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BANKING AND FINANCE

Banks, CBN Take Financial Inclusion Drive To Rural Areas

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In the goal to achieve the financial inclusion goal of the country, First Bank Nigeria Limited says it is taking its Firstmonie Agent Network to rural and semi urban areas across the country. This is as the Central Bank of Nigeria alongside the Nigeria Inter Bank Settlement System (NIBSS) and commercial banks have intensified efforts to take financial services to the rural areas.

The apex bank said the plan is to increase the number of individual bank account ownership which currently is around 33 million to 70 million by 2020, with the implementation of the Shared Agent Network Expansion Facility (SANEF) initiative launched earlier this year.

First Bank had extended its Agent Banking scheme nationwide in January, 2018 after a six month pilot run and according to the bank, its agents spread across every state, Local Government Area in the country processes over 100,000 transactions worth over N1 billion on a daily basis.

The bank in a statement said its Firstmonie Agents are positioned within rural and semi-urban locations across the country to provide basic financial services such as account opening, cash deposit, cash withdrawals, airtime purchase, bill payments and much more to every Nigerian. “Through this channel, the Bank is committed to providing convenient services that endear trust, provide ease of access to financial products, thereby saving time and travel costs.

Group head, eBusiness, First Bank of Nigeria Limited, Chuma Ezirim, noted that “FirstBank, is focused on building a quality Agent network in the country by deploying a robust risk framework and the right product mix to ensure viability and security of the network, aimed at deepening Financial Services access, especially in the unserved and underserved segments of our market. We therefore, encourage individuals in these local communities to look out for the Firstmonie Agent locations closest to them for all their banking needs.”

A member of the technical committee set up by the CBN to deepen financial inclusion, Guaranty Trust Bank’s Mr. Bolaji Lawal, said that the plan to almost double the number of Nigerians with BVN within two years was critical to boosting the country’s financial inclusion rate as well as ensuring financial stability.

He disclosed that as part of plans to ensure that the 70 million enrolment target by 2020 is met, 10,000 remote BVN devices was ordered by NIBSS and are currently being deployed by DMBs, MMOs and Super Agents.

Specifically, he said banks and NIBSS were committed to enrolling: “40 million new unique BVNs between now and year 2020; 10 million in 2018, 15 million in 2019 and 15 million in 2020”, adding that NIBSS will pay agents N100 for every unique BVN enrolled.”

Giving an update on the Shared Agent Network, he said already 70,000 access points have been created and nine operators, comprising three mobile money operators and six super agents, which are part of the scheme have accessed N4.5billion of the N20 billion.

The CBN has set aside N20 billion, which will be accessed by operators at a reduced interest rate to enable them create 500,000 shared agent network points (access points) across the country by 2020.

Executive director at Access bank, Mr. Victor Etuokwu, argued that with SANEF, the CBN and the Nigerian banking industry have proved that their approach to driving financial inclusion was more effective than the Telco-led approach adopted by some East African countries.



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