Godwin Emefiele, CBN Governor
The need to achieve financial inclusion, the mission to accommodate Nigeria’s large underserved population into the country’s financial system has been in the front burner in recent years.
This informed certain policy initiatives by relevant agencies of government, like the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), to ensure that financially excluded Nigerians, especially from the rural areas, have access to financial products and services.
The introduction of CBN’s digital currency, the eNaira, and several other financial products is partly to enhance and promote financial inclusion.
To further realise aim, Nigeria hosted the maiden edition of the International Financial Inclusion Conference on Nov. 24 and Nov. 25.
The conference, which was organised by the CBN and its partners within the financial inclusion governance committee, was the largest meeting of the global financial inclusion ecosystem since the launch of National Financial Inclusion Strategy in 2012.
It had as its theme: “Financial Inclusion for all: Scaling Innovative Digital Models”, and had in attendance over 5000 participants from about 78 countries.
Attendees, including President Muhammadu Buhari, witnessed the presentation of seven key policy documents, and products that would facilitate the achievement of 95 per cent Financial Inclusion in Nigeria by 2024.
The documents included the revised National Financial Inclusion Strategy (3.0), the Strategy for Leveraging Agent Networks for Women’s Financial Inclusion, the National Fintech Strategy, and the Payment System Vision (PSV) 2025.
Others were the Nigeria Financial Services Maps, the CBN Regulatory Sandbox and a Fintech Bridge between the CBN and the Central Bank of Egypt.
Buhari said that government appreciated the strong impact of financial inclusion on economic growth and development.
Buhari said that his administration has provided the enabling policy environment for the initiative to yield expected results.
According to him, various intervention programmes of the Federal Government are meant to boost financial inclusion.
“At the onset of my administration we developed a blueprint for economic growth and development called the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP).
“The plan was focused on economic recovery in the short-term and sustained growth and development in the long-term.
“It enabled this administration, through the flagship agriculture initiative, the Anchor Borrowers Programme (ABP), to provide access to credit to over four million smallholder farmers in 36 states of Nigeria and the FCT.
“Farmers were required to open bank accounts to access this facility.
“This marked the first time many of them had accounts, and has consequently led to the growth of financial inclusion amongst this underserved segment,” he said.
The president said his government also launched the Micro Pension policy in 2019, aimed at deepening pension penetration amongst Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) and the informal economy.
“We also initiated policies for Micro-Insurance and Collective Investment, geared toward providing access to a wide range of financial products and services to the underserved in line with our National Financial Inclusion objective,” he said.
He commended the National Financial Inclusion Steering Committee, under the leadership of Mr Godwin Emefiele, the CBN Governor, and organisers of the conference for the initiative.
In his keynote address at the conference, Emefiele highlighted CBN’s long-standing effort to achieve the financial inclusion targets by creating enabling environments and providing supports.
According to him, from 2012 to date, over 59 policies and initiatives have been implemented by stakeholders to achieve the objectives of financial inclusion.
“These policies and initiatives cut across the banking sector, the insurance sector, the capital market sector and the institutions responsible for infrastructural development for financial inclusion in Nigeria.
“We have prioritised financial inclusion through our invention for over four million smallholder farmers and SMEs creating over two million jobs.
“By the end of 2024, we aim to be at 95 per cent rate of financial inclusion in Nigeria,” he said.
The Deputy Governor, Financial System Stability, CBN, Mrs Aisha Ahmad, said that the conference was holding at a critical time in Nigeria’s Financial Inclusion journey.
“Nigeria is indeed at an important tipping point for financial inclusion.
“At no time has there been a prevalence of an enabling regulatory environment, proliferation of digital technology, innovation and collaborative platforms between the public and private sector; all strategic levers required to scale financial inclusion in Nigeria,” she said.
She also emphasised the role of policymaking in advancing financial inclusion in Nigeria.
In a special keynote, Queen Maxima of the Netherlands highlighted the role to be played by the new National Financial Inclusion Strategy in providing a genuine chance for improving livelihoods.
She suggested leveraging the National Insurance Number (NIN) and the Bank Verification Number (BVN), among other policies.
Experts say that it is important that the federal government continues to pursue measures and policies to boost financial inclusion because of its enormous advantages to the nation’s economy.
Some of the advantages, according to them, are its ability to act as a spring board to lift individuals and families communities out of poverty, thereby driving economic growth.
As tool for inclusive growth, financial experts also say argue that it provides services to that poorest of the society and vulnerable groups to exit poverty, thereby reducing inequality in the society. (NAN)
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