BY ANITA OKORO
The foundation for economic growth of any country and the prosperity of its citizens is to achieve an inclusive society that guarantees access to financial services and products, according to Branka Mracajac, chief executive officer, 9 Payment Service Bank (9PSB).
Mracajac said this while addressing delegates and participants at the opening of the 22nd edition of the Digital PayExpo Conference and Exhibition themed “DeFi Africa: Beyond Hype, Understanding Use Cases for the Continent”.
Speaking on the topic “Financial Inclusion and the Prospect for Banking the Unbanked,” Mracajac said for SMEs to effectively grow and contribute to the economy, to drive growth and expansion, access to finance is key. And to provide this much-needed access, there must be a concerted effort to provide them with the means of creating the income they need to be financially included.
“Statistics show that Nigeria – with 63 percent – has the largest informal sector in Africa and micro, small, medium enterprises account for the majority of this. While 80 percent of Nigeria’s employment comes from this informal sector, still about 36 percent (or 38m) of Nigerian adults remain financially excluded. Much as this shows some improvements from the figures of 2018, it still leaves much to be covered to achieve the National Financial Inclusion Strategy targets,” she said.
Citing financial literacy and industry collaboration as fundamental factors to driving economic values and closing the inclusion gap, she noted that across the world, the most challenging countries to drive financial inclusion are countries where there is no motivation to be included in the ecosystem.
“What that means is that the people are not thinking about joining the financial or formal economic segment as they have no need to either apply for a mortgage or for a loan to buy a car. We need to change the game for the needle to move in the drive to include every Nigerian financially,” she said.
The 9PSB boss said strategic collaboration among stakeholders is pivotal to delivering the Central Bank of Nigeria’s vision for inclusion and moving the Nigerian economy from cash-based to cashless.
“As much as we are a bank focusing on our social objective to close financial exclusion gap in Nigeria, driven by simple and accessible technology, we are also creating innovative solutions in order to offer banking to Fintechs and other players in the market who need the services to provide seamless customer experience,” she said.
Commending the contribution of the various industry stakeholders in driving value and impact in the payment service sector, Adeyinka Adeyemi, CEO, Intermarc Consulting and convener of the Digital PayExpo, said the conference is an opportunity to assess the successes made so far by stakeholders in accelerating financial inclusion and project the future of the industry.
“We are seeing the impacts that the banks, PSBs, Fintechs are making in driving traction to bring onboard into the financial ecosystem people at the bottom of the pyramid who lack access to finance. However, because the market is ever-changing and technology is dynamic, there is a need to prospect what is next and how we can change the current narrative,” he said.
The two-day event brought together a group of DeFi innovators and change-makers from across Africa to share their stories, knowledge and insights into Decentralized Finance from different angles of interest and use cases, including the practical gaps and challenges to implementation on the African continent.