The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), the telecoms industry regulator has said telecommunications remains the best enabler in expanding the frontiers of financial inclusion in Nigeria.
The Executive Vice Chairman (EVC) of NCC, Prof. Umar Danbatta, said this while receiving a team from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) and the foundation's consultants, Glenbrooks Partners, who paid a visit to the commission in Abuja recently.
According to Danbatta, "The realisation of the centrality of telecommunication to all aspects of the economy explains NCC's upbeat in identifying access gaps and in instituting processes for the expansion of telecom infrastructure across the country."
Danbatta, said the infrastructure companies (Infracos) have been licensed by the commission to connect fibre from landing ports to the hinterland of Nigeria, especially the 774 local government areas in Nigeria.
He believes the federal government would take a concrete position soon to enable the Infracos to commence operations because, "fibre is the real solution to the volume of transactions in the financial services sector."
Danbatta, said 35 million Nigerians have no access to telecommunications services and by implication, they lack access to digital financial services, a condition that undermines financial inclusion.
He said, "the challenge is caused by inadequacy of both wireless and fibre connectivity infrastructure.
"We need to do more investment in both fixed and wireless infrastructure to enable us to reach our target of at least 80 per cent level of financial inclusion in about four years."
He said access to telecom services by distant, isolated, unserved and underserved communities would enable more citizens to embrace a digital financial culture.
Danbatta, said the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has issued Mobile Money Payment Services license to some mobile network operators to enable them to undertake mobile financial transaction services.
He advocated renewed and greater collaboration between the banking and telecommunications sectors to harmonise the cost of transactions for financial services in an equitable manner.
A delegate of Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Abiodun Jagun, said the foundation requested for the meeting with NCC, to deepen the partnership between the foundation and the Federal Government of Nigeria and to increase citizens' access to financial resources.
Jagun said the merting with the commission became important because it regulates the telecom sector.
She said understanding the strides made by the commission, as well as the challenges it faces, would help the foundation to know the nature of collaboration and support to offer without distorting or disrupting the market.
Jagun, said the beauty of the visit and the discussions were meant to ensure that the philanthropic opportunities offered by BMGF, were supportive and complementary to the digital ecosystem.
In 2010, Nigeria made a commitment to reduce the adult financial exclusion rate in the country from 46.3 per cent to 20 per cent by 2020.
To attain this, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) adopted the National Financial Inclusion Strategy (NFIS) in 2012.
According to the strategy's document, the NFIS was built on four strategic areas of agency banking, mobile banking/mobile payments, linkage models and client empowerment.
In its five-year strategy (2019-2024) plan, the Central Bank governor, Godwin Emefiele, said the apex bank's ultimate goal was to ensure that 95 per cent financial inclusion rate is achieved by 2024.