Financial inclusion in Nigeria has missed its target. This has been confirmed in a report from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and the Enhancing Financial Innovation & Access (EFinA) titled ‘Assessment of women’s financial inclusion in Nigeria’ for December 2019. According to the report, Nigeria’s financial exclusion stands at 36% for women and 24% for men. The report adds that, ‘The relative gender gap related to financial inclusion is 20-30%, placing Nigeria below its peers.’
It further states that, ‘Since 2012, although women’s exclusion has dropped, the gender gap has grown, revealing that men’s inclusion has improved more rapidly than women’s.’ The CBN launched the National Financial Inclusion Strategy (NFIS) in 2012 to reduce financial exclusion to 20% of the adult population. This has not been achieved.
It has been an uphill task for years. The main reason has been linked to literacy rates and information. Literacy on the part of the people and information or lack of it on the part of the financial institutions tasked with informing people about the services they offer. And the recently, unforeseen socioeconomic factors such as recession (in 2016 and is hovering around the nation again due to the economic impact of COVID-19), the precarious security situation in parts of northern Nigeria, and other factors such as slow uptake of digital financial services.
What is financial inclusion?
Financial Inclusion according to the Central Bank of Nigeria is a state where financial services are delivered by a range of providers, mostly the private sector, to reach everyone who could use them. Specifically, it means a financial system that serves as many people as possible in a country.
EfinA has already proved that many Nigerians do not have bank accounts or access to formal financial services. EFinA stated in its 2012 survey of Nigeria that 34.9 million adults representing 39.7% of the adult population were financially excluded. Only 28.6 million adults were banked, representing 32.5% of the adult population.
High levels of financial exclusion pose two major threats to economies:
Losing opportunities for business growth. In the absence of finance, people who are not connected with the formal financial system lack opportunities to maximise their income and expand their businesses.
The country’s economic growth could be stifled. Vast unutilized resources, in the form of money in the hands of people who are in the informal sector could limit a country’s economic growth potential.
What is Nigeria losing? Billions of Naira notes have and still are being circulated through the informal sector and this harms the country’s economic growth and development. The unbanked sector could considerably increase the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of Nigeria.
The EFInA survey in Nigeria 2012 revealed that 23.0 million adults save money at home. The report explained that, if 50.0% of people saved N1,000 every month with a bank, then up to N138 billion could be incorporated into the formal financial sector every year.
The opportunity for the private sector.
Providing financial products and services to the low-income population represents a large business opportunity for the private sector. Providers of financial products and services should develop innovative products and services that better suit the needs of the low-income unbanked and under-banked population.
Accessibility to more fintech services was heightened by the economic squeeze, inactivity, the lockdown imposed to curb the pandemic itself. Also, the CBN granting more licenses to Telco’s could insure the previously unbanked become truly financially inclusive.
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