By AMECHI OGBONNA
Bothered by the relatively high rate of exclusion of an estimated 39.2 million Nigerian adult population from modern financial services across the country, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), pledged renewed commitment at lowering the number of the population currently not having access to formal banking services.
In its recent financial inclusion roadmap, the apex bank hinted it intends to raise the bar for extension of provision of adequate, appropriate and timely financial services for the 39.2 million financially excluded adult Nigerians. Speaking recently on its efforts so far, Central Bank Governor, Mallam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, noted that the initiative occupies a central position in the country’s efforts at promoting and achieving rapid economic development.
Sanusi explained that one of the major reasons for the high rate of financial exclusion in Nigeria was inadequate knowledge of the service providers, services provided, terms and conditions and the benefits derivable from accessing financial services. According to the apex bank boss, the reforms in the banking sector has so far led to significant reduction of the industry cost – to serve by 30 per cent; while increasing access, convenience and service levels across the industry.
He stated that the process has also enabling greater financial inclusion and integration of financial services into the economy, pointing also that the bank has already prepared the framework for implementing the tiered Know-Your-Customer (KYC) requirements and the establishment of a unique identification mechanism for the financial services sector.
The bank pointed out that as at September 2012, a total of 101,154 POSs and 9,676 ATMs had been deployed in Nigeria, while the 20 Licensed Mobile Payment Operators, carried out transactions worth over N8 billion,with over 40,000 agents across the country. The CBN admitted that globally, access to financial services has remained a major challenge to development, citing reasons for this state of affairs to include: cultural barriers, low education, unemployment, gender, long distance to access points, lack of appropriate means of identification and high transaction costs.
In Nigeria, the rate of adult financial exclusion is estimated at 46.3 per cent, one of the highest in Sub-Saharan Africa, hence the development of a National Financial Inclusion Strategy (NFIS) by the CBN. It was also observed that about 90 per cent of children and youths do not have access to formal financial services even though 32.1per cent of world population is below the age of 18.
In Sub Saharan Africa, children make up 47.30 per cent of the population, and only 16.8 per cent of those between the ages of 15–25 years hold accounts in formal financial institutions. Furthermore, only about 1.5 million children and youths are currently saving with a total savings balance of USD7.53million an indication that a lot of work still needed to be done to ensure that in Africa, and across the world, children and youths benefit from combined financial education and inclusion.
The major objective of the Strategy according to the apex bank was to reduce the exclusion rate to 20.0 per cent by 2020, in line with the Maya Declaration of 2011. In order to underscore the importance Nigerian government attaches to Financial Inclusion, the country has launched the National Financial Inclusion Strategy, as well as hosting Her Royal Highness (HRH), Princess Maxima of the Netherlands, the United Nations (UN) Secretary-General’s Special Advocate for Inclusive Finance for Development.
The two events held concurrently with the first Alliance for Financial Inclusion (AFI) Strategy Peer Learning Programme and the Regional Meeting of the Child and Youth Finance International for Africa, as a reflection of efforts of the Central Bank of Nigeria to enhance access to financial services in the country.
Meanwhile the apex bank has indicated its commitment to further enhancing Financial Literacy among Nigerians which is a process, by which consumers/investors improve their understanding of financial products, concepts and risks through information, instruction and/or advice, develop the skills and confidence to become more aware of financial risks and opportunities, to make informed choices, know where to go for help, and take other effective actions to improve their well-being.
It argues that, financial inclusion, financial literacy and consumer protection play complementary roles in the attainment of financial stability in any country’s economy. In the light of the above measures, the bank has also established the Consumer Protection Department, drafted the Financial Literacy Framework for Nigeria in addition to issuing Guidelines for Agent Banking. It has also revised the National Microfinance Policy, Regulatory and Supervisory Framework for Nigeria and revised the Microfinance Regulatory Guidelines.