Lamido Sanusi, the governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), has disclosed that 77.3 million Nigerians do not have access to financial services and that this is a challenge to entrepreneurship development.
About 46.3 percent of Nigeria’s 167million population is still unable to access financial services offered by a network of over 6,605 branches of the 24 regular and 816 microfinance banks currently in operation nationwide.
Mr. Sanusi at the 6th microfinance conference in Abuja said that the current ratio of 24,224 persons per bank branch, as at last December, shows the prevalence of a high level of financial exclusion.
The governor, who noted a survey by Enhancing Financial Innovation and Access (EFInA) in 2010 that showed that Nigeria’s financially excluded population, was higher than South Africa’s 26 per cent, Kenya 32.7 per cent, and Botswana 33 per cent, said this was posing serious challenges to the country’s entrepreneurship development.
Identifying low banking penetration as a result of inadequate financial infrastructure as the bane of the effort to reposition the country’s microfinance sector to play its role in entrepreneurship development, Mr. Sanusi said its various strategic initiatives in recent times were to reduce financial exclusion.
He listed the strategies to include revision of the microfinance policy, regulatory and supervisory framework, conclusion of the National Microfinance Development Strategy (NMDS) and development of the National Financial Inclusion Strategy (FIS) to facilitate access, saying this is aimed at reducing Nigeria’s financial exclusion rate from 46.3 to 20 per cent by 2020.
To promote entrepreneurship and jobs creation opportunities for Nigerian women, the apex bank boss said the Bankers Committee is set to establish a Special Fund by the end of this year that would provide credit facilities to women at single digit interest rate.
He said a sub-Committee on Women Empowerment has already been set up by the Committee to work out the modalities for the takeoff of the Fund as part of its activities for the 2012 financial year tagged the year of “Women Empowerment.”
Similarly, he announced the commencement of discussions by the management of the Deposit Money Banks on how to ensure that a certain percentage of the banks’ senior management and board seats are reserved for women.
“We are working at establishing a special fund by the end of the year that would provide credit facilities to women at a single digit interest rate. We are also working with banks to ensure that a certain percentage of senior management and board seats are reserved for women”, Mr. Sanusi said.
On the achievements of the Entrepreneurship Development Centres (EDCs) over the past five years, the CBN Governor said the youth empowerment programme has expanded from the initial take off centres in Onitsha, Kano and Lagos to seven other locations, namely Zamfara, Kaduna, Jigawa, Katsina, Imo and Enugu states and the FCT, with fresh arrangements to establish three more in other geo-political zones in the country.