Just like the Bank Verification Number (BVN), the project propelled by the Bankers’ Committee, the Shared Agent Network Expansion Facility (SANEF) scheme has been successful.
The stakeholders in the scheme would be happy with what they have created in the last few years. The scheme has catapulted Nigeria into the top map of agency banking in Africa.
In order to enhance the provision of financial services to the excluded population, the Central Bank of Nigeria in collaboration with the Body of Bank Chief Executives (Bankers’ Committee) established SANEF.
SANEF provides financing to the CBN-licensed Super Agents and Mobile Money Operators to expand their networks in order to deepen financial inclusion in Nigeria.
This body enhances the capacity of the operators to roll-out more financial access points across the 774 local government areas in Nigeria particularly in the financially excluded locations.
The objectives of SANEF as stated include to enhance the capacity of mobile money operators (MMOs) and super agents to establish financial services access points in under-served and unserved locations, to increase agents penetration among the unbanked and excluded population, to provide platform for achieving the financial inclusion targets and to create jobs and promote inclusive economic growth.
Apart from the last objective which is difficult to verify, Financial Technology Africa findings have revealed that SANEF has achieved, if not surpassed, all of the objectives it set for itself.
However, in the process of achieving the objectives, the scheme has inadvertently benefited few while inflicting pains and anguish on some of the stakeholders. So, who are the winners and losers?
1. The Agents
There is no doubt that the agents are the biggest beneficiaries of the SANEF scheme. Aside from their availability and floats the agents provide for transactions, the operators were compelled to spoon-feed them (the agents) with free terminals and other incentives. Some of the super agents even provide floats for their agents.
The agents determine the cash-out-fee. This is a situation that has left Nigeria’s burgeoning banked consumers to continue to groan under the burden of agency fees forced on them by the inadequate number of ATMs.
2. The Banks
Just a quick review of the eligible activities at the agent’s location revealed how SANEF scheme was designed to benefit the banks. The scheme has delivered that mandate. Millions of bank accounts have been opened, a huge number of BVN has been captured and recorded, and the banks have benefited immensely from the cash-in and cash-out services and the card payment and withdrawal transactions.
Importantly, the banks have been able to douse the agitations of the telcos for mobile money licenses with the runaway success of the SANEF scheme.
3. Card schemes
Card scheme operators are the biggest net beneficiaries of the SANEF scheme. The Point of Sale terminals (PoS), the preferred channel adopted for SANEF, was a big plus for the card scheme operators. SANEF has increased the PoS for card payments exponentially.
1. Super Agents
Financial Technology Africa findings have revealed that the SANEF scheme is not a profitable venture for most of the super agents. Hardly can the scheme generate enough earnings to repay the credit facilities they have received from the Bankers’ Committee.
The super agents have been compelled by the principals to utilize the facility for the following: Associated cost for on-boarding of agents, agent recruitment and training, device acquisition for agent transactions, signage procurement and installation, branding and signage fabrication, localized marketing cost and other administrative cost. The list is endless.
The super agents have been extremely creative and hardworking in the delivery of their mandates. How they will repay the credit facilities is a big question.
2. The people
Nigeria’s burgeoning banked consumers continue to groan under the burden of agency fees forced on them by the agents because of the absence or inadequate number of bank branches and ATMs. It is unfortunate that the banks have birthed a regime which they cannot control, remotely or directly.
The agents are the king.