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Thursday, January 26, 2023

Lockdowns Have Been Bad for Financial Inclusion. Here’s Why

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When the coronavirus pandemic hit Nigeria’s economy hard in March leading to lockdowns in parts of the country, Abuja the political capital, Lagos the commercial capital and Ogun State adjacent to Lagos, it was hoped that moves to social distancing would result in a surge in ecommerce and online transactions.

However latest data from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) seen by MoneyCentral, shows that the number of ATM transactions were nearly cut in half in April 2020 (38.5 million), compared to March (63 million).

This was to be expected following the semi lockdown of large cities (exemptions were made for buying of food items and medical supplies).

However, the number (40.8 million) and value (N299 billion) of Point of Sale (PoS) Transactions also dropped in April compared to March which had volumes of 52.2 million and values of N368 billion.

The number and value of NIBBS Instant pay transactions also fell as well as E-bills pay transactions, you can see more data here.

In a sense the payments infrastructure was not well developed even before the lockdown, which can be seen in these numbers.

Even today with largely lifted restrictions, there are large queues by customers for ATM transactions at the various banks and spotty POS services with some merchants like petrol stations not willing to provide the payment channel.

A lot of the investments made to push through Financial Inclusion have not often flowed to smaller towns and villages in the country. Even in the large cities disparities still exist between say the downtown and commercial districts of Lagos and the poorer Mainland districts.

The CBN would need to work harder with partners and stakeholders to make sure the steady gains made in Financial Inclusion over the past few years are not rolled back, as a result of the virus.

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