Stakeholders in the financial sector have lamented the non-inclusiveness of a greater percentage of the populace in Nigerian financial services.
Speaking at the 3rd Quarterly Forum organised by Nigeria Information Technology Reporters’ Association (NITRA) in Lagos, Chief Executive Officer, Global Accelerex, a financial service provider, Tunde Ogungbade, however expressed optimism that with the right policies in place, up to 80 percent of Nigerians can be financially included.
According to Ogungbade, who was the Keynote Speaker at the quarterly forum organised to raise awareness on Information and Communications Technology (ICT) industry issues and proffer solutions for the growth of ICT in Nigeria, “Financial inclusion means that individuals and businesses have access to useful and affordable financial products and services that meet their needs and delivered in a responsible and sustainable way”.
He further explained that some of the factors that had placed the greater percentage of Nigerians in the circle of financial exclusiveness include low income level, large rural population, financial illiteracy, poor coverage by banks, lack of innovation by financial institutions and unprofitability for traditional banking.
Ogungbade noted that digital payment will help manage money effectively, allowing the financially disconnected Nigerians easy access to financial services, while also helping increase consumer activities and trade.
He noted that with the right efforts in place, up to 80 percent of Nigerians will have access to financial services by 2020. “Channels through which people can access the services such as branches of banks, microfinance banks, number of ATMs, mobile agents, POS, agents of deposit money banks are also expected to increase to specified target numbers per 100,000 adults in 2020.”
According to him, the federal government and regulators initiate appropriate policies. There is also a need to encourage and facilitate technological research and innovation that will make financial services not just easily accessible but also cheaply available.
Ogungbade further pointed out the need to develop technology solutions & innovation to reach unbanked through transformational branchless banking by tapping into infrastructure that already reaches the rural/remote areas.
“Government, banks and other financial services would need to move away from the attitude of viewing the objective behind financial inclusion as a national social responsibility but should begin to look at it more as a profitable business opportunity and an enabler of development,” he concluded.
In his summation, Founder of CWG Plc and Entrepreneur in Residence at Columbia University, Austin Okere noted that it is appalling that only about 30 percent of Nigerian financial space is banked.
According to him, the country needs to focus on how to bring the unbanked community into the financial system so that they could benefit from the ongoing digital financial plan.
“Digital Payment only makes banking convenient to those that are already banked. But we need to do more to get the unbanked into the system.”
He muted that opinion that maybe banks should focus on large loans and transactions and leave retail services to Financial Technology (FinTech) providers.
Divisional Head, eBanking at Fidelity Bank Plc, Ifeoma Onibuje explained that the hitherto challenge of data for mobile banking which hampered digital financial inclusiveness is being addressed by banks through the effective use of Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD) also referred to as ‘Quick Codes’. She expressed optimism that banks are gearing up to the challenges that had hampered the growth of digital banking and the slow pace of reaching the unbanked in Nigeria.