Why we must extend services to rural dwellers, CBN governor tells bankers

THE Governor, Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Mr Godwin Emefiele has challenged the bankers’ committee and other industry stakeholders to care for those living in rural communities by extending financial services to them to improve their economic wellbeing and reduce poverty.

This, according to him, is important because a Nigeria’s population growth, which is above the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth rate calls for concerted effort in driving real growth.

Emefiele made the call at the 11th Annual Bankers Committee Retreat with theme: “Delivering Inclusive Growth: Leveraging Digital Finance” in Ogere, Ogun State.

The two-day gathering brought together, Chief Executive Officers of commercial banks and top executives of the CBN.

Specifically, he said the manner in which rural population is growing seems as if those in these communities see it as a ‘responsibility to multiply’ and these people have to be cared for by encouraging them to engage in activities that will lead to economic prosperity and reduce rural urban migration.

According to him, those in leadership position should take up this challenge because a relationship has been established between insecurity and high level of unemployment.

Emefiele further called on financial institutions to do more in providing services to verifiable entities through digital channels.

“Even when they possess mobile devices, individuals in rural communities may be unable to provide unique identification numbers that are required to open accounts and e-wallets.

“In addition, the cost of enrolling individuals in rural communities has often undermined access to financial

services for rural dwellers.

“As noted earlier, building bank branches in rural communities often comes at a high cost relative to the income generated from such branches. As a result, cash payment still remains the dominant channel.

The CBN he said, has therefore introduced several initiatives aimed at bringing low income earners and the unbanked into the formal financial system.

For example, the Shared Agent Network Expansion Facilities (SANEF) project was  introduced in 2018.

It is a joint initiative of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and the Bankers’ Committee expected to result in a rollout of 500,000 agent touch points by 2020. The services to be delivered at such touch points include: cash-in, cash-out, funds transfer, bill payments, airtime purchase, government disbursements as well as remote enrolment of BVN to an estimated 60 million Nigerians that are currently under-banked or unbanked, Emefiele explained.

Consequently, licensed Mobile Money Operators and Super Agents are expected to deploy financial services agents’ outlets in under-served urban, semi-urban and rural areas in Nigeria, with higher priority in the Northern geo-political zones where financial exclusion rates are higher.

Also speaking, the Governor of Ogun State, Dr Dapo Abiodun, said he believes in the ability of the banking industry,  to support other sectors towards economic growth.

According to him, to drive inclusive growth, “we must find a system that allows more of our people to benefit from financial services such as the opening of accounts, providing loans with less stringent efforts and providing financial advice for more of our people, especially participants in MSMEs.

“This is a viable way to boost employment generation, improve food security and accelerate poverty alleviation.”

Abiodun also advised the bankers to come up with improved and more pragmatic approaches that would encourage savings and investment, create links between savers and investors and facilitate the expansion of financial markets among others.

He said in doing this, the banking industry would be providing funds to both the MSMEs and the big industries, thereby increasing the country’s national outputs.

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