Governor, Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Mallam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, has said the proposed biometric authentication of banks ' customers, point of sale (PoS) terminals and automated teller machines (ATMs) will be one of the game-changers for financial inclusion in the country.
Sanusi also noted that the policy which is expected to commence in 2015 would enhance credit to the poor.
Speaking in Abuja at the opening of a forum titled: “Promoting Global Financial Inclusion: Overcoming Key Barrier through Public-Private Collection,” yesterday, Sanusi said the central bank would launch the second phase of the biometric system contract by February next year to link all financial institutions to a central data system to resolve the problem of customer identification which had long being a barrier to lending to the poor.
The CBN governor, who also disclosed that the daily electronic cash transactions in Lagos State had reached about N2.5 billion, said there was a strong link between financial exclusion and poverty.
Sanusi who also identified lack of infrastructure, particularly low Internet penetration and excessive reliance telecommunications operators as limitations to the current cashless policy initiatives said the CBN was considering the possibility of engaging satellite companies which could deploy bandwidth across the country
He said: "The least expensive ways of deploying products that would rely on technology and low levels of internet penetration are a big problem. Excessive reliance on the telephone companies also has its problems because in this country the telcos make a lot of money from SMS and voice and the incentive to invest in greater bandwidth is limited unless they can see the actual commercial value of investing in that."
Sanusi said efforts were being made to reorganise the Nigeria Inter-Bank Settlement System (NIBSS) to enhance the inter-operability of the payment system across board to further boost financial inclusion and resolve current impediments.
Also, speaking on the extension of credit to the real sector, particularly the small and medium enterprises (SMEs), he also declared that banks could not be continuously held responsible for non-lending because government had not made significant provision for funding of the sector.
He added that while the deployment of technology did not in itself address poverty, developmental poverty initiatives were required to people out of penury.
He said: "The problem of access to credit is a big problem for SMEs and micro enterprises. Some people think it is the high rate of interest, of course it is debatable but I think it is far more fundamental.
"When you deal with credit in particular, it has got to sit within a broader ecosystem. We cannot continue blaming the banks for not lending to SMEs. We have got to say how much is the government spending on SMEs, how much investment is being done to create viable SMEs?
Continuing, he said: "They (SMEs) do not have electricity, they do not have infrastructure, they do not have security, maybe the tariff regime or incentive regime is not fair, it is difficult to do business under these circumstances.
"We cannot lend to them, but we need to see how to interface with government so that we can see how we can solve this problem."
Sanusi further disclosed that the central bank had previously made efforts to address some of the impediments to credit by collaborating with the Ministry of Trade and Investment and the Ministry of Finance to have industrial clusters that would benefit from electricity and special economic zones.
Sanusi said he hoped to significantly address the issues of low bandwidth, agent banking and other key initiatives to the realisation of financial inclusion before he steps down from office in June.