According to a 2018 World Bank report, the concept of financial inclusion means that individuals and businesses can access useful and affordable financial products and services that suit their needs, including payments, savings and credit in an informed and sustainable way.

Does this affect the economy in any way? A Boston Consulting Group (BCG) report confirms in the affirmative. It states that a 1% increase in financial inclusion increases real Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per capita by 3.6%.

To this end, SystemSpecs, Nigeria’s award-winning payment and human resources technology provider has supported calls by stakeholders in Nigeria’s business ecosystem for increased broadband penetration to deepen financial inclusion to achieve social and economic transformation in the country.

This was recently confirmed in comments made by ‘Deremi Atanda, SystemSpecs’ Executive Director, during his presentation at the annual Bullion Lecture. Organised by the Centre for Financial Journalism (CFJ), the Bullion Lecture held virtually and physically at the Civic Centre, Victoria Island, Lagos.

“We must continue to focus on those things we regard as national issues. If we say financial inclusion is an opportunity to bring the economically disadvantaged persons into the economic network that can improve their lives, and then it should be at the forefront of all we do,” Atanda said.

He commended the efforts of the Central bank of Nigeria, the Nigerian Communications Commission and other relevant government agencies in improving financial inclusion; however, he revealed that there is still a lot to be done.

Atanda noted that clear answers should be provided to complex, but pertinent questions such as: How do we leverage technology to make sure that disadvantaged Nigerians can have their quality of lives improved and a sense of belonging as Nigerians? What strategies can be employed to ensure that the average Nigerian can be economically empowered?

Strongly recommending that stakeholders more actively consider the country’s burgeoning fintech community as a key contributor to the attainment of the desired financial inclusion goals, he said the digital economy is an enabler of social transformation and economic empowerment.

According to Professor Umar Danbatta, Executive Vice Chairman of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) and keynote speaker at the event, only 58.5% of Nigeria’s adult population were financially included as part of the formal economy as of 2016. Nigeria had a target of 80% financial inclusion by the end of 2020. The NCC boss highlighted a number of initiatives being implemented by the commission to deepen the frontiers of digital access to financial inclusion.

These include pervasive broadband drive, unstructured supplementary service data (USSD) integration, SIM registration and subscriber database audit, new numbering plan, MoU with the Central bank of Nigeria (CBN) on mobile money, collaboration with other institutions, and addressing risks associated with digital financial services.

In continuation of his discourse, SystemSpecs’ Executive Director, Atanda analysed the interception between broadband penetration and financial inclusion as well as the consequence of socio-economic improvement.

“As we deepen the collaboration between stakeholders within and outside government, we need to know what has worked, what is not working and what needs to be done differently.”

“I think there is still a lot more to be done. The engagement of regulators and non-governmental stakeholders should be very clear and be continuously progressive,” Atanda added.

Chizor Malize, CEO of the Financial Institutions Training Centre (FITC), also spoke about the importance of building digital infrastructure in order to grow the economy. She analysed how technology and telecommunications infrastructure have deepened developments in the society.

“The importance of digital connectivity is seen in areas where government, individuals, organisations, communities and other stakeholders are connected in a way that engagement and interaction are easier,” Malize said.

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