Financial inclusion has continued to assume increasing recognition across the globe among policy makers, researchers and development oriented agencies. Its importance derives 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 general standard of living.
A survey conducted in Nigeria in 2008 by a development finance organization, the Enhancing Financial Innovation and Access revealed that about 53.0% of adults were excluded from financial services. The global pursuit of financial inclusion as a vehicle for economic development had a positive effect in Nigeria as the exclusion rate reduced from 53.0 % in 2008 to 46.3 % in 2010. Encouraged by the positive development, the Central Bank of Nigeria in collaboration with stakeholders launched the National Financial Inclusion Strategy on 23rd October, 2012 aimed at further reducing the exclusion rate to 20% by 2020. Specifically, adult Nigerians with access to payment services is to increase from 21.6% in 2010 to 70% in 2020, while those with access to savings should increase from 24.0% to 60%; and Credit from 2% to 40%, Insurance from1% to 40% and Pensions from 5% to 40%, within the same period.
The channels for delivering the above financial services were equally targeted to improve, with deposit money bank branches targeted to increase from 6.8 units per 100,000 adults in 2010 to 7.6 units per 100,000 adults in 2020, microfinance bank branches to increase from 2.9 units to 5.5 units; ATMs from 11.8 units to 203.6 units, POSs from 13.3 units to 850 units, Mobile agents from 0 to 62 units, all per 100,000 adults between 2010 and 2020.
The targets were based on bench marking exercise carried out with peer countries, while also taking into consideration critical growth factors in the Nigerian environment.
The major tools for driving the Strategy include the following:
- Agent Banking
- Tierred Know-Your-Customer Requirements
- Financial Literacy
- Consumer Protection
- Linkage Banking
- Implementation of the MSME Development Fund
- Credit Enhancement Programmes such as
- Agricultural Credit Guarantee Scheme (ACGS)
- Commercial Agricultural Credit Scheme (CACS)
- Nigeria Incentive-Based Risk Sharing System for Agricultural Lending (NIRSAL)
- Refinancing and Rediscounting Facilities for SMEs
- Small and Medium Enterprise Credit Guarantee Scheme
- Entrepreneurship Development Centres
The Central Bank of Nigeria has released the framework for the following:
- Agent Banking
- Know Your Customer Requirements
- MSME Development Fund
- Financial Literacy
- Mobile Money Operation
The Bank is working on the framework for consumer protection and has set up a Financial Inclusion Secretariat to coordinate the implementation of the Strategy.
The Strategy is being pilot tested in Borno State in collaboration with the State Government and other stakeholders. Meanwhile, some key stakeholders are taking advantage of the opportunities it offers to roll out products and innovation to actualize their corporate aims and objectives.
The implementation of the Strategy is impacting positively on the rate of access to financial services. The adult exclusion rate reduced from 46.3% in 2010 to 39.7% in 2012. All the geopolitical zones in Nigeria equally recorded improvements with exclusion rate declining between 2010 and 2012 as follows: North East, 68.3% to 59.5%, North West, 68.1% to 63.8%, North Central, 44.2% to 32.4%, South East, 31.9% to 25.6%, South West, 33.1% to 24.8% and South South, 36.4% to 30.1%.
The Financial Inclusion Secretariat Offices and their Functions
The National Financial Inclusion Strategy which was launched on October 23, 2012 specified that a Financial Inclusion Secretariat shall be established in the Central Bank of Nigeria to coordinate the activities of stakeholders towards implementation, and to gather and analyze data to inform the public on the progress made.
The Secretariat provides support and is the Secretary of the Financial Inclusion Steering Committee (FISC) and the Financial Inclusion Technical Committee (FITC). Its reporting channel is shown on the organogramme below.
The Financial Inclusion Steering Committee (FISC) was inaugurated on January 29, 2015. The Committee provides overall strategic/policy direction to the implementation of the Strategy. The Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria acts as the Chairman and the Head of the Financial Inclusion Secretariat is the Secretary. The Committee meets biannually to review progress and provides strategic direction for the stakeholders.
The Financial Inclusion Technical Committee (FITC) was inaugurated on January 21, 2015. The Committee is chaired by the Deputy Governor, Financial System Stability while the Head, Financial Inclusion Secretariat is the Secretary. It comprises Directors of relevant Departments in the CBN and their equivalents in relevant Government Ministries, Departments and Agencies. Currently, the activities of the Technical Committee are being executed through four Working Groups namely:
∑ The Financial Inclusion Channels Working Group,
∑ The Financial Literacy Working Group,
∑ The Financial Inclusion Products Working Group, and
∑ The Financial Inclusion Special Interventions (Youth, Women and People Living with Disabilities) Working Group
The Working Groups address issues related to the implementation in their assigned areas and report on progress to the Steering and Technical Committees.
The Financial Inclusion Secretariat is charged with the following specific functions:
- Educate stakeholders on regulatory provisions
- Promote pilots to demonstrate the business case for financial inclusion
- Create awareness among stakeholders on their roles and responsibilities and coordinate the implementation of the Strategy
- Ensure that appropriate arrangements are made for financial inclusion data gathering and publishing
- Maintain a database for financial inclusion in Nigeria
- Track and monitor progress on financial inclusion
The Secretariat is made up of three Offices as shown below:
Financial Inclusion Secretariat
The Data Management Office is responsible for the collation of information related to the financial inclusion targets. The functions of the office include:
- Collection of comprehensive data from relevant industry stakeholders
- Distilation of key performance indicators from industry data
- Comparison of results with defined targets
- Analysis of large volumes of supply- and demand-side data from financial institutions and other relevant stakeholders
- Maintaining a database for financial inclusion targets in Nigeria
- Ensuring that right data quality control processes are in place
- Using relevant methods that include data gathering to track and monitor progress towards targets.
- Working with the Strategy Coordination Office to use data to answer policy questions and perform market analysis
- Working closely with industry stakeholders to identify and source quality data
The Strategy Coordination Office is responsible for the management of all financial inclusion strategy implementation activities across agencies. The office functions include:
- Regular reporting on the implementation activities of the Strategy across agencies
- Ensuring necessary fora are held to promote the implementation of the strategy, nationally
- Providing suggestions to improve target achievement, including priority and strategy reviews
- Identifying and developing new relationships and ensuring regular engagement and coordination with key partners
- Identifying barriers and opportunities facing the implementation of the Strategy
- Ensuring quality control methods are followed for developing reports
- Working in partnership with data analysts to answer policy questions or perform market analysis
- Providing best practices for better supporting key stakeholders
- Preparing reports that support the implementation of organizationsí financial inclusion strategies
- Regularly engaging key external stakeholders and internal agencies, providing fora for discussions and creating opportunities for specialized training
The Administrative Office supports the planning and organization of all activities of the Secretariat. The office is also responsible for effective communication with internal and external partners/stakeholders.
The Program Management Unit manages the implementation of the Digital Financial Services Project. The unit is domiciled in the Financial Inclusion Secretariat of the Central Bank of Nigeria. The Central Bank of Nigeria, the Federal Ministry of Finance and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation signed a non-binding Letter of Understanding (LoU) on the joint collaboration to develop and implement initiatives aimed at strengthening the digital payment systems in Nigeria over a 36-month period from January 2016 to December 2018.
The implementation process of the Digital Financial Services Project is overseen by the Digital Financial Services Project Steering Committee which was formally inaugurated on October 30, 2015. The structure of the Committee is shown in the diagram below:
Each initiative identified shall be jointly funded by the three parties based on pre-agreed funding proportions. The initiatives seek to achieve the following financial inclusion objectives:
I. Increase the level of Financial Inclusion in Nigeria and support the achievement of the set targets by the year 2020
II. Strengthen the payment system in order to accelerate the pace of digitalization in the country
III. Improve efficiency of public expenditure, reduce leakages and save money for vital development projects