Partnership on financial inclusion for Nigerian women

By Lukas Ajanaku, Lagos, Nigeria

Visa, Women's World Banking, Diamond Bank and Enhancing Financial Innovation & Access (EFInA) have announced that they are partnering to advance financial inclusion in Nigeria for under-served women and provide them an opportunity to become economically and socially empowered through access to a savings account.

According to them, nearly 77% of women in Nigeria are financially under-served. Research has shown that low-income women are good savers, but they need a safe and convenient way to save.

Through this partnership, Visa and EFInA are providing the philanthropic funding for Women's World Banking to support Diamond Bank in developing a commercially viable savings product tailored to the needs of under-served women in the country. The project will include both traditional bank branches and mobile phones as channels to deliver savings accounts.

"Without access to savings services, women are forced to keep cash at home or in informal savings mechanisms -- both risky options that could result in theft or loss," said Mary Ellen Iskenderian, president and CEO, Women's World Banking. "Since women in developing countries are usually responsible for managing household budgets, gaining access to a safe way to save is often a critical stepping stone out of the cycle of poverty for the whole family."

The Visa- and EFInA-backed project will involve three phases. First, Women's World Banking will work with Diamond Bank to research and understand what type of savings services Nigerian women want and need to improve their financial lives. Second, the organizations will collaborate on designing and piloting a product that will be available at physical branches and on mobile phones.

Finally, a savings product will be launched nationally after a successful pilot. In addition, financial education for women will be provided in partnership with local community organizations.

"Around the world, there is a growing recognition that cash-based economies are a major impediment to advancing financial inclusion," said Joe Saunders, chairman and chief executive officer, Visa Inc. "Helping the underserved women of Nigeria move physical cash out from under mattresses and into formal savings accounts - combined with the potential of mobile phones to enable access to these accounts -- will be a significant step toward financial inclusion in the market."

Advancing financial inclusion has been a priority for the government of Nigeria. Last year, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) announced a commitment to reduce Nigeria's financial exclusion rate from 46.3% to 20% by 2020. In addition, the country's Cashlite Lagos project aims to reduce the use of cash and increase electronic transactions.

"We believe this is an opportunity to prove that meeting the needs of women in developing countries can be sustainable. The partners involved in this project are poised to build that business case, while also contributing to a real and lasting impact for women," Iskenderian said.


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