COVID-19 brought a public health challenge to Nigeria, but it also resulted in an economic downturn on the back of a pandemic-induced recession. The pandemic highlighted the need to diversify the economy to develop a wide range of growth industries and sectors in addition to the more traditional ones such as oil and gas.

The growth of the digital technology sector in Nigeria is an indication that the sector can serve as a catalyst for advancing the digital economy, while enabling economic recovery and growth. The NBS report noted the significance of the ICT sector, as it was the leading driver in the non-oil sector that led to GDP growth and economic recovery in 2020. The World Bank’s Nigeria Digital Economy Diagnostic Report highlights that Nigeria is uniquely positioned to reap the benefits of the digital economy as the country accounts for 47% of West Africa’s population, and half of the country’s 200 million people are under the age of 30.

The report goes on to acknowledge Nigeria as the largest mobile market in Sub-Saharan Africa, supported by strong mobile broadband infrastructure. At the same time, minimal fixed infrastructure and connectivity in rural areas can leave the most marginalised people behind. Partnerships with government, fintech players, telecom companies and other strategic partners to provide digital solutions and support the cashless economy, offer the greatest potential to overcome infrastructure barriers to accelerate financial inclusion and drive economic growth across multiple sectors.

Digital innovations are key to advancing financial inclusion. They are the big equalisers, enabling and spearheading financial inclusion for people and small businesses alike.

The foundation to enable payment technologies for a robust digital economy is being laid one regulation at a time. Recent frameworks issued by the Central Bank of Nigeria on Sandbox, QR, Open Banking and others, are expected to galvanise and accelerate the digital economy agenda by allowing more innovation. Creating certainty in other areas such as contactless payments can energise the industry even further.

The growing reach of mobile technology creates a tremendous opportunity for the payments and technology industries to bring more people and businesses into the formal economy. Through partnerships, we can achieve a digital payments economy that includes everyone, mitigates the cost of cash, and achieves the sustainable economic growth and inclusive well-being that we want for Nigeria.

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