The executive vice chairman of Nigerian Communications Commission, (NCC), Prof Umar Danbatta has said that broadband penetration, Subscribers Identity Module(SIM) registration, National Identity Number(NIN) to SIM linkage and other digital economy interventions of federal government were 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.”
Danbatta also said that over $70 billion have 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 (CBN) and other critical stakeholders to deepen financial inclusion in Nigeria, saying that 73.2 million adults representing 41.6 per cent of the adult 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.
“Closely linked with this, is the effort of the Commission in ensuring that all Subscriber Identification Module (SIM) cards in the country are properly registered.
“As pointed earlier, as of December 2020, there were over 204 million active mobile SIM numbers across licensed mobile networks in the country. To this end, the NCC ensures regular audit of the subscriber database of the MNOs to ensure there are no anonymous mobile subscriber on their networks,” he said.
The EVC also noted that, “This effort has helped to improve the customers’ Know Your Customer (KYC) in the financial services. Indeed, the mobile number has become a requirement for accessing financial services and helped to enhance confidence in the system.
”NCC is working to ensure proper harmonisation of subscriber data into the national citizen database being statutorily managed by the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC).
“More importantly, the ongoing SIM-NIN linkage exercise will further improve credible identity management for national planning purposes, socio-economic transformation and for other legal commercial activities.
“Also, to bridge the current access gaps and in order to provide enough SIM numbers that can be used by Nigerians in this era of new and emerging technologies, where most devices and things would be connected within the Internet of Things (IoT) ecosystem, requiring more SIM cards to be used, the NCC, as a proactive regulatory agency, has developed a new numbering plan (NNP) that will serve the needs of 500 million connected Nigerians for the next 30 years.
“The NNP would, among others, help to provide numbers that would satisfy the needs of the projected one billion globally-interconnected machines and devices by 2050; promote efficiency in the allocation of the scarce national resource; promote competition among service providers; and eliminate the risk of running short of all categories of numbers.”
According to him, no doubt, the financial services sector would benefit hugely from this regulatory measure, as it would facilitate the introduction and development of innovative services across different sectors of the economy with the financial services sector being one of the beneficiaries.
He also reiterated that while 1.7 billion adults worldwide do not have a bank account, 1.1 billion among them have a mobile phone, according to ITU. As such, developing countries are capitalising on the widespread use of mobile phones and ICTs, in general, to bring all people within reach of financial services and out of poverty.
“As has been made abundantly clear in the lecture, digital financial services have great potential to give previously ‘unbanked’ people the ability to save, make payments and access credit and insurance allowing them to manage an irregular income stream, plan for the future, recover from economic shocks and natural disasters and find new ways to earn a living,” he added.