Nigeria: Financial Inclusion for Children Tops Fidelity Bank's Priority List, and Rightly So

As various statistics and Nigeria's grim economic reality have shown, financial inclusion should not be exclusive or limited to adults.

When the Nigerian National Financial Inclusion Strategy (NFIS) was launched in October 2012, it set out to reduce the percentage of adult Nigerians who do not have access to financial services from 46.3 per cent in 2010 to 20 per cent in 2020.

Upon a review of the NFIS set target in 2019, Nigeria's financial regulatory body, CBN, further designed an ambitious 5-year policy thrust to achieve a 95 per cent financial inclusion target by 2024. Currently, with just 2.6 per cent of the entire world population, Nigeria alarmingly makes up over 3 per cent of the world's unbanked population.

The World Bank Group cites financial inclusion - which means that people have access to basic financial services like a savings account, credit and insurance - as a key driver of extreme poverty reduction and shared prosperity. And for a nation with an alarming figure in its standing in the world's unbanked population ranking, it is little surprise that the CBN is desperate to close the gap.

A dire economic situation has necessitated the need for all hands, especially those of the financial institutions operating in Nigeria, to be on deck regarding the financial inclusion of all citizens in the most-populous African country. Available data by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) pegs the population of Nigerians living below the poverty line at a whopping 40 per cent indicating that desperate financial measures need to be adopted to turn the tide in the nation's favour.

As various statistics and Nigeria's grim economic reality have shown, financial inclusion should not be exclusive or limited to adults. In fact, in urging the inclusion of children in the financial system, the American Certified Public Accountant (CPA) Financial Literacy Commission posits that financial literacy and inclusion is not an end in itself but a step-by-step process. The commission submits that "it begins in childhood and continues throughout a person's life all the way to retirement. Instilling the financial-literacy message in children is especially important because they will carry it for the rest of their lives."

In Nigeria, financial inclusion for children will ensure that children who are often susceptible to abuse and exploitation enjoy adequate financial backing through their journey to adulthood.

In recognition of these issues, Nigeria's leading financial institution, Fidelity Bank Plc, is taking on the challenge by designing products, services, and initiatives to cater to the financial inclusion of children in the country.

The bank's introduction of the Sweet Account (SWEETA) is one of many that are designed to provide financial inclusion for children. SWEETA, according to the bank, has been specially created to encourage a savings culture towards children's welfare by those responsible for them. Holders of this special account type are also eligible for a stream of benefits and rewards from Fidelity Bank. On Children's Day this year, for instance, the bank rewarded 62 lucky SWEETA holders with a N150,000 cash reward each.

Yet another indication that Fidelity Bank is intentional about financial inclusion for children is its participation in the CBN-endorsed Financial Literacy Day. As an active participant in the event every March, Fidelity Bank has, at different times, used the event to develop initiatives to help children cultivate and understand the importance of positive financial habits like saving, entrepreneurship, and wealth-building early on in their lives.

During the March 2021 Financial Literacy Day event themed, 'Take Care of Yourself, Take Care of Your Money', the bank's leadership enlightened young students across the country on the importance of a healthy savings culture which it says will, in turn, help them make intelligent financial decisions that will improve their future finances. The bank noted that the virtual sessions indicated a change from the norm where children are commonly exempt from matters that concern money and finances.

CBN has stated the importance of financial inclusion for all Nigerians going into the next decade, calling for "an environment with a profusion and prevalence of financial access points, products and services, a financially literate population, and a digital savvy customer base."

Fidelity Bank has undoubtedly shown it is ready and willing to play its part, with children right at the top of its priority list. The fast-growing bank's attempts at providing Nigerian children with a new lease of life is not only applaudable but worthy of emulation.

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