Nigerian GSM networks to expand financial inclusion to 90 million Nigerians by 2020

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  • Calls for level playing field for mobile network operators to be allowed to participate fully in the Mobile Money Industry

Nigeria’s largest GSM operators: Glo, 9Mobile, Airtel and MTN Nigeria jointly this week in Lagos inked a commitment to deepening financial inclusion and providing Nigerians with access to a range of affordable financial services. The commitment would see not less than 90 million Nigerians within the financial inclusion range by 2020.

Since 2009, when Nigeria’s first mobile money licences where first issued, financial inclusion has remained slow with current financial exclusion levels stand at over 40% meaning theres is a significant gap to be covered in order to meet Nigeria’s target of 20% financial exclusion by 2020.

GSM telcos excluded from mobile money licences

Under current guidelines in Nigeria, telcos are excluded from accessing mobile money licences directly while in most sub-saharan African markets where mobile money is successful, telco’s are given a level playing field to operate within market dynamics.

In the Lagos meeting, facilitated by Academic Director and Senior Fellow at Lagos Business School, Yinka David-West telcos plan to put their weight behind the country’s financial inclusion drive.

“Far beyond financial inclusion rates in Nigeria, we also have to examine how people currently considered to have access to financial services stack up when evaluated against the criteria for true financial inclusion, i.e. access to a full suite of quality financial services, provided at affordable prices, in a convenient manner. When evaluated against this definition, it is clear that as a country, we have to work, not just to drastically increase the number of financially included persons, but also to increase the quality of inclusion and access we give, especially if we hope to positively impact the economy and the quality of the lives of Nigerians in any meaningful way,” said David-West.

The telecommunications industry recognises that with an issue as critical as financial inclusion, it is important to focus on sustainable solutions. This requires inclusivity and collaboration of varied solutions providers in order to achieve real results. The telecommunications industry has the capabilities, technology, infrastructure, distribution network and subscriber base that can quickly be leveraged to provide these solutions. According to the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), the industry has a reach of 86% of the country, with 162.3 million customers (the single largest customer base of any industry in Nigeria).The industry players have a combined presence in 773 local government areas across the country further emphasising their ability to reach especially hard to reach areas of the country in a bid to deepen access to financial services. They also have 1,000,000 unique agents already in place selling airtime across the country, creating a strong distribution network that can quickly be converted to established mobile money agent networks.

Our Commitments as an Industry:

As the largest investors in telecoms in Nigeria, we have come together to deliver a concrete commitment to Nigeria – a promise to materially improve financial inclusion rates and to deliver access to financial services to 90 million customers over the next 30 months:

  1. By the 6th month, we commit to bringing access to financial services to 15million customers, serviced by 100,000 agents.
  2. By the 12th month, we commit to bringing access to financial services to 35 million Nigerians serviced by 250,000 agents.
  3. By the 24th month, we commit to bringing access to financial services to 70 million Nigerians, serviced by 600,000 agents.
  4. By the 30th month deadline we have given ourselves, we commit to bringing access to financial services to 90 million customers, also serviced by 600,000 agents.
  5. We also commit to deepening financial literacy across the country through a financial inclusion secretariat within the Association of Licensed Telecommunications Operators of Nigeria (ALTON).

“According to Mckinsey, as a direct result of increasing financial inclusion rates, Nigeria could realise as much as a 12.4% boost in GDP, the creation of 3 million new jobs, $2 billion reduction in government leakages and $57 billion in new credit for small and medium scale enterprises over a four-year period.

“The Telco’s proposed intervention will not only give customers access to a variety of affordable financial products and services, but also deliver 1,000,000 direct jobs in addition to the other benefits identified by the McKinsey report. Opening up the Digital Financial Services sector can be the basis for transformative change in the structure and sustainability of growth in the Nigerian economy.

“We acknowledge the concrete commitments the industry has made towards delivering access to financial services today as well as their commitment to financial literacy which while vital, cannot happen in isolation of the Telco’s. This integrated approach, if allowed to, will deliver long term solutions and tangible impact,” said Chairman of ALTON, Mr. Gbenga Adebayo.

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