ONU OKORIE writes that promoting financial inclusion will help capture unorganised private sector into the economy for the overall interest of the country
When Nigeria launched National Financial Inclusion Strategy, NFIS, in 2012, the overall target of stakeholders was to strategically commence reducing the number of adults excluded from financial services from 46.3% in 2010 to 20% in 2020.
Since then, Nigerian government has continued to support the bid to improve the lives of the people by deliberately developing financial inclusion policies and intervention targeted at the rural poor.
A notable milestone was the executive pronouncement on financial inclusion during the National Executive Council Retreat chaired by the Vice President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, which held on 21st March, 2016. The theme of the Retreat, Nigerian States: Multiple Centers of Prosperity, explored ways to respond to the nation‘s current economic crisis.
The retreat had in attendance state governors and ministers who sought to provide a forum for enabling policy actions to support economic growth. Some of the resolutions directly linked to financial inclusion outlined for the government at the retreat include; to make the environment conducive for the MSMEs to create jobs for the unemployed and undertake deliberate policies to create access to funds; to create a delivery mechanism that ensures efficient, consistent, timely and direct payments in the remotest parts of the country and to boost productivity and financial inclusion for the poorest and most vulnerable.
This pledge by the National Economic Council gives credence to the efforts of national stakeholders to leverage financial inclusion as a veritable tool for enhancing economic citizenship. Also National Financial Inclusion Steering Committee Meeting NFISC was inaugurated on 28th January, 2016 to kick-start implementations of strategies and policies enunciated for the inclusion. The Committee was set up to give policy and strategic direction on the implementation of the National Financial Inclusion Strategy in Nigeria.
The meeting which was chaired by the CBN Governor, Mr. Godwin Emefiele, had in attendance heads of stakeholder agencies/institutions including; the Nigerian Deposit Insurance Corporation, National Pension Commission, National Insurance Commission, Bankers‘Committee, Nigerian Postal Service, Securities and Exchange Commission, Apex associations, as well as Ministries, Departments and Agencies, MDAs.
At the meeting, the results of the National Baseline Survey on Financial Literacy were presented to the Committee by the Director, Consumer Protection Department, CBN, Mrs. Umma Dutse, while the representative of the consulting firm, Brandworx Limited presented the result of the 2nd round of the Geospatial Mapping Survey.
Also, National Financial Inclusion Technical Committee Meeting Financial Systems stability represented by the Director, Development Finance Department Dr. M.A. Olaitan gave further impetus to the efforts of government by finalising strategies attract members of the public into the financial system.
Key highlights of the meeting included updates from the Financial Inclusion Working Groups and the progress re-port on the strategy implementation. Secretary to the Committee and Head of Financial Inclusion Secretariat; Mrs. Temi-tope Akin-Fadeyi, while providing the progress update at the Governing Committee meetings, highlighted key achievements by all stakeholders.
The critical issues for consideration with regards to the implementation of the Strategy highlighted at the meetings are to addresses implementation issues on financial products and services, with a view to scaling up adoption of savings and credit, among others, to addresses implementation issues on financial access points and their dispersion across the country.
The Financial Literacy Working Group, FLWG, also is to address financial capability of consumers, in order to improve their under-standing of concepts and risks associated with financial products and services.
While the Financial Inclusion Special Interventions Working Group, FISIWG, is to ensure implementation issues related to women; youth and People with Disabilities, PWD, in order to enhance their access to financial products and services. Some areas of interests include: Payments and Savings, Low dispersion of financial access points, Infrastructural constraints hampering uptake of electronic channels Implement Digital Financial Inclusion Project Improve network in rural areas. While many stakeholders the strategy is needed for the financial sector to grow, analysts have argued that financial institutions which is expected to provide platform for the achievement of the strategies should play the needed role. Some the institutions are; CBN, Bankers ‘Committee, Federal Ministry of Communication, NCC, ALMPO, MDAs.
Some of the identified areas of concern for the financial inclusion drive are; high cost of credit and low uptake of micro-loans; low awareness of movable collateral registry, low penetration in the informal sector; low uptake of products and services, limited data available; cost of deployment and maintenance of ATMs, security issues in remote areas; Deploy ATMs in LGAs with few access points, security arrangements for ATM deployments and lack of unique identification Harmonise identity databases NIMC, Regulators, MDAs etc.
In order to eliminate some of these shortcomings, there was plan to Leverage on existing credit schemes such as MSMEDF, YIEDP Raise awareness of Collateral Registry of CBN. Institutions such as Bankers’ Committee, NAMB, AMFIN Pension PenCom, MDAs and Insurance were required to encourage participation by creating awareness, implement and raise awareness about micro pension plan. Enforce compulsory insurance products and raise awareness about benefits of insurance, Enhance existing database from NAICOM, NIA and the MDAs.
Financial Inclusion agenda is one that has gained critical acclaim nationally and indeed globally. Increasingly, financial inclusion has been identified by many countries as the bedrock for economic development and financial system stability. One of the ways promoting financial inclusiveness would spur the economy is that it would capture economic activities within the unorganised private sector. These include the artisans, small scale agricultural groups and traders. It is believed that this sector of the economy boasts of over 30 percent of the national Gross Domestic Products, GDP.