Herbert Wigwe, GMD, Access Bank

FELIX OLOYEDE

As part of efforts to drastically reduce the numbers of unbanked adults in the country, commercial lenders have concluded plans to roll out 500,000 Shared Agent Networks by 2019.

The Shared Agent Networks would enable about 50 million Nigerians in rural areas who are largely financially excluded, have access to basic financial services, such as cash-in, cash-out, fund transfer, bill payment airtime purchase as well as enroll them on the BMS Infrastructure (BVN), said Herbert Wigwe, CEO of Access Bank and Chairman, Body of Bank CEOs, at the unveiling of The Shared Agent Network Plan- Deepening Financial Inclusion in Nigeria in Lagos on Tuesday.

The project is aimed at bolstering the Central Bank of Nigeria’s (CBN) efforts to ensure that 80 per cent of Nigerians are financially inclusive by 2020.

Wigwe noted that financially inclusion is pivotal to the growth of any economy as despite the huge efforts made to promote financial inclusion in the country, many Nigerians are still unbanked.

“This agreement reflects our commitment to aggressively pursue the CBN 2020 Financial Inclusion target in an integrated way with minimal systemic risk to the financial system. This initiative will also generate over 500,000 new jobs over the two years,” he further asserted.

The initiative will see ten licensed Mobile Money Operators and super agents deploy financial services agents outlets spring up in the underserved urban and rural parts of the country with higher priority given to the Northern-geopolitical zones, where financial exclusion is most predominant.

“The approved CBN-Bankers Committees’ roll-out ratio is as follows: North-East 30%; North-Central 20%; South-South 7.5%; South-East 7.5% and South-West 5%,” the Body of Bank CEOs stated in a multi-media presentation.

The banks projected that through The Shared Agent Network Plan, 60 million Nigerians would be in the banking system, an average of 20 million yearly. They are also aiming at enrolling 40 million Nigerians for BVN.

The lenders promised to refocus on driving a low cost digit access, broadening financial literacy campaigns and create micro loans, micro insurance and micro investment products for the benefit of the excluded, underserved and low income Nigerians.

“There is no doubt that financial inclusion is key to our economy management. If we don’t improve on it, many other economic variables will suffer,” claimed Professor Segun Ajibola, President, Chartered Institute of Bankers (CIBN).

He further stated that urgent steps must be taken to reduce the number of the financially excluded, adding that all stakeholders in the country must promote the financial inclusion.

The Shared Agent Network Plan was not driven by the objective of money-making, but to take financial services to the unreached, said Segun Agbaje, CEO, GTBank.