Financial Inclusion: NIPOST, Fidelity Bank moving the process forward




The federal government’s efforts at ensuring that adult Nigerians that do not have access to today’s financial services is bridged is yielding results with some of its institutions partnering to facilitate its workability. DAVID AGBA reports.

The strategy

The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) adopted the National Financial Inclusion Strategy (NFIS) in 2012. The Strategy articulated the demand-side, supply-side and regulatory barriers to financial inclusion, identified areas of focus, set targets, determined key performance indicators (KPIs) and established the implementation structure.

Four key areas

The NFIS was built on four strategic areas of agency banking, mobile banking/mobile payments, linkage models and client empowerment. Four priority areas were identified for guideline and framework development namely, Tiered Know-your-Customer (T-KYC) regulations, Agent Banking regulations, National Financial Literacy Strategy and Consumer Protection. The Strategy defined a set of targets for products, channels and enablers of financial inclusion. The KPIs were defined, based on the various dimensions of financial inclusion, including access, usage, affordability, appropriateness, financial literacy, consumer protection and gender. The NFIS proposed strategies for each of these elements, which included a comprehensive set of policy and regulatory changes as well as suggested business models. In the implementation of the Strategy, the targets were further tailored to reflect the needs and challenges of individual financial service providers (FSPs).

Strategy review process

In line with the 2012 NFIS monitoring plan, a review was carried out from October 2017 to June 2018 based on research reports, data analysis and stakeholder engagements. The exercise aimed to understand the current state of financial inclusion in Nigeria, assess past approaches, lessons learnt in order to prioritise the most critical interventions to achieve the objectives.

So far

In 2016, 58.4% of Nigeria’s 96.4 million adults were financially included comprising 38.3% banked, 10.3% served by other formal institutions and 9.8% served by informal service providers.

Ahead

In 2020, Nigeria plans to have 70% of its adult population in the formal financial services sector and 10% included in the informal sector.

Prospects for financial inclusion

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

The strategic partnership

 As part of efforts by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to achieve 80 per cent financial inclusion by 2020, the Nigerian Postal Service (NIPOST) in June this year, launched an agency banking partnership in collaboration with Fidelity Bank Plc.

It is important to note that other banks as well as financial institutions are executing one programme or the other towards enhancing financial inclusion in Nigeria.

The collaboration is designed to increase access to financial services in the rural areas, bridge the gap between the poor and the rich, create jobs and empower the poor to bring them into the formal economy.

Postmaster-General, NIPOST, Mr Bisi Adegbuyi, said this at the Launch of Integrated Agency Banking and Treasury Single Account (TSA) Collections in collaboration with Fidelity Bank in Abuja.

Expanding frontiers

According to him, the growth of e-commerce has forced many postal administrations to explore ways of expanding their frontiers through collaboration with relevant stakeholders to meet the emerging challenges.

He said the launching of the agency banking was part of the efforts to extend financial services at affordable costs to sections of disadvantaged and low income segments of the society.

“The integrated agency banking services incorporate the collections of TSA on a single platform.

“With this development, customers can also get banking services in the post offices nationwide and can deposit and withdraw money, including payment of bills for utility services in post offices.

“The partnership also avails Fidelity bank the opportunity to expand its network using the over 1800 post office facilities nationwide to take banking closer to the people.

“In line with the federal government financial inclusion policy to provide financial services to the under-banked and unbanked populace, who work in the informal sector of the economy without or less access to financial services,’’ Adegbuyi said.

 Providing access at a reasonable cost

He added that the model also supported the United Nation’s goal of providing access at a reasonable cost for all households to full range of financial services.

Adegbuyi while stressing the need for the partnership, said over 20million adults of the total population get their main source of income from subsistence and commercial farming.

“Over 47 per cent of Nigerian farmers do not have access to financial services because they are mostly based in rural areas and of the 1800 post offices 70 per cent are in the rural areas”.

POS use at post offices

Adegbuyi said concerning the benefits of the launch that Fidelity bank now would have its Point- of -Sale (POS) used in NIPOST facilities throughout the country.

“The project has the potential to increase the revenue base of both organisations and enhance the saving culture of the rural dwellers as well as help in mopping excess cash from rural areas,” he said.

On his part, the Deputy Managing Director, Fidelity Bank, Mohammed Balarabe revealed that the project will commence in 266 NIPOST branches.

“This project is in line with our strategy for financial inclusion. What NIPOST is doing is deploying its over 1,400 locations across the country in collaboration with Fidelity Bank to deploy banking services to all and sundry so that those individuals who currently do not have access to financial services will now be able to do so.

“From the pilot that we are going to embark on will involve about 266 branches, and immediately get people to enjoy services of banks and ultimately we will see more and more development across the country,” he said.

Also speaking at the project launch,  with the theme, “Unifying Agency Banking and TSA Collection on a Single Platform,” the General Manager, Financial Services Unit, NIPOST, Muktar Baba lamented that most of the adult population of developing countries such as Nigeria lack access to banking services.

He stated that it is only when they have access to such services that the government and banks will know they are there and advance credit to them.

Collaboration

“NIPOST and CBN have been working assiduously on financial inclusion. NIPOST has the right infrastructure in those rural areas. So, NIPOST has a role in national financial inclusion strategy and that is to position the post office at the centre to make it possible for the customer of every bank to have access to your service and to do that we had to partner with one of the financial institutions like fidelity bank,” he said

Baba added that when the project picks up, customers of every bank could go to wherever this collaboration is and have access to financial service and gradually,  expressing the hope to cover the whole country.

Head, Digital Financial Services, Financial Inclusion Secretariat, Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Mr Stephen Ambore, said over 36.6 million Nigerians were not financially included.

Over 36.3 million not included.

According to him, the CBN was committed to ensuring that over 80 per cent of this population was included in all financial services by 2020.

He said that the CBN would encourage collaborations by all to make innovative products available to the citizenry.




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