BusinessDay

How First Bank’s agency banking is creating jobs in Nigeria

In the past couple of years, First Bank of Nigeria has been intensifying efforts towards improving financial inclusion and creating employment opportunities through its Firstmonie Agent network.

Introduced in 2017, the initiative has served as a means through which the bank expresses its passion and commitment towards broadening the opportunities and access to financial services for the unbanked and under-banked population in the country.

The Bank’s Firstmonie Agent Banking initiative follows the Central Bank of Nigeria’s (CBN) mandate to make affordable financial products and services available across the country.

In 2012, the CBN adopted the National Financial Inclusion Strategy (NFIS) which was built on four strategic areas: agency banking, mobile banking/mobile payments, linkage models and client empowerment.

First Bank has not only adopted this policy but is expanding it across the country winning the Best Bank in Nigeria 2022 and Best Banking Digital Transformation in Nigeria at the recently held 2022 International Investor Awards.

“This initiative has been a very formidable vehicle for job creation and economic development in several communities across the country, as more than 100,000 direct jobs and 300,000 indirect jobs have been created, with an agent earning an average monthly commission income of N85, 000,” said Adesola Adeduntan, chief executive officer at First Bank Group.

He adds that more than 1.2 million individuals have been positively impacted economically through the jobs created via our agent banking proposition.

“A significant percentage of Firstmonie’s agents are in rural areas, contributing significantly to the development of Nigeria’s rural economy. Overall, the bank is supporting the social-economic development of Nigeria in a profitable way.”

According to the bank, Firstmonie agent network operates in 772 of the 774 local government areas in Nigeria. The bank’s agent banking network is the largest bank-led network in Nigeria and sub-Saharan Africa with more than 100,000 agents (including more than 22,000 female agents, enabling the bank to drive gender-inclusive growth within rural communities).

Read also: First Bank organises symposium on Nigeria’s 2022 economic outlook

The network has also processed more than N12 trillion ($30 billion) in more than 600 million transactions between 2018 and April 2021.

The agents widely described as ‘Human ATMs’ are third party retail outlets contracted by financial institutions to process clients’ transactions. They are empowered to reduce reliance on over-the-counter transactions while providing convenient personalised services.

The agents, both men and women, are equipped to carry out services which include account opening; cash deposit; airtime purchase; bills payment; withdrawals and money transfer.

Nigeria’s high unemployment rate estimated at 33.3 percent as of 2020 is seeing a dent with increased adoption of agency banking.

The opportunity to make additional income is a major motivation for becoming an agent, a 2020 Enhancing Financial Innovation and Access (EFINA) agent survey.

“Agents surveyed are signed up by different principals/service providers. Nevertheless, First Bank (First Monie), OPay, QuickTeller, and MTN top the list of principals with a majority share of agents.”

Data from the 2019 National Financial Inclusion Strategy document by the CBN shows that the number of banking agents rose by 517 percent to 236,940 agents in December 2019 from 38, 416 agents in the same period of 2018.

Orode Hesse, a Delta-based Firstmonie agent, said she has been able to cash on the opportunities that Firstmonie offers as well as impact lives positively, drive financial and gender inclusion.

“Firstmonie has really impacted and empowered me financially. I have been able to employ six staff, five of which are female and one male. It is a business to employ and empower ladies,” Hesse added.

Aliu Lawal, another Firstmonie agent based in Lagos also noted that he has expanded his initial Computer Training business since becoming a Firstmonie agent.

Lawal can now boast of six other Firstmonie agent locations that he has opened. “During the day, this place is crowded with people who want to do transactions especially in the evening when the banking halls have all closed.”

Globally, agency banking is recognized by policy makers, researchers and development agencies as a financial inclusion initiative that has remained an integral tool in developing economies, particularly in the areas of poverty reduction, employment generation, wealth creation and improving welfare and general standard of living.

In 2018, the CBN set up the shared Agent Network Expansion Facility to recruit, train and support more people to become agents. The Facility also provides funding to companies, incentivizing them to expand agent networks in underserved cities across the country.

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