Managing Director, Ecobank Nigeria, Patrick Akinwuntan has said the biggest growth opportunities in digital financial inclusion lies in the ability to combine the mobile phone, cards and agency banking services in the most cost-effective and convenient way to reach the citizenry on a sustainable basis. Akinwuntan, who made this submission at the Ecobank-Vanguard Digital Financial Inclusion virtual summit in Lagos on Tuesday explained that bank branches and ATM channels are cost-intensive to scale and less attractive to mass market financial service providers. He said agency banking, Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD), mobile app, card services, including internet banking and chatbots remain optimum channels for digital financial inclusion.
The Ecobank Managing Director explained that digital financial inclusion entails deployment of cost-saving digital means to reach financially excluded and underserved population with a range of financial services suitable to their needs and delivered at affordable cost, noting that it offers lots of benefits to all players in the value chain and also engenders wealth creation, drives economic growth and sustainable development. Further, he observed that the Nigerian financial inclusion trend has improved significantly, with exclusion rate declining 15.7 per cent between 2008 and 2018.
“There is sustained growth in digital financial inclusion, and it is largely driven by customer changing demands; entrance of non-traditional players such as Fintechs, Payment Service Banks (PSBs); mobile services penetration and enabling regulatory environment. With the introduction of mobile wallet Tier 1 accounts accessible with a phone number, agency banking, micro-lending, mobile BVN, micro-insurance, cashless policy and others we should now begin to move from poverty alleviation to wealth creation for the citizenry. Further partnership and collaboration of all stakeholders remains critical to deliver further growth in digital financial inclusion. Ecobank has been committed to driving digital financial inclusion through her pan Africa network advantage, award winning capabilities and various flagship products and services. We collaborate with Fintechs in Africa, as we are present across 33 countries in Africa. If you wish to bring your innovation into the financial system, you can reach out to us and we will guide you through the required regulatory requirements and then integrate your innovation into our digital payments and financial system,” he stated.
In his presentation, Chief Executive Officer, 9mobile, Alan Sinfield, said though the telecom operators are playing a vital role in financial inclusion of unbanked and underbanked, collaboration and partnership of all stakeholders was key to increase volume of digital transactions and mobile money activities. He lauded CBN for granting licenses to 3 Payment Service Banks (PSBs), stating that the PSBs will further help to drive financial inclusion and critically stimulate savings and investment as more liquidity is mobilized from the informal sector to the mainstream financial system that will translate to increased economic activities.
“Telcom operators in Nigeria have a customer advantage that financial institutions could benefit from to deepen their penetration. Banking started before telecommunication, but there are more active mobile lines than active bank accounts in Nigeria. A very key indication that we can achieve more through collaboration,” he stated
Also speaking, Director, Payment System Management, Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Mr Jimoh Musa averred that financial inclusion is at the heart of the apex bank as it has been playing active role though the strategy is for the whole economy, stressing that the CBN is interested in the progress of financial inclusion in Nigeria. He lauded Ecobank and Vanguard for providing the platform to discuss financial inclusion to support the effort of making financial services available to Nigerians. He disclosed that CBN is coming up with other strategies in 2021 basically to enhance the operating environment more conducive for every participant in the payment system with a special focus on Fintech. He added that the apex bank has done creditably well in agency banking, mobile money operations, digital banking, industry cost to service, and requirements of opening bank account to promote financial inclusion.
The Ecobank Vanguard Digital Financial Inclusion summit was designed to convene policy makers, operators, business and thought leaders as well as industry professionals to chat the way forward for the Nigerian digital financial landscape, specifically financial inclusion for the vast majority of citizens operating within the informal sector of the economy.