The provision and maintenance of basic infrastructure has been described as a major need that must be met if Nigeria would speed up its growth of financial inclusion.
Experts, including the Managing Director of Inlaks, Femi Adeoti, have reiterated this, adding that provision of basic infrastructure will also speed up the processes of bringing more Nigerians into the formal financial system.
According to the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), there are 30 million unique bank accounts in the country- the result of the Bank Verification Number (BVN) exercise it conducted.
From this number, Adeoti said there are over 40 million Nigerians that are not included in the financial system, which “we need to get them included.”
However, Adeoti revealed that there are only 17,000 Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) all over the country.
“We have one ATM to 5,600 people. It looks we have gone far but we have more grounds to cover. Many people have mobile phones but they are among the 40 million people without bank account. We still have many more people without accounts”, he said.
Speaking in Lagos at the 2017 TEDxIkeja on the topic: “Who Needs Financial Inclusion”, Adeoti said financial inclusion has become a buzzword and that it is “the provision of broad financial products. These products must be relevant, appropriate, and affordable”.
Specifically, he elaborated that 61 per cent of adult Nigerian that are excluded from the formal financial systems are less than 65 years. “These people are upwardly mobile but they are not included”.
To bring these people into the formal financial system, Adeoti listed the ATM, agent banking, mobile banking, e-wallet, internet banking, and call centre banking as channels that would make it possible.
The Chief Executive Officer, Precise Financial Systems, Yele Okeremi, said: “The interesting thing about technology is that technology is open to all. So, you now see smart programmers as well using technology and trying to see whether they can find some ways of encroaching into the banking space.
“One of the things I have said is that finally, people do not really need banks. What people want are banking services. That is the reason why people go the banks and now that same service is available to you without having to go to the banks.
“For example, there are many people I know in Nigeria today that have not visited the banking hall in over two years. They are doing banking services using the Internet and telephone, among others.”
To the Founder/Chief Executive Officer, Riby, Salami Abolore, the fundamental solution is to fix the government.
“The other alternative is to rely heavily on technology. The cheapest technology is Interactive Voice Response (IVR). USSD is close to that. We should have IVR, and a universal number that is powered by the federal government. We can then do all our banking transaction by calling a number. Say your name, BVN or national identification number and you have banking services. That is it.”
However, Adeoti added that building bank branches is not in vogue as it is quite expensive to maintain. He therefore informed that the banks are using a combination of these channels to reach the excluded Nigerians and bring them into the formal financial system.
He said the regulatory framework should be aligned with the current pace of innovation, adding that the availability of accurate data would also ensure that the 40 million people are included in the formal financial system.
“Data is important. It is what you measure that you can manage. If you do not have data, you cannot manage it. We have some assumptions in our minds. However, when you get accurate data, you can plan.
“Nigerians are replicating bank accounts. That is why the banks were also shocked when the BVN result was announced. If you do not have data, you cannot plan effectively”, he said.