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Telcos co-locate for financial inclusion

…target 90 million Nigerians by 2020

By Prince Osuagwu

Telecom operators, MTN Nigeria, Globacom, Airtel and 9Mobile, have formed a surprising partnership to deepen the financial inclusion in the country.

The telcos clearly indicated interest to providing Nigerians with access to a range of affordable financial services.

Following the issuance of Nigeria’s first mobile money licences in 2009, the journey towards financial inclusion has been slow. Current financial exclusion levels stand at over 40 per cent. There is a significant gap to be covered in order to meet Nigeria’s target of 20 per cent financial exclusion by 2020. In Nigeria, telco’s are excluded from accessing mobile money licences directly under current guidelines, while in most sub-Saharan African markets where mobile money is successful; Telcos are given a level-playing field.

The meeting was facilitated by Academic Director and Senior Fellow, at Lagos Business School, Yinka David-West, who said: “Far beyond financial inclusion rates in Nigeria, we also have to examine how people currently considered to have access to financial services stack up when evaluated against the criteria for true financial inclusion, that is, access to a full suite of quality financial services, provided at affordable prices, in a convenient manner.

When evaluated against this definition, it is clear that as a country, we have to work, not just to drastically increase the number of financially included persons, but also to increase the quality of inclusion and access we give, especially if we hope to positively impact the economy and the quality of the lives of Nigerians in any meaningful way.”

The telecommunications industry recognises that with an issue as critical as financial inclusion, it is important to focus on sustainable solutions. This requires inclusivity and collaboration of varied solutions providers in order to achieve real results. The telecommunications industry has the capabilities, technology, infrastructure, distribution network and subscriber base that can quickly be leveraged to provide these solutions. According to the Nigerian Communications Commission, NCC, the industry has a reach of 86 per cent of the country, with 162.3 million customers (the single largest customer base of any industry in Nigeria).The industry players have a combined presence in 773 local government areas across the country further emphasising their ability to reach especially hard to reach areas of the country in a bid to deepen access to financial services. They also have 1,000,000 unique agents already in place selling airtime across the country, creating a strong distribution network that can quickly be converted to established mobile money agent networks.

Our commitments as an Industry As the largest investors in telecoms in Nigeria, we have come together to deliver a concrete commitment to Nigeria – a promise to materially improve financial inclusion rates and to deliver access to financial services to 90 million customers over the next 30 months: 1. By the 6th month, we commit to bringing access to financial services to 15million customers, serviced by 100,000 agents. 2. By the 12th month, we commit to bringing access to financial services to 35 million Nigerians serviced by 250,000 agents. 3. By the 24th month, we commit to bringing access to financial services to 70 million Nigerians, serviced by 600,000 agents.

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