The United Nations (UN) has assured the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) of its support to reduce the number of financially excluded persons from 41.6 per cent to 20 per cent being targeted by the year 2020.
The UN Special Advocate for Financial Inclusion and Queen of The Netherlands, Maxima Willem-Alexander, gave the assurance when she visited the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Godwin Emefiele, to inquire about the progress of financial inclusion.
She commended the CBN for its efforts at reducing the population of the financially excluded from 46.3 per cent in 2010 to the current level last year.
According to Queen Maxima: “You have tried very hard to achieve your targets. We are more than prepared and willing to support Nigeria in this process with assistance and knowledge from abroad of our experiences.
“We are looking at what has worked, what has not worked and we are committed to pushing the private sector forward in this endeavor.
“I don’t think I need to tell of how important financial inclusion is to the development and to reducing inequality and the spill-over effects this could have on the African continent.”
Speaking earlier, Emefiele said the CBN would aggressively pursue its 20 per cent financial exclusion target by 2020.
The financial inclusion strategy was launched on October 12,2012 with a target to reach 20 per cent exclusion rate by 2010.
He said while the 80 per cent financial inclusion target was very ambitious, the bank would work with the Nigerian Communications Commission on how best to take advantage of mobile communications to reach those that were financially excluded.
Emefiele said within a six-year period covering 2010 to 2016, the CBN reduced the number of Nigerians that were financially excluded from 46.3 per cent to 41 per cent.
While stating that more work needed to be done, he said the bank would need the UN’s assistance to achieve the target. He described Maxima’s visit to Nigeria as remarkable, as it demonstrated her love for the improvement of Nigerians’ access to finance.
He added that the CBN had initiated a number of programmes to achieve the target including agent banking framework, Know Your Customer (KYC) framework, micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) development, national collateral registry and credit bureau, among others.
Meanwhile, Queen Maxima disclosed that her husband, King Willem-Alexander of The Netherlands loves yam like Nigerians.
She disclosed this, when a yam trader and mobile money operator customer, Hasfat Iyabo, gave her a tuber of yam.
Iyabo told the Queen: “I appreciate your coming. Take this yam with you back to The Netherlands and cook it for your husband.”
Responding, Queen Maxima said: “Oh my God! Sure, my husband loves yam! I’m grateful. But I’m going to pay for it to encourage this woman and I want the money to be paid into her Mobile Money Account.”
The Dutch Queen was on an on-the-spot assessment of the Mobile Money Agent, operated by MTN Mobile Money, in conjunction with Diamond Bank Plc, to assess the country’s financial inclusion strategy.
Queen Maxima, who is the United Nations (UN) Secretary General’s Special Advocate on Financial Inclusion, first visited in 2012, when the project was launched in Nigeria.
She watched as the N500 she insisted on paying for the yam was credited into the woman’s Mobile Money Agent deposit account.
She explained that the gesture was to show approval and the UN’s endorsement of the financial inclusion, as a way of breaking the barriers to banking by those who are socially excluded from the financial services.
Earlier, Queen Maxima received briefing behind closed doors, from the heads of UN Development Agencies in Nigeria.
She was also at the Development Bank of Nigeria (DBN) to assess its activities as they affect the provision of loans to MSMEs. The Chairman of DBN, Shehu Yahaya, implored the Queen to push for increased access to finance MSMEs to enhance financial inclusion in the country.