With each passing day, Nigeria inches closer to the 2020 deadline articulated in the National Financial Inclusion Strategy — it’s actually now just two years away. In this critical stage, every action and inaction counts towards the realization of the 2020 goals. Now more than ever, there is a need to monitor and evaluate the progress (or regress) towards the actualization of our goals. And in this article, that is what we are doing – taking a step back to recollect ecosystem activities and milestones so far this year.

CBN goes granular

Early in January, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), set state-wide targets for all commercial banks and microfinance banks in the country. These targets involve the opening of a minimum number of new accounts as well as offering credit to a specified number of customers. In all, the CBN is aiming for a total of 7.6 million new accounts to be opened by 2020.

Those figures were re-emphasized at the inaugural ceremony of the Financial Inclusion State Steering Committee. The Financial Inclusion State Steering Committee (FISSCO) was established to come up with action plans that would accelerate and improve financial inclusion drives at the grassroots level as well as coordinate financial inclusion efforts state-wide. Through the FISSCO, the CBN hopes to improve the NFIS implementation at the grassroot level.

NAICOM guides micro pensions

Around the third week of January, the National Insurance Commission (NAICOM) released revised guidelines for Micro Insurance operations. The guidelines highlight minimum standards for the conduct of Microinsurance business in Nigeria and also ensures that consumers are protected by establishing general features of Microinsurance, duties and responsibilities of Microinsurance operators and insurance intermediaries as well as conditions for entry and exit from the Microinsurance market.

The guidelines recognises microinsurance as insurance developed for low income populations, with low valued policies, for micro and small scale enterprises and provided by licensed institutions. It also pegged Microinsurance policies at a maximum of N2,000,000 per person per insurer.

And then there were 5!

On the 5th of March, it was announced that another Super Agent had been licensed. Freedom Network joined the ranks of licensed Nigerian Super Agents which include Inlaks, Interswitch Financial Inclusion Services (IFIS), Innovectives and Glo Xchange.

Rumble in the Sandbox

March was a really busy month within the ecosystem as it also saw the launch of the Association of Financial Service Innovators (FSI) which was occasioned by the unveiling of plans to create (the long awaited) regulatory sandbox to support budding FinTech companies.

The Association of Financial Services Innovators (FSI) is a community of Fintech entrepreneurs, regulators, companies, incubators and developers driving innovation in the financial services industry, supported by the Nigeria Inter-Banks Settlement Systems (NIBSS) and a consortium of all Nigerian banks.

The regulatory sandbox, when it goes live, would provide a safe space to experiment and innovate for fintechs and any other financial service providers. Cohorts in the sandbox would also gain access to NIBBS’s API.

500,000 agents

The most recent news lighting up the newsboards across the FI ecosystem is the announcement of the Shared Agent Network Expansion Facilities (SANEF) on the 28 of March, 2018. This initiative aims to establish a 500,000 strong agent network which will bring basic financial services such as Cash-in, Cash-out, funds transfer, bill payments, airtime purchase, government disbursements and so on, to the unbanked and underserved.

The CBN and Bankers Committee initiative includes partnerships with MMOs and Super Agents and places higher target priorities on the geo-political zones in Northern Nigeria where financial exclusion is predominant.

Mr Bill Gates Visit

Finally, this recollection will be incomplete without a reminder of Mr. Gates’ visit and his address to the National Economic Council (NEC). In the address, he reminded us of the importance and necessity of financial inclusion — farmers getting access to finance and the implicit opportunities digital financial services offer both individuals and MSMEs operating in the informal economy. However, he also highlights the benefits to the government like GDP growth, less leakages in taxation and government spending!

Dear Readers, we are on the road but we need to stay focused. Addressing financial inclusion is not a trojan horse, but a phenomenon that can address poverty and other social ills. The events of the last quarter are pointing us in the right direction, but we need to stay on track; we need to remain focused towards the goal, 20 percent by 2020!


Written by: Sustainable and Inclusive DFS

This article appeared first on Medium.