EIGHT years after the Nigerian authorities introduced a programme to deepen financial penetration among the citizens, the country is still far off from achieving its ambitious target. In a new report, the Central Bank of Nigeria admits that the country is not on track to meet its lofty objective of bringing in more Nigerians into the formal financial net. With high hopes, the CBN and the Enhancing Financial Innovation and Access, a research and advocacy organisation, teamed up in 2012 to reduce Nigeria’s high incidence of financial exclusion. Seeing that the goal has not materialised, the regulator and its partners have to embark on a fresh plan of action, based on critical reviews of the existing approaches and multiple innovations on what else should be done.
Research shows that countries with deeper levels of financial inclusion — defined as access to affordable, appropriate financial services — have stronger GDP growth rates and lower income inequality. Identified as an enabler for seven of the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals, the World Bank considers financial inclusion a key building block to reduce extreme poverty and boost shared prosperity. Crucially, more than 55 countries have made commitments to financial inclusion, and more than 60 have either launched or are developing a national strategy, the bank adds. In India, a digital platform is set to cover 1.2 billion citizens. Singapore is regarded as running a highly successful financial inclusion project in South-East Asia. “Digital financial services are expected to generate $38 billion in annual revenue within the region’s six largest markets by 2025; the full potential could increase to $60 billion,” a 2019 report titled, ‘Fulfilling Its Promise – The Future of South-East Asia’s Digital Financial Services Industry,’ stated.
Although Nigeria has taken a step towards improving financial inclusion, things are not working