receiving payments for agricultural products, and expanding mobile phone ownership, as lack of a phone is cited as a barrier to mobile money account adoption.

“Adults in the region worry more about paying school fees than adults in other regions, suggesting opportunities for policy or products to enable education-oriented savings,” it added.

The President of the World Bank, David Malpass was quoted to have said: “The digital revolution has catalysed increases in the access and use of financial services across the world, transforming ways in which people make and receive payments, borrow, and save.

“Creating an enabling policy environment, promoting the digitalisation of payments, and further broadening access to formal accounts and financial services among women and the poor are some of the policy priorities to mitigate the reversals in development from the ongoing overlapping crises.”

The report also noted gaps in account ownership between richer and poorer, stating that, “on average around the world, poorer adults are less likely than wealthier ones to have an account. Among adults in the richest 60 per cent of households within economies, 74 per cent have an account. Among those in the poorest 40 per cent of households, 61 per cent do. That leaves a global gap between these two groups of 13 percentage points.

 “The average gap across developing economies is similar and accounts for much of the global gap. In high-income economies account ownership is nearly universal among both groups.

“But sizable gaps also exist in economies where overall account ownership is relatively low, at about 50 percent or less. In the Arab Republic of Egypt, Ethiopia, Indonesia, Mexico, Nigeria, and Vietnam the gap is roughly 20 percentage points. Put differently, in these economies wealthier adults are about twice as likely as poorer ones to have an account,” it added.

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