Ninety-one percent of Nigerians say they use digital channels such as banking apps and websites to make financial transactions, according to a recent survey by Mastercard, a global payments and technology platform.
A BusinessDay analysis of the study titled ‘Financial Inclusion – Connecting People to Finance, Health, and Education’ showed that Nigeria has the highest usage when compared with other Middle East and African (MEA) countries like Kenya with 87 percent followed by Pakistan (66 percent), Jordan (53 percent), Morocco (34 percent) and Iraq (27 percent).
The survey was conducted in the six countries mentioned above in December 2021 through digital interviews.
“There is now a greater awareness of mobile money, combined with a broader diversification in its uses. Consumers are now more open to using mobile money for more than just transactions,” the report stated.
It further added that consumers are using credit, savings, and insurance products; in many cases, mobile money is being used to receive payments for services or products. “They are also paying bills and buying products using mobile money.”
Umar Hashmi, vice president, Global Product & Engineering at Mastercard said we inhabit a young region brimming with potential, ideas, and possibilities. “In the MEA, young people under 30 are the fastest growing and largest segment of the population.”
“As the youth navigate their way into adulthood, the decisions they make, the education they receive, and the health support they can access, will affect how well they are able to shoulder the responsibilities of their families and communities in future,” he said.
The report also said that people connected digitally to healthcare providers use their devices to pay for services; set appointments; get vaccination updates; get, manage and pay for health insurance; manage medical reports; and track and report symptoms, in that order of usage from most to least.
Similarly, those connected to education providers use their devices to attend live classes; interact with teachers and students; access recorded lectures; manage study schedules; pay for services; and access progress reports, in that order of usage.
“Just over half (55 percent) say they use digital mediums to make financial transactions, and 43 percent say they are connected digitally to a health service provider, with Kenya and Nigeria coming in at 55 percent and Iraq at 11 percent,” the report stated.
Mastercard listed some of the efforts or policies the MEA countries have put in place to enhance financial inclusion. For example, in Pakistan, digitalization of financial services has resulted in 75 million active electronic wallet accounts as of June 2013.
In December 2021, the State Bank of Pakistan announced that customers could open a Pakistan, Rwanda, Senegal, and Zambia have cut mobile transfer fees and raised transaction size limits.
Last year, Nigeria approved guidelines for licensing and regulation of payment service banks to enhance financial inclusion as defined in the country’s National Financial Inclusion Strategy (NFIS). Branchless banking (mobile money) account by dialing a simple code.
Digital inclusion enabled Tunisia and Morocco to provide quick and secure financial support to disadvantaged demographics amidst the pandemic.
Tunisia launched a digital wallet solution for mobile phones to distribute social support. Informal workers in Morocco received government help through their phones quickly and efficiently.
The Jordan Payments and Clearing Company (JoPACC) launched a new platform to enable instant payments, while the Central Bank of Jordan (CBJ) permitted online wallet registration. Together with JoPACC, it encouraged government entities to adopt wallets for wage payments as well as for social assistance.
The report concluded that inclusion into the financial mainstream, which also promotes access to effective health and education services, can only be enhanced by the fundamental or infrastructural availability of digitalization and digital devices that can access the online world.
“To improve their lives and well-being, people need to be able to take care of their finances, health, and ability to participate in the workforce. This is what financial inclusion efforts can and must aim to enable.”