President Muhammadu Buhari has urged the banking industry to come up with valuable innovations that offer global solutions to their customers.
Buhari gave the advice at the 15th annual banking and finance conference on Tuesday in Abuja, with the theme, “repositioning the financial services industry for an evolving global context.”
The president also said that the government hoped to eliminate kerosene lighting as well as short-lived pollutants in the oil and gas sector, by 2030.
The hybrid conference, organised by the Chartered Institute of Bankers of Nigeria (CIBN), offered a platform to engage stakeholders on developments affecting the industry and the economy in general.
The president said his administration over the past seven years had through various initiatives supported the repositioning of the Nigerian economy within an evolving global context.
“In the new “global” context, the role and significance of the finance industry cannot be overstated in driving economic prosperity.
“The sector provides opportunities to create SME start-ups, expand existing business interests and create more jobs, thereby pushing the local brand overseas to frontier markets,” said Buhari.
He noted, therefore, that repositioning the finance services industry involved valuable innovations to ensure global solutions reached local customers.
“The recently executed African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) is a typical reference point. The deal creates a continent-wide market embracing 55 countries with 1.3 billion people and a combined GDP of 3.4 trillion dollars.
“Its first phase, which took effect in January 2021 would gradually eliminate tariffs on 90 per cent of goods and reduce barriers to trade in services.
“In repositioning itself, the finance sector would serve as an intermediary for lenders and borrowers,” said Buhari.
He added that it would also create a new ecosystem where Africans can buy and sell their products despite currency disparity as being practiced on the Pan-African Payment and Settlement System (PAPSS), a brainchild of Afrexim Bank.
The president was represented by Zainab Ahmed, minister of finance, budget and national planning. He mentioned some of his administration’s initiatives, which had been supporting the repositioning of the Nigerian economy to include, support of Nigeria’s creative industry and indigenous small and medium-sized businesses.
He said his administration also supported the agricultural sector, which had enhanced the capacity of indigenous enterprises to compete with their counterparts from other countries. These efforts, he said, would be sustained and extended to more sectors of the economy.
Buhari said the resolution of global issues within the local context would continue to give impetus to economic prosperity in local communities.
On climate change, the president said the government had set plans in motion to significantly reduce greenhouse emissions from Nigeria. He added that by 2030, the government hoped to eliminate kerosene lighting as well as short-lived pollutants in the oil and gas sector.
On insecurity, he said the government was committed to securing lives and property within the country and would not relent in ensuring a safe and secure environment for citizens as well as productive activities to thrive.
He said, “Indeed, the fight to rid our country of banditry, kidnapping, and insurgency is being intensified at all fronts.”
Buhari also said his administration had over the years introduced several policies to combat inflation, including increase in monetary policy rates as well as a 30 percent mark-up on savings rates. These policies, he explained, were geared toward mopping up excessive liquidity in the economy while encouraging savings and investment.
Farouk Gumel, chairman, Union Bank of Nigeria plc, said Nigeria’s financial services and tech sectors had to some degree abandoned many local operators.
He said banks and regulators had been receiving numerous awards and had been ranked among the best in the world.
“Our systems and processes have made it exceptionally easy for our elites to bank globally and for global elites to bank in Nigeria. Let me put it in a different way, an investor in Norway will find it easier to use a Nigerian bank than a farmer in Ningi Local Government,” Gumel said.
According to him, working for Tropical General Investments (TGI) in some rural areas, he realised that as the industry embraced a global system, it somehow abandoned many local operators.
“That is not only a loss for them. It is also a missed opportunity for our financial services industry to help create the growth that lifts us all to collective prosperity.
“This is why we are still talking about ‘financial inclusion’ and how to bank the ‘unbanked’ – after nearly 130 years since First Bank commenced operations in Nigeria,” he added.
Ken Opara, president/chairman of CIBN, said the financial services sector had been transformed with the latest fintech solutions and modern trends.
“Over 20 years ago, with the internet revolution, we witnessed the emergence of new services, products and companies, which replaced the previous ones.
“Now, we are in the digital age where technology has made a significant impact on every traditional industry, including the financial services industry, thereby transforming financial services with the latest fintech solutions and modern trends,” Opara said.