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CBN, NCC still have much to do for agent banking in underserved areas—Owolabi

There seems to a lot of things yet to be considered both by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and the telecoms regulator, Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) as far as driving financial inclusion in underserved areas of the country.
This was the position of the Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of leading indigenous digital payment service provider, Xpress Payment Solutions Limited (XPSL), Oluwadare Owolabi, at a function in Lagos.
Speaking on ‘Payment initiatives: Driving digital financial services innovation,’ at the 19th annual digital pay expo conference and exhibition in Lagos, he observed that the desire of the apex bank to increase financial inclusion especially in underserved rural areas might not be achieved until payment services were taken from major cities and towns in the country to the rural residents.
Continuing, he noted that apart from extending financial services, “It is important to highlight the need for telecoms services to increase their service delivery in underserved areas so that the efforts being made by Agent Banking providers can be worthwhile.
He observed further that although NCC has regularly assured to assist mobile network operators to expand their networks to these areas, but with the existing poor telecommunications infrastructure, which translates to poor network connectivity, success will be very hard in underserved regions of the country.
While adding that the functionality of several advanced technology devices deployed by super agents for transactions at rural locations had been a serious challenge due to prevalence of 2G network services, he argued that until 3 or 4G services are extended to underserved, every effort to drive financial inclusion in rural areas may remain a waste.
Experts have argued that technology super agents and Fintech are rolling out 4G PoS in rural area with only 2G network coverage even as more banks deploy soft touch Automated Teller Machine (ATM) with programming that speaks English that dwellers hardly interpret.
Observers also reveal that even some super agents with their technology partners also deploy Andriod PoS whose power doesn’t last longer especially areas that are not even covered by the national grid.
Android PoS consumes power more than windows powered PoS and considering that there is no electricity supplies at some of these rural areas, such PoS don’t last long before their power goes off.
In his submission, Owolabi therefore called on both NCC and the CBn in particular to come up with measures to enable service providers address network and several unauthorised operators in the industry who compound issues for rural dwellers, thus making them to see financial inclusion as a ploy to defraud them.
According to him, “The CBN should have a machinery to understand what is going on in the market. They should have machinery that drives report to them. They should have a machinery to see what is happening outside of us. CBN is a regulator and should do more to cover every nook and cranny of the country.
“There is a lot of work from all parties – from the country, Nigeria, from the regulator, CBN, from each party providing services.
“Transactions are being seen across board, funds that are being transferred are recorded on a daily basis by the Nigeria Inter-Bank Settlement System and we can see that things are moving but the money moving is still restricted to the rural areas,” Owolabi averred.