A recent research conducted by Enhancing Financial Innovations and Access (EFInA) revealed that women in northern Nigeria are more financially excluded than their counterparts in the south.
In the report ‘Assessment of women’s financial inclusion in Nigeria’ EFInA explained that the inclusion gap experienced by women across different regions in the country might be the presence, in the north, of a more conservative socio-cultural and gender norms that impose restrictions on women’s access to financial services, irrespective of their religion.
The research report also stated that Nigerians living in rural areas are significantly less likely than those in urban areas to use formal financial services, even when all other factors are held equal.
The head of programmes at EFInA, Ms. Ashley Immanuel who presented the report in Lagos at a conference tagged ‘Unlocking the potential in every Nigerian: The path to inclusive economic growth,’ said although excluded women may not have access to financial services, they do have financial needs and ambitions.
“The current structure of the financial system in Nigeria and its associated regulatory environment is one in which the cost of investment and the cost-to-serve for existing providers is not met with sufficient customer ability and willingness on the part of excluded women to pay.
“The customer group appears, therefore, to be a commercially ‘inviable’ target for most existing providers. However, women continue to have financial needs and ambitions—as evidenced by their use of a range of informal products,” she said.
The report showed that women’s adoption of financial services is influenced mainly by their levels of income, education, and trust in Financial Services Providers (FSPs), their marital status, and their community.
Immanuel said five segments of women emerged during the study.
They were ‘marginalised polygamous wife’, the ‘anxious early bride’, the ‘stoic widow’, the ‘ambitious micro trader’, and the ‘entrapped farmer.’
She said Nigeria faces a particularly significant and growing gender gap in financial inclusion.
“This gender gap is larger than in most other countries, and the gender gap is widening.
“In contrast, comparator countries in Africa such as Kenya, South Africa, Tanzania, and Uganda all exhibit a decreasing gender gap.
“The gender gap in Nigeria represents a major issue to be resolved if the country is to achieve the targets it set in its National Financial Inclusion Strategy (NFIS),” she said.
She advised that interventions focused on increasing and deepening women’s financial inclusion must focus on three key areas to achieve sustainable change and may be complemented by subsidy efforts to provide services in the meantime.
“First, the focus of efforts to boost women’s financial inclusion should shift beyond product innovation to address the underlying drivers of gender gaps, through more systematic efforts to address women’s incomes and economic empowerment, education and boosting trust in FSPs.8 Our analysis suggest that these are key to closing gender gaps and improving the financial inclusion of women.
“Targeted collaboration across stakeholders is needed to understand and identify options for improving the commercial viability of serving financially excluded women, even in the absence of improved income, education, and trust in FSPs. Such effort would need to outline the degree to which commercial viability is actually lacking and then determine interventions that could ‘tip the balance’.
“Stakeholders who choose to provide financial products and services to excluded women who, despite efforts in the first two categories, do not present commercial viability (yet), must recognise that, until viability is reached, such services will require subsidies. In any case, product offerings must be relevant, not just ‘aspirational’, and must meet women ‘where they are’. They must be suited to women’s low current levels of income, education and trust in FSPs,” she said.
In his remarks, the co-founder of Trans-Sahara Investment Corporation, Mr. Kyari Bukar said the effect of the northern and southern part is the dichotomy of inclusion.
He said climate change as well as the crisis in the northeast affects financial inclusion.
He explained that Lake Chad is as big as Oyo State “but today, only 10 per cent is irrigable.
“The people are basically farmer. Over 40 million people have their livelihood from there. But they have no farmed in the last nine to 10 years,” he added.
Also speaking, the managing director of Sterling Bank, Mr. Abubakar Suleiman said 10 per cent of the bank’s port folio is channeled to agriculture in the north.
However, he said financial inclusion is not about the poor people in the north but about how people, even those who own businesses could have access to finance.
He also said financial inclusion starts with productivity but added that “until we can demonstrate how people’s quality of life can be improved after financial conclusion, we will still be struggling.”
He said the key to human development is economic inclusion adding “once the basic needs are made available, access to finance is possible.”
Nevertheless, he said money should be deliberately directed to women, not men.
The EFInA Access to Financial Services in Nigeria surveys pointed out that, despite overall improvements in financial inclusion in Nigeria, we have not been able to close the gender gap in access to financial services. In fact, the gender gap – defined as the difference between the percentage of men that are financially included and the percentage of women that are financially included – grew slightly between 2008 and 2018.
The Assessment of Women’s Financial Inclusion in Nigeria,jointly carried out by EFInA and the CBN’s Financial Inclusion Secretariat in 2019, comprised of a nationally-representative survey, combined with expert interviews and human-centred design research. The research was carried out in 2019.