The importance of financial inclusion is derived from the promise it holds as a tool for economic development, particularly in the areas of poverty reduction, employment generation, wealth creation and improving welfare and the general standard of living.
However, a survey conducted in Nigeria in 2008 by a development finance organisation, Enhancing Financial Innovation and Access (EFInA), revealed that about 53.0 per cent of adults in the country were still excluded from financial services.
Financial savings and investment is an important factor in human endeavor, as it helps in the area of risk management, saves dire situations and provides a safety net during an emergency, which is a major player to achieving inclusiveness in finance.
However, without a regulatory body, charged with the responsibilities of checking, monitoring and ensuring that all the financial players are playing in accordance with the rules, some of these players may act beyond proportion and make life difficult for the common man rather than making things a smooth ride.
A regulatory body is a public organization or government agency that is set up to exercise a regulatory function. This involves imposing requirements, conditions or restrictions, setting the standard for activities, and enforcing in these areas or obtaining compliance.
Financial Technology Africa recognizes and highlights the impact of the following regulatory bodies in the promotion of financial inclusion.
CENTRAL BANK OF NIGERIA
The Nigeria Apex Bank is the major driver of financial inclusion in the country. Its policy paved the way and created a secretariat for financial inclusion in the country.
The Nigerian National Financial Inclusion Strategy (NFIS) was launched on October 23, 2012 by the CBN.
It’s expedient to note that the NFIS being driven by the CBN is yielding positive results.
The financial exclusion rate of adults has progressively improved from 46.3 per cent in 2010 to 41.6 per cent in 2016 and 36.8 per cent in 2018 as against the NFIS target of 20.0 per cent by 2020.
Shared Agent Network Expansion Facility, (SANEF) is a project powered by the Central Bank of Nigeria, Deposit Money Banks, Nigeria Inter-Bank Settlement Systems [NIBSS], Chartered Institute of Bankers of Nigeria, licensed Mobile Money Operators and Shared Agents with the primary objective of accelerating financial inclusion in Nigeria.
This project has been a major driver of financial inclusion through agency banking. Agency banking has been identified as one of the key influencers to drive mass markets to formal financial services as they enable customers to cash in, cash out, make payments or conduct other financial transactions without necessarily having to go through the traditional brick and mortar channels.
SANEF currently has over 100,000 agents and it has set a target of recruiting 500,000 agents in 2020.
Enhancing Financial Innovation & Access (EFInA) is a financial sector development organization that promotes financial inclusion in Nigeria. EFInA is funded by the UK Government’s Department for International Development (DFID) and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
EFInA focuses on four key pillars – Research, Innovation, Advocacy and Capacity Building. Its 2018 access to financial service survey provides valuable insight to the state of financial inclusion in Nigeria.
EFInA recently restated its commitment to Nigeria’s target of achieving 80% financial inclusion for adults by 2020.
LAGOS BUSINESS SCHOOL
Lagos Business School (LBS) is the graduate business school of Pan-Atlantic University (formerly Pan-African University).
The institution has been driving financial inclusion through public orientation and sensitization, published research work on financial inclusion.
Towards garnering financial inclusion content and sensitizing the public, Lagos Business School, in collaboration with BusinessDay, Microsave and International Finance Corporation (IFC) in 2017 hosted financial inclusion conference where discussants from Nigeria and the Diaspora recommended that digital financial inclusion should become a fundamental aspect of Nigeria’s development agenda.
NIGERIA COMMUNICATION COMMISSION
The Nigeria Communication Commission (NCC), being the telecoms regulator, is mandated to ensure the provision of infrastructure that will enable the flow of other services.
In recognition of the importance of financial inclusion, the NCC has established a desk in the Policy, Competition & Economic Analysis (PCEA) department to anchor and interface with the CBN and other stakeholders in the digital financial ecosystem.
For the actualization of financial inclusion and the digitization of the socio-economy of Nigeria, the NCC has licensed seven infrastructure companies (infracos) to provide broadband penetration for accessibility at affordable rates.