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At The Guardian’s forum, stakeholders seek deeper financial inclusion

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[FILE PHOTO] At the event, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) which revealed its achievement of 63 per cent financial inclusion out of the 80 per cent target set for next year said it was hoping to deepen the penetration figure by 95 per cent by 2024.

A forum organised by The Guardian in Lagos yesterday called for more practical moves to reduce the percentage of adult Nigerians excluded from access to financial services. To the stakeholders at the event, such measures would boost the economy and lift many people out of poverty.

At the event, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) which revealed its achievement of 63 per cent financial inclusion out of the 80 per cent target set for next year said it was hoping to deepen the penetration figure by 95 per cent by 2024.

It was also revealed that about 41 per cent of women, 37 per cent of men, and 47 per cent of the youths are still very much excluded in the nation’s financial inclusion drive. Infrastructure deficit, inadequate policies and lack of education remain major limitations for further inclusion nationwide, with the northern part of the country, especially north east, remaining the region hugely challenged with low and slow financial inclusion drive.

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The theme of the event held in Lagos was “Expanding Financial Inclusion Via Knowledge Exchange, Technology and Value-addition.”

The Head, Financial Inclusion Secretariat of the CBN, Joseph Attah, who was represented by the Assistant Director, Finance Development, Paul Oluikpe, said the national financial inclusion strategy was launched on October 23, 2012, with a target to reduce the percentage of adult Nigerians excluded from access to financial services from 46.3 per cent in 2010 to 20 per cent in 2020.

Oluikpe said the new CBN vision and drive became necessary so that the Nigerian economy could thrive and more people lifted out of the poverty cycle. He stressed that collaborative efforts have become key if the new targets must be met.

In his presentation titled “Access to Financial Services Survey in Nigeria,” the Chief Executive Officer, EFInA, Esaie Diei, urged operators to explore available data to provide solutions that would drive financial inclusion in the country.

Diei noted that though over the past 10 years, financial access has grown significantly, key financial inclusion challenges persist.

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He said that because of the country’s rapidly growing population, just maintaining current rates of financial inclusion would require bringing more than one million Nigerians into the financial system yearly.

According to the EFInA boss, 36.6 million adults are currently excluded, with 78.5 per cent residing in rural areas, while 21.5 per cent are in the urban places. He advised the operators to also consider languages in deepening financial inclusion, pointing out that about 15 per cent of financially excluded adults could not read any language comfortably.

In achieving deeper financial inclusion, one factor that is critical is the technology architecture, as underscored in her welcome address by the Publisher of The Guardian, Lady Maiden Alex-Ibru.

According to her, financial inclusion is when individuals and businesses have access to the much-needed financial products and services made available in a sustainable way.

To Lady Alex-Ibru, achieving this requires that stakeholders fully understand the country’s socio-cultural uniqueness and the preferences of the unbanked segment which we seek to bring on board financially.

The publisher stressed that local knowledge gathering, sharing and analyses, technology, responsiveness, flexibility and collaboration would all play key roles in deepening financial inclusion in the country. She added that the knowledge of technology would also be critical to unlocking new grounds.

While urging the stakeholders, including the other resource persons at the event, to expedite actions on deepening the inclusion, Lady Alex-Ibru noted that the flexibility of the entire process and collaboration among players would be vital to achieving the 80 per cent target for 2020 and subsequent targets.

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“Expanding inclusion through continuous knowledge exchange must, therefore, be encouraged. More multi-stakeholder collaborations and exchange, such as this forum, must be encouraged,” she stated.

She also told the participants that with huge investments, The Guardian has transformed from just a newspaper company to a multi-media group, with television, radio, online platforms and others now on board.

The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) that was represented by the Assistant Director, Policy, Competition and Economic Analysis, Mrs. Grace Ojougboh, said telecoms infrastructure was critical to driving financial inclusion. “NCC would play a huge role in this drive,” she promised.

Ojougboh, who said the resilience of telecoms infrastructure would aid 80 per cent penetration by 2020, stressed that the protection of telecoms infrastructure would be highly critical to achieving success.

To the CEO of Innovectives, Emmanuel Agha, the task of deepening financial inclusion, should not be left to only the banks. “It is a national thing. Everybody should be involved, especially the Federal Government.”

Agha said a collaborative effort, coupled with accelerated investments in infrastructure would guarantee inclusive growth.


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