By Elizabeth Adegbesan

The Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, yesterday, unveiled the revised National Financial Inclusion Strategy designed to ensure that 80 per cent of Nigerian adults have access to financial services by 2020.

Governor, Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Mr Godwin Emefiele

The CBN stated that “the major goal of this revised strategy is to reduce the proportion of adult Nigerians that are financially excluded to 20 per cent in year 2020 from it baseline figure of 46.3 per cent in 2010.

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“The two overall financial inclusion targets were 80 per cent overall (formal and informal) financial inclusion and 70 per cent formal financial inclusion by 2020. There were 15 additional targets for channels, products and enabling environment as well as 22 key performance indicators (KPIs).”

Speaking on the nation’s financial inclusion progress since 2012, the apex bank said: “A total of 40.1 million adult Nigerians (41.6 percent of the adult population) were financially excluded in 2016. Further analysis has revealed that 55.1 percent of the excluded population were women, 61.4 percent of the excluded population were within the ages of 18 and 35 years, 34.0 percent had no formal education and 80.4 percent resided in rural areas.

“The revised strategy revealed that 46.5 percent  of the females, 52.5 percent  of those in rural areas and 53.5 percent of youth aged 18 to 25, 70 percent of those from the North West and 62 percent  of those from the North East were excluded in 2016. MSMEs were also peculiarly excluded from financial services.

“The aforementioned demographic (women, rural areas, youth, Northern geopolitical zones and MSMEs shall be the primary focus of intervention in these revised NFIS.”

On factors militating against financial inclusion in Nigeria, the CBN said: “The key findings from the review include: Stakeholder engagements revealed the following: Some of the elements of the strategy such as point-of-sale, PoS, terminals are no longer the appropriate or most efficient channel for distribution of financial services in view of advances in technology; Regulations and policies such as fixed fees for certain transactions  limit the range and variation of business models that can be deployed.

“Innovative models that have substantially increased financial inclusion in other countries such as mobile money penetration are yet to take significant root owing to some restrictive policies and regulations.

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“The pace of adoption and agent density have been low due to lack of understanding of the workings of agent banking and the opportunities it provides for stakeholders; Challenging macroeconomic and security situation in the review period exacerbated the constraints to financial inclusion and Low or non-adoption of financial products owing to cultural and religious factors slowed down financial inclusion in the Northern parts of the country”.

According to the CBN, these risks can be mitigated by obtaining support from the Governor’s office to push important regulations and lobby for legislative changes, using back-up power and batteries for ATMs, POS, and other electronic de vices, making concerted effort to drive financial literacy and consumer protection, use of mobile wallets to reduce cash handling and address through circulars and reviews.

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