Nigeria Tops Africa’s Unbanked Chart

Nov 2011
Lagos, Nigeria, November, 02 2011 - Nigeria has the highest number of unbanked people in Africa, a survey has shown. In a report jointly released by the Microfinance Information Exchange (MIX) and MasterCard Foundation, over 80 million Nigerians do not have access to financial services.

The report tagged: "Chart for countries with financial inclusion in Africa," listed Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) as trailing behind Nigeria, with 48 million people.

The report said there were high concentrations of financial service providers in East and West Africa, noting that significant gaps exist in Central and parts of Southern Africa. It said a survey was conducted on 23,000 financial providers in Africa, to determine the countries with huge unbankable population.

It said: "Despite the distribution of hundreds of microfinance banks across Nigeria, there is a huge gap between the people that have access to financial services and those that do not have. The situation in the Congo is similar, with data on almost 200 credit unions and several dozen NGOs in our sample. On the contrary, Cape Verde and Kenya, are the only markets in which the number of accounts exceed the population living below the national poverty line. In Kenya, the unbanked population has reduced due to the country’s achievements in mobile banking. Mobile banking enables Kenyans to have access to both savings and credit services".

Though the number of mobile banks is small in Kenya, they have a wider reach. The banks boast of 18 million account holders. Out of this, 12.6 million account holders are reached through Safaricom’s M-Pesa products, with another five million via Vodacom and MTN products", he added.

The report noted that the financial institutions targeting the poor have over 71 million accounts across sub-Saharan Africa, adding that majority of the institutions are small credit unions.

"Savings products are mostly offered through a network of thousands of cooperatives that reach 18 million people. Also, commercial banks, postal savings banks, regulated MFIs and informal savings groups, provide means of accessing financial services to people. Each of these own between four to six million accounts. Most credit comes from banks and specialised microfinance institutions," he added.

Meanwhile, Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has just licensed 16 mobile banking operators to enable Nigerians have more access to financial services. The development follows the discovery that only a fragment of the population has access to savings and credit facilities in the country.

The issue has brought smiles to millions of Nigerians, hitherto denied access to financial services.

The Managing Director, Mobile Money Africa, Mr. Emmanuel Okogwale, said the number of the unbanked population would be reduced, in view of the approval given to some companies to operate mobile banking in the country.

Okogwale said mobile banks are meant for the poor, adding that Nigerians would definitely embrace the idea. He said peasants would now be able to save money, and further access credits through the mobile banking initiatives.

He said banks like United African Bank (UBA) Plc, Guaranty Trust Bank Plc, First Bank of Nigeria Plc, among others institutions licensed to operate mobile banking would leverage on their performances to win more customers into the saving nets.

Source : The Nation

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