By CHIMA AKWAJA and ADENIYI ADUNOLA, Lagos
Executive vice chairman of Nigerian Communications Commission, (NCC), Prof Umar Danbatta, has said broadband penetration, Subscribers Identity Module (SIM) registration, National Identity Number (NIN) to SIM linkage and other digital economy interventions of federal government are targeted at ensuring digital financial inclusion for majority of Nigerians.
Danbatta said this while delivering the Bullion Lecture 2021 Edition organised by the Centre for Financial Journalism (CFJ), Lagos, with the theme: Driving Persuasive Broadband Penetration to Deepen Digital Financial Inclusion for Nigeria’s Socio-economic Transformation.
Danbatta said embracing the existing telecommunications infrastructure in Nigeria is imperative to achieving economic prosperity, noting that digital financial inclusion through leveraging on telecommunications infrastructure is pivotal to taking Nigeria out of poverty and closing the gap of unbanked Nigerians.
To this end, he said, this is why the federal government directed that all citizens must have National Identification Number (NIN), and Subscribers Identity Module (SIM) linked for ease of identification and tracking.
The EVC added that, “financial inclusion is considered a key enabler to reduce extreme poverty and boost shared prosperity and countries with high mobile money account ownership have less gender inequality.”
He noted that, the statistics of unbanked people has remained the way it is because formal financial services are unavailable to certain categories of people.
“It should be emphasised that the need to boost inclusiveness with respect to access to financial services necessitated the paradigm shift by most countries from simply pursuing financial inclusion to focusing more on digital financial inclusion, by leveraging the digital platforms to provide tailored-made, low-cost financial services to people that are excluded from the formal financial services circle.
“Digital financial inclusion, thus, has the following characteristics: no bank account needed; use of agents for cash in and cash out; and use of mobile handsets and other digital means for transactions,” he stressed.
Danbatta also said, over $70 billion has been invested in telecommunications infrastructure deployment in Nigeria since the liberalisation of the industry in 2001.
He noted that the amount represented a larger chunk of local and Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) attracted into the sector within the period. And the investment in infrastructures has boosted the economy and provided more opportunities for more Nigerians have access to telecoms services.
“Today, the number of active telephone lines being used by Nigerians has significantly increased from about 400,000 in 2001 to over 204 million as of December 2020,” he added.
He also listed several steps taken by NCC in collaboration with the Central Bank of Nigeria and other critical stakeholders to deepen financial inclusion in Nigeria, saying that 73.2 million adults representing 41.6 per cent of adults population in a country of 190 million citizens are still financially excluded.
He noted that the development and other statistics raised concerns about addressing poverty and inequality issues especially in relation to opportunities available for women.
He further said that the Commission had over the years taken measures to confront several challenges, asserting that when he assumed office, broadband penetration was about 10 per cent, stating that as at December 2020 it has peaked at 45.02 per cent.