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NCC seeks cooperation between telcos, banks to drive inclusion

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• Claims 35M Nigerians lack access to telephony services

The Executive Vice Chairman and Chief Executive (EVC/CE), Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Prof. Umar Danbatta, has said telecommunications remains the best enabler in expanding the frontiers of financial inclusion in Nigeria.
   
Danbatta affirmed this on Wednesday, in Abuja, when he received a team from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF), and its consultants, Glenbrooks Partners, who visited the Commission to explore opportunities for collaboration and partnership to enhance financial inclusion nationwide.

   
At the meeting, which held at the request of the Foundation, Danbatta said the realisation of the centrality of telecommunication to all aspects of the economy explains NCC’s upbeat in identifying access gaps, and in instituting processes for the expansion of telecom infrastructure across the country.
   
The EVC said some infrastructure companies (Infracos), have been licensed by the Commission to cascade fibre from landing ports to the hinterland, especially the 774 local government areas in Nigeria. He expressed the hope that the Federal Government will take a concrete position soon to enable the Infracos to commence operations, because “fibre is the real solution to the volume of transactions in the financial services sector.”
   
Danbatta also declared that 35 million Nigerians have no access to telecommunications services, and by implication, they lack access to digital financial services, a condition that undermines financial inclusion. According to him, this challenge is caused by inadequacy of both wireless and fibre connectivity infrastructure. “We need to do more investment in both fixed and wireless infrastructure to enable us to reach our target of at least 80 per cent level of financial inclusion in about four years,” he said.
 
The EVC said access to telecom services by distant, isolated, unserved and underserved communities will enable more citizens to embrace digital financial culture. He added that the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has issued Mobile Money Payment Services licences to some mobile network operators, to enable them to undertake mobile financial transaction services. He therefore advocated renewed greater cooperation and collaboration between the banking and telecommunications sectors to harmonise the cost of transactions for financial services in an equitable manner.
   
Leader of the BMGF team, Abiodun Jagun, informed Danbatta that the meeting was requested to deepen extant partnership between the Foundation and the Federal Government of Nigeria to increase citizens’ access to financial resources.
    
Jagun said the discussion with the Commission is very important because it regulates the telecom sector, while also addressing some infrastructure challenges, which are central to connectivity, the embrace of digital culture, and inclusive access to financial resources by citizens.
 
   
She said understanding the strides made by the Commission as well as the challenges it faces, will help the Foundation to know the nature of collaboration and support to offer without distorting or disrupting the market. Jagun said the beauty of the visit and the discussions are meant to ensure that the philanthropic opportunities offered by BMGF are supportive and complementary to the digital ecosystem.

Also speaking, another member of the delegation, Elizabeth Mcquerry of Glenbrook Partners, commended the Federal Government’s commitment to expanding access to digital resources, and expressed the hope that this will trickle down to find implementation among all its agencies.

Mcquerry, in company of her colleagues, Ifeanyi Monye and Charles Ifedi, equally appealed to all stakeholders to work in synergy to ensure increased access and affordability of digital and financial services by “people at the bottom of the bottom of the pyramid.”


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NCCUmar Danbatta
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