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Banks, telcos, fintech urged to provide free USSD codes

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•CBN, SEC move to develop framework to tackle disruptions

Achieving 90 per cent inclusion in Nigeria by 2020, above Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN’s) 80 per cent target is feasible, if stakeholders in the telecommunications and banks collaborate to make Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD) short codes free to all users.
   
The Chief Executive Officer, Ecobank Nigeria, Patrick Akinwuntan, insisted that USSD short codes must be made free for every Nigeria in order to deepen financial inclusion in Nigeria.Akinwuntan, addressing participants at the Nigeria Fintech Week, organised in partnership with Fintech Association of Nigeria (FinTechNGR) in Lagos, on Tuesday, noted that current discussions should be focused on how to make financial transactions more affordable to alleviate poverty, and increase participation of the unbanked.
   
According to him, a strong collaboration that would help develop skilled manpower and deliver cutting edge solutions is also key to the realisation of all -inclusive growth.He said there is a need for continuous advocacy on adaptation of platforms, and gender balance to attract more participation from the underserved.

“With strong collaboration, it is possible to offer to any Nigeria, zero cost for using financial services to lift Nigerians out of poverty. This will help to bring all Nigerians into the financial system to add value.

“The CBN is targeting 80 per cent inclusion by 2020, and latest figure showed that we are currently in 62-65 per cent. “But the most pervasive gadget to achieve inclusion is a smart phone. With zero charges on USSB, 90 per cent inclusion by 2020 is possible. Also, data protection is absolutely key to instilling confidence in the system.”
   
The Deputy Governor, Financial Systems Stability, CBN, Mrs. Aishah Ahmad, assured stakeholders that all regulatory institutions including the Central Bank are faced with developing a framework to keep abreast with technological changes that would instil confidence in the system.
She said the disruptions caused by fintechs helped CBN to lower the cost of deploying services by banks through many shared services initiatives.
Ahmad in her keynote address said fintech has played a major role in enhancing financial inclusion by providing services at low cost to consumers.
 
“Fintech as a tool and as institutions would help us meet a number of objectives. Customers would have greater freedom, wider access at favourable prices and even at zero prices.”
 
“The challenge before us shall be to thrive so that the benefit outweighs the risk. We see the innovation, and it is good, but it must be responsible; it must be inclusive and it must be held accountable.”“We having been trying for many years to lower the cost of deploying services by banks through many services initiatives and some of these disruptions are actually helping us lower these costs.”
   
Acting Director-General, Securities and Exchange Commission {SEC), Ms. Mary Uduk, stressed the need to expand access to finance, provide new ways to raise funds, enhance financial inclusion, and foster increased participation in the capital market.Uduk said there must be strategic alliance amongst regulators and other stakeholders within the ecosystem to improve the penetration of investment products.
 
“Going forward, I am confident that together, we can surmount the challenges inherent, and leverage the potentials of FinTech to transform people’s lives for the better.“It is our belief that this policy document on the roadmap will broaden the robust conversation and engagements within the ecosystem, encourage responsible use of new technologies and digital finance in the capital market as well as provide investors with more choices in the Nigerian capital market.”
 
She said SEC is also looking at adopting regulatory and supervisory practices for orderly development and stability of the system, stressing that the Commission will pay close attention to sustaining confidence and safeguarding the integrity of the market.According to her, SEC will also ensure that its policies will facilitate the safe entry of new products, activities and intermediaries in such a manner that regulation does not stand in the way of innovation.


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