Advocating for Female Financial Service Agents in Driving Financial Inclusion
As part of EFInA efforts in promoting financial inclusion and facilitating the emergence of an all-inclusive and growth promoting financial system in Nigeria, EFInA hosted its tenth Agent Network Breakfast Series meeting which held at Eko Hotel & Suites on Tuesday, June 25, 2019. The Agent Network Breakfast Series is a platform organised to provide credible market information to stakeholders; discuss obstacles to the deployment of ubiquitous agent networks in Nigeria, highlight regulatory obstacles and opportunities to move the industry to the next level. This year’s edition focused on the topic ‘Assessment of Female Financial Service Agents in Driving Financial Inclusion in Nigeria’
There is enough research to support the argument that women are better savers than men: they are better planners for their families’ future needs yet globally, women are less likely than men to have a bank account and are underrepresented generally among the financially included adult population. The EFInA Access to Financial Services in Nigeria (A2F) 2018 survey revealed that 55.9% of the financially excluded adults are female. Many studies have revealed the importance of Agent Network in driving access to financial services, especially at the last mile. In order to drive the deployment of widespread Agent Networks in Nigeria and close the gender gap in financial access, there is need to encourage more participation of women in agent banking. Studies have also shown that enlisting female agents may be the most effective way to overcome low literacy rate amongst the last mile across the country and build women’s confidence and trust in using financial services. The objective of the event is to trigger conversation and initiatives that will encourage more participation of women in Agent banking, especially in Northern Nigeria.
Henry Chukwu, Programme Specialist, Agent Networks at EFInA made a presentation on Assessing the Impact of Female Agents in driving Financial Inclusion. The presentation highlighted gender gaps in financial access in Nigeria and other markets, gender dynamics in agent banking, the business case for female agents, factors influencing better representation of women in agent banking and considerations for formulating strategy for female agents. Henry in his presentation noted that women participation in Agency business is one of the ways to reduce gender gaps in financial access. His presentation was followed by that of IDEO.org, an organisation that practices human-centered design, to solve problems and improve the lives of people in poor and vulnerable communities. Ideo.org made a presentation on Women & Money, the report provided insights on barriers hindering the uptake and usage of Digital Financial Services by women. Mercy Corp ENGINE II and the Bank of Industry (GEEP) programme also shared insights on their programmes as well as highlighted opportunities for partnership with other stakeholders.
Mrs. Uche Ben-Uzoebo, Head, Distribution and Engagement at Shared Agent Network Expansion Facility (SANEF) also shared information on initiatives that have been put in place to support Agent Network Providers in onboarding agents. She mentioned that part of SANEF’s plan is to introduce basic products and special accounts with benefits designed to attract the unbanked.
The event also featured a northern-based female agent’s (Framah Godfrey) experience of how she started the agency banking business because of the challenges she and other people in her community faced in accessing financial products and services. Framah Godfrey said that the major challenge faced by potential female agents in starting the agency business is lack of capital. In her closing statement, she said that Agent Network Providers can encourage more female participation in agency business by putting up an effective liquidity management system and also reduce network issues to the barest minimum.
An important part of the meeting was a session dedicated to stakeholders to deliberate and identify considerations for developing a strategy that would encourage more women participation in agent banking and resolve the challenges they currently face.
The forum witnessed a gathering of executives from Deposit Money Banks, Microfinance Banks, Mobile Money Operators, Super Agents, Telcos, Regulators, Women World Banking, IFC and Media personnel.
The CEO OF EFInA, Mr. Esaie Diei, gave the closing remarks at the meeting, he thanked Framah Godfrey for sharing her experience while emphasizing the role female agents will have on Financial Inclusion based on their reach in the local markets, schools, churches, mosques and the direct impact it will have on including the excluded youths who are their children. The CEO added that EFInA will be willing to support stakeholders in the process of developing and implementing their strategy for female agents whilst encouraging stakeholders to implement the lessons learned and develop strategy for the female agent at organisational level.