The International Finance Corporation has said Nigeria is lagging behind its peers in sub-Saharan Africa in terms of financial inclusion and mobile money. In a report, titled ‘Digital Access: The Future of Financial Inclusion in Africa’, it said the number of financially excluded people in Nigeria increased by 2.1per cent in 2017 to 40.1 million.
The IFC noted that the country’s underperformance was related to the modest growth in mobile money. It said the number of mobile money accounts expanded by just six per cent in Nigeria in 2017, compared with double-digit growth in many jurisdictions.
The report held the regulator largely responsible, pointing to the Central Bank Nigeria’s guidelines of 2009 that barred mobile operators from offering mobile money products. “Instead, the Central Bank has awarded operating licenses to companies ranging from Retail Banks to Financial Technology Firms. The target to reduce the excluded ratio to 20 per cent of Nigerian adults by 2020 looks highly ambitious,” the report said.
The report stated that the macro importance of mobile money was that it helped to bring people into the tax-paying net. The Federal Minister of Finance, Kemi Adeosun, disclosed last week that taxpayer numbers had risen from 13 million in mid-2015 to 19.3 million currently.
Analysts said the principal drivers had been computerisation enforcement steps and the tax amnesty rather than mobile money. The IFC, which said in the report that it was not the sole provider of the research, stated that its findings were very similar to those of the leading domestic body, Enhancing Financial Innovation and Access.
EFInA’s latest annual report found that 40.1 million Nigerians were financially excluded, representing a 41.6 per cent share of the adult population. It said the definition of the included covered those who were banked, or had other formal arrangements and operated through the informal economy.