The Federal Republic of Nigeria

Telecommunications holds the greatest promise for financial inclusion - Danbatta
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- Advocates greater cooperation between telecom and banking sectors.

The Executive Vice Chairman and Chief Executive (EVC/CE) of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Prof. Umar Danbatta, has stated that telecommunications remains the best enabler in expanding the frontiers of financial inclusion in Nigeria.

Danbatta affirmed this today (05/02/2020) at the NCC head office 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 to explore opportunities for collaboration and partnership to enhance financial inclusion in Nigeria.

At the meeting, which held at the request of the Foundation, Danbatta said 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.

The EVC said the infrastructure companies (Infracos) have been licensed by the Commission to cascade fibre from landing ports to the hinterland of Nigeria, especially the 774 local government areas in Nigeria. He expressed hope that the Federal Government will 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 declared that 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. According to the EVC, this 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 percent level of financial inclusion in about four years", he emphasised.

The EVC said access to telecom services by distant, isolated, unserved and underserved communities will enable the more citizens to embrace digital financial culture. Danbatta revealed that 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. Danbatta therefore advocated renewed greater cooperation and collaboration between the banking and telecommunications sectors to harmonise the cost of transactions for financial services in an equitable manner.

Abiodun Jagun of Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation who led the delegation comprising Elizabeth Mcquerry of Glenbrook Partners as well as Ifeanyi Monye and Charles Ifedi, who are consultants to Glenbrook, informed the EVC that the Foundation requested for the meeting in other to deepen the extant partnership between the Foundation and the Fedral Government of Nigeria to increase citizens' access to financial resources.

Jagun said the discussion with the Commission is so important because it regulates the telecom sector and it is already addressing some infrastructure challenges which is central to connectivity and the embrace of digital culture and inclusive access to financial resources by citizens.

She (Jagun) said that understanding the strides made by the Commission as well as the challenges it faces will 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 are meant to ensure that the philanthropic opportunities offered by BMGF are supportive and complementary to the digital ecosystem.

Mcquerry also commended the commitment of the Federal Government to expanding access to digital resources. She also expressed hope that this commitment will trickle down to find implementation among all agencies of government. Mcquerry equally appealed to all stakeholders to work in synergy to ensure increased access and affordability of digital and financial services by "people at the bottom of the bottom of the pyramid".