Despite Nigeria’s targets to pursue universal financial access to all working age groups by 2020, the slow pace of the goal in the country may become a setback to projected economic growth, experts have warned.
Indeed, the poverty gap, as well as inequality could soar unless drastic actions are taken to drive financial inclusion in Nigeria, the experts, who gathered at a seminar organised to mark the 10th anniversary of Accion Microfinance Bank Limited in Lagos said.
The Chairman of Enhancing Financial Innovation and Access (EFInA), Modupe Ladipo, at the event titled: “Making financial inclusion a certainty in Nigeria by 2020”, said Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) must urgently raise capital requirements for microfinance banks to drive financial inclusion.
She expressed worries that billions of naira, which circulate in the informal sector has negative impact on the country’s economic growth, lamenting that there are still huge number of unbanked who lack access to formal financial services.
While more than 50 microfinance policies were formulated to drive financial inclusion in Nigeria, Ladipo noted that a research conducted in 2016 showed that 41.6 per cent of Nigerians are still financially excluded.
“In 2008, research conducted by EFInA revealed that about 53.5 per cent were financially excluded, but CBN monetary policies such as mobile money transactions, agency banking system and micro insurance reduced it to 29.1 in 2014. But as at 2016, the percentage of the financially excluded shot up to 41.6 per cent,” she said.
According to EFInA, financial inclusion is the provision of broad range of high quality financial products, such as savings, credits, insurance, payments and pensions, which are relevant, appropriate and affordable, for entire adult population and especially the low-income segment.
Head, Financial Inclusion Secretariat at the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Temitope Akin-Fadeyi, stressed the role of private organisations in the country, adding that government has robust strategy to drive the initiative and ensure delivery.
She said players must work together to ensure that reliable channels are created to push products to people otherwise projected economic growth may remained elusive.
Akin-Fadeyi was also worried about the gender gap in financial inclusion, which she said favoured men against women.
She added that the country’s youth population needed to be highlighted in the efforts as that would spur a sustainable approach.
While statistics show that no fewer than 112 million Nigerians live below poverty line, Chairman, Accion Microfinance Bank Limited, Patrick Akinwuntan, highlighting the bank’s achievements in last 10 years, said proritising financial inclusion in Nigeria would provide access to financial services and enable the poorest and most vulnerable in the country to step out of poverty and reduce inequality.
According to him, financial inclusion not only helps individuals and families, but collectively, it develops entire communities and can help drive economic growth.
Akinwuntan said the firm had organised the seminar as part of its 10th year anniversary to showcase the bank’s commitment and achievements in the area of financial inclusion in Africa, while highlighting investment opportunities that have successfully led to improvement in financial inclusion in Nigeria and other countries.
A Partner at Apis Partners, Rotimi Oyekanmi, was not satisfied with the level the country is driving financial inclusion, saying that when compared with other countries, Nigeria has a long way to go in making the project feasible.
Oyekanmi, who stated that target set to achieve remarkable level of inclusion by 2020 is unrealistic, advised that the country could leverage the growing figure of mobile phone penetration to drive the scale.
While policy frameworks are key to achieving the target, he said the country’s inability to harmonise fragmented data could jeopardize current efforts.
While decrying lack of investment in payment system, Oyekanmi stressed that the value chain must be made bankable, particularly in data, as direct payment system still remained bane of the sector.
Pioneer Managing Director of the financial institution, Bunmi Lawson, who will soon be succeeded by Taiwo Joda, was satisfied by her achievements, saying the firm has secured a vibrant foundation that would be beneficial to Nigerians.
“My heartfelt thanks go to the Board, management and Staff of Accion Microfinance Bank, who have supported me this last decade and helped position Accion Microfinance Bank as a leading Microfinance Bank in Nigeria,” she said.