CBN describes mobile money agents as ‘Financial Supermarket

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As SANEF, EFInA target 500,000 agents, push harder in SS/SE mobile market

CBN says massive products coming to agents and clients, eyes 200,000 agents

The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) says it is creating what it called “Financial Supermarkets’ around Nigeria by the drive to create 500,000 mobile money agents.

The head, financial inclusion secretariat of the CBN, Joseph Attah, said in Port Harcourt Thursday at the Financial Services Agents Forum for South-South/South-East that the creation of mobile money agents would mean the setting up of ‘Financial Supermarkets’ where many financial services would be rendered to the common man and the grassroots people even where there is no bank.

Attah mentioned some of the impending services as credit (sending and cashing of money), utility payments, insurance (micro insurance), micro investments or collective investments, pensions, etc.

He said the present stage of the drive is account opening targeting 17 million new accountholders to meet the 2020 deadline. He said; “After accounts have been opened, the CBN is coming out with massive programmes for agents and clients. It is ignorance that blocks most services to people; micro insurance is key to any economy because it enables a farmer in the village to stay stable because the loss would be replaced. Poor people involved in accident can get treatment instead of using the micro loan to pay hospital bills. This can ruin the entire family. Insurance will pay you to get well and get back to your business.

“Collective Investment scheme is coming to allow the poor to pay little by little and have it invested for them collectively by experts.” He said the new passion should be to help people get out of poverty, saying it is sad to watch someone or a neighbour die slowly due to small amount of money.

The next stage is what he called National Account Opening Week where he said Shared Agent Network Expansion Facility (SANEF) and EFInA officials would educate the people. The target will be 10 accounts per day by each agent. They may be allowed to make use of National Youths Service Corps (NYSC) members. He said the CBN and its partners are ready to pay the price to guarantee the future of Nigeria.

Tracing the financial inclusiveness drive from 2010 to date, Attah said; “By 2010, over 46.3 per cent of adults were excluded from financial services of any type. This was ugly because if financial service is an asset, having such huge population not serviced was dangerous.

“Target was set at reducing this to 20 per cent by the end of 2020 or 80 per cent financial inclusiveness. Massive structures were built including regulations and rules at all levels, all aimed at pulling down barriers. For instance, opening an account no longer requires international passport or driving license.

“By 2012, The National Financial Inclusion Strategy was established. Now, we have reduced the gap to 36.8 per cent, meaning there is still 16.8 per cent to be covered by 2020 ending, just one year and three months left. The deadline is near, and we need to close up about 17 per cent gap.

“SANEF came to help out in this task and they came up with the agent banking strategy to deliver on the target, to provide empowerment by promoters to bring banking services to the people. This is because the banks are too far to the rural people to open accounts. The agent system is to act as stop-gap or middle clause between banks and customers requiring financial services.

“This gives hope of meeting 80 per cent of the adult populace. Even if we can cover 200,000 out of the targeted 500,000 agents, they could help open accounts for 17m more Nigerians to meet the national target. We expect each agent to open account for at least 100 un-banked persons before deadline, and continue to get more even after that.”

Earlier, the Chief Executive Officer of SANEF, Ronke Kuye, reported that the engagement forum meant to get feedback from agents and stakeholders had been done in the South West, North Central and now South-South. She said this would be done quarterly.

She said the agents were the ones in the market and their experience would guide the CBN and its partners such as SANEF and EFInA. She urged the agents to do more in account opening, BVN registration, etc.

Speaking EFInA agent network specialist, Henry Chukwu, said his organization funded with a UK development agency is primed to help the poor through financial inclusive system.  He made it clear that there is need for agents to be created to reach all corners of Nigeria, saying banks were no more eager to open more branches especially in the rural areas.

Chukwu said the forum was meant to hear from the agents so that policy makers could make adjustments.

When the door was thrown open, the organizers heard an avalanche of complaints ranging from police arrests when transfers fail to go, frustration from the banks that fail to respond to requests for confirmation, harassments, network delays, etc.

Kuye and Attah promised to take the issues back to the drawing board with assurances to return with solutions, soon.

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