In line with the commitment of Nigerians banks to drastically reduce the unbanked population, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and Sterling Bank Plc Wednesday installed an agent banking system at Makoko, a slum area in Lagos.
Agent banking refers to the delivery of financial services outside conventional bank branches. It entails the use of non-bank retail outlets that rely on technologies such as point-of-sale (PoS) terminals, mobile phones, amongst others. The device introduced by Sterling Bank is biometric and voice enabled and the PoS machine recognises fingerprints.
The CBN Governor, Mallam Sanusi Lamido who spoke to the market women and villagers through an interpreter, said agent banking eliminated barriers to financial inclusion.
“Whether you are poor or rich, whether you speak English or not, whether you have a car or not, whether you live in a town or village, you have the right to banking services. What we are doing today, by the time you see how this machine works, the only thing you need to open an account, is your finger which God has given you.
“It is a finger which nobody can take from you and God who created us gave each of us fingers that nobody in the world has. You put your finger on the machine and they open account for you and very soon we shall combine this with your telephone,” Sanusi explained.
According to the central bank governor, the banking industry and other stakeholders in 2012, decided to make financial inclusion a top priority and launched the National Financial Inclusion Strategy.
The strategy, according to Sanusi targets to reduce the number of adult Nigerians that are excluded from formal financial services from 46.3 per cent in 2012 to 20 per cent by 2020.
“I hereby encourage all other banks to actively make financial inclusion high on their agenda as well. In countries like India and Brazil, agent banking has expanded rapidly with India having over 50,000 banking agents and Brazil with over 150,000 agents as at 2011,” Sanusi added.
Earlier, the Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer, Sterling Bank, Mr. Yemi Adeola, noted that presently, more that 70 million Nigerians live below the poverty line. According to Adeola, it was not enough for banks to only embark on corporate social responsibility without deliberately tackling poverty.
“Every now and then, plans to eradicate poverty and bring financial services are discussed with much hype and promise, but in reality, no real action is taken. But this time around, I am pleased to announce that this is a reality initiated by the CBN and propelled by Sterling Bank.