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Estimated 500,000 mobile money/bank agents to serve 105 million Nigerians by 2020-CBN

With the revised National Financial Inclusion Strategy unveiled,the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) estimates 500,000 mobile money/bank agents to be available to serve about 105 million adult Nigerians by the year 2020.

The figure translates to about 476 agents per 100,000 adults, the CBN said in the new document which rolls out steps on how the country would get 80 percent of its adult population become financially included by the end of next year.

Nigeria in 2012, launched an ambitious National Financial Inclusion Strategy and adopted to achieve 20 percent exclusion rate by 2020.

Though progress has been made, the latest survey on the access to Financial Services by EFInA indicates that about 36.8 percent of eligible Nigerian adults are still excluded from Financial Services.

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This is however, down from the 41.6 recorded in 2016.

“Whilst the improvement is encouraging, there is still considerable work to be done to achieve the overall 20% target exclusion rate by 2020.

”And the Revised National Financial Inclusion Strategy rightly identifies Consumer Protection and its constituent pillar of Consumer Education as critical to the attainment of its objectives,” Aishah Ahmad who is the Deputy governor incharge of the, Financial System Stability, FSS, Directorate at the CBN said at the launch of the new strategy.

The CBN had targeted 62 agents per 100,000 adults in the 2012 strategy. But it had reviewed figure upwards in the new document considering the global shift from physical bank branches to branchless banking.

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“The justification for this new figure is based on recent developments in the financial sector aimed at taking financial services to the unserved and under-served using branchless platforms such as agent banking and digital platforms,” the CBN said in the new document.

To derive the financial inclusion targets, the CBN also expects the payment, savings, credit, insurance and pension components of the financial services system to reach 70%, 60%, 40%, 40%, and 40% of the adult population respectively.

Also as seen in the document obtained by BusinessDay, the CBN expects bank branches, Micro Finance Bank branches, ATMs, as well as POS to increase to 7.6; 5; 203.6; and 850 to be able to serve every 100,000 adult Nigerians by next year,

At the event where three other documents, including Consumer Protection Framework (CPF), National Financial Literacy Framework (NFLF), National Financial Education Strategy (NFES) were equally launched, Deputy Governor Ahmad said during the course of implementing
the previous Strategy, the need arose for its review to meet the challenges and re-assess the developments and the current realities, of the ever evolving environment in which we operate.

According to her, building inclusive financial systems has become an important objective for policymakers around the world given the positive effects that financial inclusion has on poverty reduction and enhancing economic prosperity.

“The need for financial literacy and consumer protection has never been so nuanced. We must not only pursue these with renewed strength; but must also strengthen collaboration amongst all stakeholders if we are to succeed with the pursuit of the nation’s financial inclusion

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“With support from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation we now have a revised strategy which we believe, with your support, would aid us as we strive to meet our year 2020 target of reaching 80% financial inclusion level,” she told the stakeholders.

The revised strategy particularly recognises the imperative for prioritizing the foundational constraints, the importance of innovation and the need to create an enabling environment to promote to promote financial inclusion.

The CBN said five priorities would now be most crucial to increasing financial inclusion in Nigeria including creating an enabling environment for the expansion of DFS, enabling the rapid growth of agent networks with nationwide reach, harmonizing Know Your Customer (KYC) requirements for opening accounts/mobile wallets on all financial services platforms.

The other drivers would be create an enabling environment to serve the most excluded as well as to improve the adoption of cashless payment channels, particularly in government-to-person and person-to-government payments.

Sunday Salam-Alada, Director, Consumer Protection Department, CBN who also spoke at the launch said despite the strides towards fostering financial inclusion, significant challenges exist.

Prominent amongst these challenges are dearth of financial literacy and awareness amongst consumers and a general lack of confidence in dealing with financial institutions.

He said these issues can only be addressed through robust financial literacy and consumer protection programmes since if consumers are not adequately protected by constantly having unresolved issues with their financial services providers, they are bound to be apathetic towards the system.

He said the CBN is now making significant efforts to ensure that financial consumers are adequately protected like its helpdesk which has helped recover over N68billion on behalf of bank constomers.

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He said in the area of illiteracy and lack of awareness, the CBN has been implementing financial literacy programmes.

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