Lagos, Nigeria, 10 June 2022- Access to credit, in order for SMEs to effectively grow and contribute to the economy, is critical. And, in order to give this much-needed access, a determined effort must be made to provide them with the means of earning the revenue required to be financially included. Branka Mracajac, Chief Executive Officer of 9 Payment Service Bank (9PSB), stated this to delegates and attendees at the opening of the 22nd edition of the Digital PayExpo Conference and Exhibition, titled DeFi Africa: Beyond Hype, Understanding Use Cases for the Continent.
Speaking on the topic of “Financial Inclusion and the Prospect for Banking the Unbanked,” Mracajac stated that the foundation for a country’s economic growth and the prosperity of its citizens is to achieve an inclusive society in terms of access to financial services and products, which can be accomplished through digitization.
“Statistics reveal that Nigeria has the largest informal sector in Africa, with 63 percent, and micro, small, and medium firms account for the majority of this,” she stated. While the informal sector employs 80 percent of Nigerians, around 36 percent (or 38 million) of Nigerian adults are financially excluded. Despite substantial advances over 2018, there is still much work to be done to meet the National Financial Inclusion Strategy targets.”
Citing financial literacy and industry collaboration as fundamental factors in driving economic values and closing the inclusion gap, she noted that across the world, the most challenging countries to drive financial inclusion are countries where there is motivation to be included in the ecosystem. She said, “What that means is that the people are not thinking about joining the financial or formal economic segment as they have no need to either apply for a mortgage or for a loan to buy a car. We need to change the game for the needle to move in the drive to include every Nigerian financially.”
According to Mracajac, strategic collaboration among stakeholders is pivotal to delivering the Central Bank of Nigeria’s vision for inclusion and moving the Nigerian economy from cash-based to cashless, stating: “As much as we are a bank focusing on our social objective to close financial exclusion gap in Nigeria, driven by simple and accessible technology, we are also creating innovative solutions in order to offer banking to Fintechs and other players in the market who need the services to provide seamless customer experience.”
Commending the contribution of the various industry stakeholders in driving value and impact in the payment service sector, Mr Adeyinka Adeyemi, the Chief Executive Officer, Intermarc Consulting and convener of the Digital PayExpo, noted that the conference is an opportunity to assess the successes made so far by stakeholders in accelerating financial inclusion and project the future of the industry. “We are seeing the impacts that the banks, PSBs, and Fintechs are making in driving traction to bring onboard into the financial ecosystem, people at the bottom of the pyramid who lack access to finance. However, because the market is ever-changing and technology is dynamic, there is a need to prospect what is next and how we can change the current narrative,” he remarked.
The two-day event brought together a group of DeFi innovators and change-makers from across Africa to share their stories, knowledge and insights into Decentralized Finance from different angles of interest and use cases, including the practical gaps and challenges to implementation on the African continent.