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CBN Engages Fintechs to Drive Financial Inclusion

The Deputy Governor, Financial System Stability, Central Bank of Nigeria, Mrs. Aishah Ahmad, recently, has charged financial technology companies (fintechs) to contribute in the drive to enhance financial inclusion in the country.

The Managing Director, Ecobank Nigeria Limited, Mr. Patrick Akinwuntan, also disclosed that the bank has scrapped the USSD charges for its customers.

According to Ahmad keynote address at the Nigeria Fintech week in Lagos, she said, fintechs play a major role in enhancing financial inclusion by providing services at low cost to consumers.

She stated that: “Fintech as a tool and as institutions, would help us meet a number of objectives. Customers would have greater freedom, wider access at favorable prices and even at zero prices.”

“The challenge before us shall be to thrive not survive so that the benefit outweighs the risk. We see innovation and it is good, but it must be responsible, it must be inclusive and it must be held accountable.”

She further stressed that: “We having been trying for many years to lower the cost of deploying services by banks through many initiatives and some of these disruptions is actually helping us lower costs. Once more people are included, you would see better economic inclusion and you can have better growth. “Policy makers are faced with a number of considerations, a few questions that have no easy answers and I’ve had this conversation in Nigeria and out of the country and no one has an answer.

“The first one is the supervisory and regulatory question. I get text messages everyday asking about new companies and what they are doing and I’m asked if they are regulated and the question arises because, there are new companies that are doing the same things banks are doing but are not being regulated by banks.

On regulations surrounding fintechs, she said the central bank was working on measures to supervise fintechs.

In addition she said: “All regulatory institutions including the central bank are faced with developing the framework to keep up with these technological changes that would retain the confidence. It is the basic requirement for users of financial transaction to be sure that that the system is safe and credible. We also need to think of how we use professionalism is our supervision, regulatory framework and so on.”

Alongside, Akinwuntan noted offering USSD at zero cost would enhance financial inclusion nationwide.

He said: “I think it is possible for us to offer to very Nigerian zero cost for using short codes for financial services. I know the debate has been on if it is the banks or telcoms charging. But with the opportunity of 200 million Nigerian and trying to lift Nigerians out of poverty, this is not time to take action.

“Ecobank has taken the decision that it would be a zero charge for users of our USSD platform going forward. And this is sustainable because it is about bringing everyone to participate. The best way to take banking services to every Nigerian is by making USSD and financial services short code free for everybody and let the value of the value of the engagement be the value creation. That way we can get 90 per cent financial inclusion.” Akinwuntan added.

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