In trying to expose Nigerian consumers, petty traders and small scale business owners to the lending environment in Nigeria, CobraReview speaks to Ashley Immanuel, the Head of Research, Enhancing Financial Innovation and Access (EFInA), an organisation that partners with Nigerian banks to develop micro-loan facilities to broaden the opportunities available to Nigerians.
Q: What is your overview of the financial sector in Nigeria, from the angle of loan disbursement and savings?
A. In terms of loans, most borrowings are done through informal lenders. It shows that there is a clear demand for credits. But the formal financial sector is clearly not meeting all of that demand. Of the adults population borrowing in Nigeria, only 4% are borrowing from the banks. That is about 2 million adult in total. There is a large market for the formal financial sector if they can figure out how to capture it effectively. This is why we are talking about digital micro lending. That presents a tremendous opportunity to serve some people who are currently not being served or whose needs are not being currently met if done responsibly.
Q. Which channels are currently available to drive massive digital micro lending, and to ensure players in the formal financial sector are forced to push out more loans to viable applicants, say individuals and small scale business?
A. For EFInA we do a few different things. We do research. First of all we try to provide credible information to the industry. Including those figures I just told you about the number of adults borrowing. We do research, including national representative survey to provide information to the market. We work with the regulators such as the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) to create enabling environment for financial inclusion; as well as extending access to credit for people that are not being served.
Q. Tell us what else you do to facilitate wider credit uptake?
A. We organise workshops, and partner with providers sometimes on a one-to-one basis to help them develop and deploy products that could serve those not being served effectively.
Q. Can you give us examples of some of the enterprise products that you have helped your partners develop?
A. For example we partnered with Diamond Bank. That was some years ago. We supervised their lending and, especially the development and deployment of a product called ‘Beta’. The product was targeted at market women who are active economically but often time do not use banks.
Q. How did you manage to do that?
A. The pressure of sales in the markets is very high for them to take out time and go to any bank branch to lodge their monies; or sometimes they don’t even understand the terms and conditions, or sometimes they don’t even feel comfortable at the banks. So we helped Diamond Bank develop a product to serve those women. Those products didn’t have any special requirement to register. Also we deployed agents called ‘Beta Friends’ that would actually go to the market and meet those women where they are. It is almost like your Esusu savings collectors where the agent comes to you everyday instead of having to go to them. There are few aspects of that but it includes savings and it also has a credit component.
Q. It is been a great time talking to you. We won’t like to take your time anymore.
A. Thank you so much.
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