Nigeria’s population of over 186 million and reputation as a country with the largest GDP ($404.6bn) in Africa should ordinarily make her a leader in the areas of financial access and inclusion statistics, but this is not so, not even with the fact that the country’s banking industry’s payment systems are advanced in comparison to several other African countries.
This lag affects the banking sector and directly touches a wide range of Financial Service Providers (FSPs) in Nigeria including Commercial Banks, Micro-Finance Banks (MFBs), consumer bankers and every other deposit-taking institution licensed by the Central Bank.
The challenge then becomes how to replicate the success the banking industry has recorded; its ability to create bank accounts for customers in predominantly more urban areas etc and extend it to include customers operating within other formal and informal channels; other formal and informal channels here being represented by MFBs, pensions schemes, insurance companies, informal savings clubs (esusu, ajo), money lenders and cooperatives.
As of today, it is no longer news, CBN’s position on financial exclusion, insisting that it be brought down to 20 per cent by 2020. To achieve this, there is a need to create and drive appropriate regulation, policies and guidelines that will bring this to reality but more importantly, proactive ideas, one of which is the introduction of Super Agents; a CBN approved entity that acts as an intermediary between FSPs and their customers, responsible for building, maintaining and supervising a broad network of agents.
Currently, there are about five CBN approved Super Agents including Capricorn Digital, a Lagos based digital solutions company who have continued actively in their resolve to bridge the gap, expanding their network base of Agents, building distribution platforms and outlets that can be used to reach mass market customers, particularly those living in rural and less urban areas. The company has since it got licensed, been creating values helping to eliminate many of the current challenges FSPs are facing with respect to financial exclusion by providing agents to reach unbanked persons, using technology and working closely with FSPs to cut excessive documentation.
Summarily, Super Agents such as Capricorn Digital Limited are a crucial stepping stone to helping FSPs create the distribution network that can be leveraged to reach the unbanked thereby bridging the exclusion and by encouraging FSPs to adopt them, it is believed that the model will bread a stronger financial system with more access points for traditional agency banking services (cash-in, cash-out and transfer services), which represent the majority of financial services that most rural customers would want to perform at bank branch locations – effectively now made available at all agent locations.