The Central Bank of Nigeria on Thursday expressed optimism that the 80 per cent financial inclusion target, which was set by the Federal Government in 2012, would be achieved. The CBN Governor, Mr Godwin Emefiele, said this in Abuja at a national financial literacy stakeholders’ conference.
The conference had as its theme, “Implementing financial literacy and consumer protection to advance financial inclusion in Nigeria.” The Federal Government had in 2012 launched the National Financial Inclusion Strategy aimed at reducing the number of eligible adult Nigerians that are excluded from the formal financial system from 46.3 per cent to 20 per cent by the year 2020.
But with two years to the 2020 target, recent data released by Enhancing Financial Innovative and Access indicated that 36.6 million eligible Nigerian adults which are about 36.8 per cent still do not have access to financial services.
This development, according to the apex bank governor, underscores the need to work hard on the exclusion rate from this year until 2020. To achieve the 2020 financial inclusion target, the governor at the event unveiled four policy documents for the financial sector. They are the revised National Financial Inclusion Strategy, the Financial Literacy Framework, the Consumer Protection Framework and the Consumer Education Framework.
He said these policy documents were targeted at facilitating the attainment of the financial inclusion target of 80 per cent by 2020. Represented at the event by the Deputy Governor, Financial Systems Stability, Mrs Aisha Ahmad, he said, “During the course of implementing the National Financial Inclusion Strategy which was launched by the President in October 2012, the need arose for the review of the strategy to meet the challenges and re-assess the developments and the current realities, of the ever-evolving environment in which we operate.
“With support from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, we now have a revised strategy which we believe, with your support, would aid us as we strive to meet our year 2020 target of reaching 80 per cent financial inclusion level.”
On the Consumer Protection Framework, he said this was developed to provide policy direction for the enthronement of a robust consumer protection regime in the banking and financial services industry.
The governor said although it was developed for banks and other financial institutions regulated by the CBN, there was extensive consultation with the entire stakeholders of the larger environment.
He said the document, which is the first of its kind, provided policy direction for the banking industry and also served as a guide for other sub-sectors of the financial system. For the National Financial Literacy Framework, the apex bank boss said it would provide a high-level road map for the implementation of various financial literacy programmes for different identified target groups of the Nigerian population. For the National Financial Education Strategy, Emefiele said this was developed to operationalise the National Financial Literacy Framework.
Unlike the NFLF which provides strategic direction for financial education programmes on a high level, he said the NFES provided granular activities and actions aimed at ensuring the effective implementation of the NFLF.
He said, “It is aimed at assisting with detail identification of programmes, players and partners that could implement or facilitate their smooth implementation. “The document is fashioned around, and takes into account, the various consumer segments identified by the NFLF.”He said the CBN was also promoting new initiatives to positively drive financial inclusion statistics in the near term.
He also said the initiative would drive down exclusion rates by leveraging a wider variety of market participants, leveraging technology and multiple channels to enhance access to deposit products, payments and remittance services to small/micro businesses and low-income households.
The CBN governor said the apex bank in collaboration with the Bankers’ Committee and other stakeholders was facilitating a national micro finance bank to promote access to finance for credit to fund Small and Medium Enterprises and other unbanked groups.
“The national MFB shall be technology driven and leverage NIPOST’s presence in 774 local government areas and would serve as an efficient channel for the disbursement and monitoring of key intervention funds such as the Anchor borrowers fund, and SME fund, among others to farmers and SMEs at the grassroots level,” he added.
The Director, Consumer Protection Department, CBN, Mr Kofo Salam-Alada, said that despite the strides towards fostering financial inclusion, there were significant challenges. He gave some of them as the dearth of financial literacy and awareness among consumers and a general lack of confidence in dealing with financial institutions.
He said these issues could only be addressed through robust financial literacy and consumer protection programmes. He said if consumers were not adequately protected, they were bound to be apathetic towards the system. This, he noted, would negatively affect the financial inclusion rate and ultimately the stability of the financial system.