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Targeting women, youths, farmers seen improving financial inclusion, creating jobs

Nigeria’s economic recovery and growth can be driven through deployment of inclusive financial services for women, youths and farmers, this was the thrust of discussions at the Scale2Save financial inclusion knowledge sharing event held yesterday in Lagos.

Scale2Save, a six-year program of The World Savings and Retail Banking Institute (WSBI) for financial inclusion, in partnership with Mastercard Foundation, organised the knowledge-sharing event to address the different dimensions in reaching small-scale savers from a policymaker and implementer perspective, and how the entire value chain can contribute to jobs creation.

In a keynote address, Weselina Angelow, the Scale2Save Programme Director, emphasized the importance of such stakeholders’ knowledge-sharing events in the pursuit of inclusive growth and economic development in Nigeria.

According to her, “As we intensify efforts to improve financial inclusion, it is important that all stakeholders are a part of knowledge and insight-based discourse as this to improve on their processes and make informed financial inclusion decisions.”

Of emphasis at the event that gathered key players in the different value chains of the financial inclusion strategy, with a singular goal of boosting the financial resilience and health of the under-banked and unbanked population. The days are past, notes Shamsideen Fashola, divisional head of personal banking, FCMB “where we see the fin-techs as competitors.”

From the team that ideates how to close financial inclusion services gaps, to the product developers, to the proliferation and involvement of fin-techs, to the regulators, everyone is indispensable, it was emphasised. Employment opportunities have been created and more are bound to be created along the chain because it involves a lot of players in the industry.

The creation of jobs is apparent as more jobs are created right from the agents’ side, to the agent aggregators, to the fin-techs that have to build and develop platforms and would have to recruit people, to the customer service representatives that will attend to the potential customers that should be included in the financial sector.

Fashola also confirmed this when he said that every investment has a gestation period which allows it to be a catalyst for more employment, asides from that it creates direct jobs.

When asked about what more could be put in place by one, more or all the key players that clamour for financial inclusion, Angelow said, “going forward, there has to be a lot more segmentation in terms of the needs of the most vulnerable, to help us understand what women, farmers, and young people need. They have different needs along their life cycles. If we understand the needs, then we would be able to build better products and services.”

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She further explained that there is already a lot of research identifying what the needs are, calling on Financial Service Providers (FSPs) to make sure that the existing research is being used, understood, and the recommendations are being taken.

Paul Ihuoma Oluikpe, head, Financial Inclusion Secretariat, Central Bank of Nigeria, while reiterating the need to deepen financial inclusion in Nigeria, stated that financial service providers must target specific customer needs with financial inclusion products.

“There are several products in our financial services space that are too generic. These products are not targeting any value proposition, and are not sufficiently differentiated at the customer level.

While there are generic products that appeal to the larger audience, there is the need to drill down at the customer level to target different nuances that exist in the society,” Oluikpe said.

WSBI’s 2019 financial service provider survey reveals that attitudes towards financial inclusion and low-value savings have changed significantly among financial service providers in Nigeria and other key markets in Africa as they have intensified their focus on customers, targeting different groups with tailored accounts and savings products.

Despite the developments recorded so far, stakeholders accept as true that there is nevertheless more to do to achieve a first-class degree of economic inclusion. This was backed by Adetunji Lamidi, group head of Financial Inclusion, FCMB, when he said,

“Financial illiteracy is a major barrier to financial inclusion. What we see is a situation where a lot of Nigerians still have this overdependence on the informal financial sector. It takes a long trust-building process to switch them from the informal sector they are familiar with into the formal sector.”

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