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Financial Literacy Remains Key to Reduce Unbanked in Northern Nigeria – Emem Osoro

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Financial Literacy remains the most single effective solution for reducing the number of unbanked individuals and families in Northern Nigeria, according to Emem Osoro, United Bank for Africa’s (UBA)’s Executive Director, Nigerian North Bank.

“I will like to enjoin the government at all levels (Federal, State and Local) to declare a state of emergency on the general low level of literacy in Northern Nigeria due to its ripple effects on the endemic insecurity, banditry, gross poverty and other vices in Northern Nigeria,” said Osoro.

Osoro said that as a responsible corporate citizen, UBA has contributed significantly to the improvement of financial literacy in Northern Nigeria as a way of boosting financial inclusion.

The pan African lender with footprint across the continent and Europe has been in the forefront of shrinking the exclusion gap through deployment of 200 offline BVN devices and 610 agents across strategic locations in the rural areas of Northern Nigeria, periodic training of agents in the region on financial literacy who will in turn educate people around their vicinity, strategic focus on its presence and visibility in market locations to spread financial literacy to the grassroots, and dispatch of promotional materials to agent locations that aids financial literacy.

As of 2019, the literacy level in the North is 34 percent, compared to 67 percent in the South. Northern Nigeria is reported to have 16.34m unbanked population, which represents 43 percent of its population, according to a recent report by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS).

Of course, the high rate of unbanked in the North is due to high illiteracy, insurgency in most parts of the region and coupled with high poverty rate.

It is worth noting that most banks are too far from the villages that are in remote areas, which is why a lot of traders and farmers starch cash in their backyard.

According to EFInA bi-annual 2018 figures, the Northern region retained its position of highest excluded hub in the country, EFInA’s bi-annual 2018 figures shows.

According to recent data from the NBS, Yobe State has only 7.23 per cent literacy level, the lowest in the country.

The dismal record of Yobe is followed by Zamfara (19.16 per cent); Katsina (10.36 per cent); Sokoto (15.01); Bauchi (19.26); Kebbi (20.51); and Niger (22.88), of which only Taraba state is an exception with 72 per cent literacy rate.

To shrink the exclusion gap, Osoro said UBA leverages on its existing branch network, digital technology and partnerships with Fintechs to reach the unbanked and underbanked for the purpose of financial inclusion and access to credit.

The Bank has deployed 610 Agency Banking partners in the North, who have reached over 1.5 million underbanked individuals, using e-channels such as Agency Banking, POS & Mobile Money in rural areas.

“Furthermore, we have strategically deployed over 200 offline BVN devices, which currently process over 400 BVN numbers monthly. This in turn is used to open Tier 3 bank accounts to carry out transactions, “said Osoro.

“However, we will not shy away from opening more branches in strategic areas whenever the opportunity presents itself and given favourable market forecasts,” said Osoro.

In an effort to boost financial inclusion in Northern Nigeria, UBA has formed strategic partnerships with various state governments and other organizations, a combination that has yielded fruit.

The Bank has totally supported at all levels through short Term Loans and Temporary Overdraft Facilities to meet urgent obligations; Contract Finance Facilities and Term Loans to support infrastructural development, including but not limited to roads, bridges, hospitals; Special Intervention Loans: Anchor Borrowers Scheme, Commercial Agriculture Credit Scheme (CACS), and Issuance of Bonds for capital projects via SUKUK, FGN Bond.

“In line with United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), these partnerships helped to reduce poverty and hunger, promoted gender equality, enhanced access to quality education, clean water and sanitation, reduced inequality, while improving the good health and well-being of the people of Northern Nigeria,” summed Osoro.

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