Financial experts have urged government at all levels and relevant agencies to collaborate and revisit policies to help achieve Nigeria’s financial inclusion objectives.
At the 2017 Financial Inclusion Conference, hosted by Lagos Business School (LBS), in collaboration with BusinessDay, Microsave and International Finance Corporation (IFC) on Tuesday, discussants from Nigeria and the Diaspora recommended that digital financial inclusion should become a fundamental aspect of Nigeria’s development agenda.
The theme of the conference, which focused on the Nigerian economy and that of the African continent, was Driving Inclusion with Digital Financial Services: Strategic Innovations to Reach the Last Mile.
The Dean of LBS, Dr Enase Okonedo set the tone for the discussions, stating that the objective of LBS to bring experts together at such a platform is to discuss issues of importance to the Nigerian economy. “Globally, there is a strong desire for countries to be financially inclusive, and part of our job at LBS is to ensure that we achieve the financial inclusion objective,” she explained.
During one of the panel discussions, Modupe Ladipo, Board Chairman of EfinA, said that Nigeria’s policies should be customer-centric and factored into global best practices to achieve financial inclusion objective in Nigeria. “Our policies must meet global standards of operations. We need regulators to be more flexible, and we need a diversity of players to provide financial services that would satisfy customers,” she said.
Modupe further explained that consumer protection was essential in financial inclusion as different consumers have different needs. “As a matter of necessity, we need to embark on research to know what our diverse population of consumers want. Let us move from office-led practice of operations to a consumer-led practice,” she counselled.
Jones Onyereri, Chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Banking and Currency, stated that legislators were doing their best to ensure that Nigeria is financially inclusive in the comity of nations. “The Cyber Crimes and Electronic Transactions Act were passed by the legislative body in Nigeria to bolster financial inclusion in Nigeria. It ensured ease of doing business in Nigeria,” he said.
The lawmaker further assured that despite the challenges encountered, the government would give apt attention to the players by creating a favourable avenue for financial inclusion to thrive in the country.
Lory Camba Opem, Program Lead for Responsible Finance at IFC Microfinance and Digital Financial Services, said that, in addition to making all agencies and stakeholders collaborate for the common good of achieving Nigeria’s financial inclusion objectives, digital literacy and financial education were key factors to explore. “Consumers need awareness to enable them to make the right decisions for them to be inclusive, and our policies must encompass all aspects of consumer education and privacy protection,” she stated.
Mike Ogbalu, Interswitch Divisional CEO, also revealed that Trust is at the centre of financial inclusion and as such, providers and regulators should embrace realistic policies. “For consumers to be financially inclusive, we have to build trust through our policies. Providers must desist from making unrealistic promises to consumers and agents,” he said.
Gregory Chen, Head of Policy, CGAP, said that due to Nigeria’s cultural diversity, adoption of different modules or policies could be beneficial in bridging the gap in financial inclusion across the country.
In his intervention, Fasasi Sarafadeen Atanda, President of the Association of Mobile Money Agents in Nigeria, suggested that Nigeria’s policies should encompass a thorough training programme that would equip agents and all stakeholders with adequate knowledge on financial services in other to penetrate the population in rural communities in the inclusion agenda. He also said that making policies to ensure inclusion we not enough, but the relevant authorities must enforce these policies to have far-reaching effects towards achieving the overall goal of making Nigeria financially inclusive across the globe.
Tayo Oviosu, Chief Executive Officer at Pagatech, said that policymakers on financial inclusion should be definite and firm as they needed to streamline payment systems by digitising payment solutions for the masses.
Dr Olayinka David-West, Project Lead, Sustainable and Inclusive Digital Financial Services (SIDFS) Initiative at LBS, urged all stakeholders to roll up their sleeves to make the issues of financial inclusion work in Nigeria. She thanked the collaborating partners, speakers, delegates and financial experts for pouring out their views and opinions and emphasised the need for a synergy in Nigeria’s financial ecosystem, which the LBS is trying to bring to fruition through the platform. The 2017 conference collaborators, Frank Aigbogun, Publisher and CEO, BusinessDay Media, revealed the keen interest of the media organisation in the issue of financial inclusion in Nigeria, which explains the reason for the partnership; while Jacqueline Jumah, the Senior Analyst in charge of Digital Financial Services, Microsave and Faculty at The Helix Institute, commended LBS for being at the forefront of impacting the practice of management in Nigeria and Africa.
At the conference, the Sustainable and Inclusive Digital Financial Services initiative of LBS launched the Digital Financial Services in Nigeria: State of the Market Report 2017. The report contains evidence-based insights on the state of financial inclusion in the country. The report, using consumer demographic profiles, describes the characteristics of potential financial services customers and also presents an examination of the policy and legal statutes guiding financial inclusion, while proffering market-enabling strategies for attaining the Central Bank of Nigeria’s commitment of 20 percent financial inclusion by 2020.