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Financial inclusion still low in Nigeria despite digital ID coverage push

Financial inclusion still low in Nigeria despite digital ID coverage push

Nigeria’s efforts to expand digital ID issuance may be going steadily forward but the number of citizens still financially excluded remains high, experts say.

This is according to a recent International Monetary Fund report titled ‘Nigeria — Fostering Financial Inclusion through Digital Financial Services,’ daily newspaper The Nation reports.

Nigeria is closing in on the 100 million mark for issued National Identity Numbers (NINs).

According to the report, although the financial inclusion efforts in Nigeria have recorded some successes, “the overall exclusion rates continue to exceed official targets, not least due to low financial literacy.”

The report notes that in order to drive up adoption of digital financial services such as mobile money, Nigeria would need to do a lot to improve “digital financial literacy, upgrading digital infrastructure, and promoting incubation and sound practices of fintech firms.”

The advice comes in the context of overall improvement on financial inclusion in the developing world, as highlighted by Idemia in a post to the company’s website. Citing the World Bank Findex Report 2021, the company points out that 71 percent of adults living in developing countries, up from 42 percent a decade earlier. The gender gap fell from 9 percent to five percent, and the World Economic Forum in 2022 noted that COVID resulted in numerous people in developing nations carrying out remote transactions for the first time.

The IMF report comes as stakeholders gathered in Lagos to examine issues around digital identity and the country’s socio-economic development within the framework of the 2023 CIO Club Africa summit which was held under the theme: ‘Digital Economy and Nexus Between E-Identity, Connectivity and Financial Inclusion.’

During the summit, different speakers drawn from government and the private sector agreed that a strong digital identity ecosystem is the pillar on which all digital transactions including financial services rest.

The Director General of the National Identity Management Authority (NIMC), Aliyu Aziz, described digital identity as the cornerstone of economic growth, which is a key reason why NIMC has been relentless in its efforts to provide every Nigerian with a digital ID.

“Nigeria’s efforts in this area are commendable with the National Identity Management Commission working to provide every Nigerian with a unique national identification number and a digital identity card. This will enable citizens to access a range of services including financial services securely and conveniently,” said Aziz as quoted by Punch.

He added however that for digital identity to better find its feet in the country, there is also need for better and affordable connectivity especially for Nigerians in rural and difficult-to-reach communities.

Other representatives from mobile telecommunications networks such as MTN Nigeria and Airtel Nigeria, who spoke at the summit, also stressed the importance of internet connectivity as a driver of financial inclusion.

MTN Nigeria representative Nasiru Hayatu disclosed for example that of the 170 million mobile connections, just 20 percent of them are on a smartphone, with a majority of the users found in the big cities.

Among those who shared thoughts during the Lagos summit were stakeholders in the tech industry, government, entrepreneurs, innovators, investors, and representatives from the civil society.

Oyo State distributes biometric cards to farmers

In the meantime, some entrepreneurs in the agribusiness sector in Oyo State have begun collecting their biometric cards from the State Agribusiness Development Agency (OYSADA).

The cards distributed to beneficiaries grouped under the Youth Entrepreneurship in Agribusiness Project (YEAP) is part of efforts by the state government to weed out fraud in the sector, according to OYSADA Director General Debo Akande, writes The Independent.

The official says the state is building a database of farmers which will ensure transparency in the distribution of support to boost sustainable agriculture.

The pilot program covers all 33 local areas of the state.

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