Assessing women’s financial inclusion in Nigeria

Unlike comparator countries in Africa, including Kenya, South Africa, Tanzania and Uganda, Nigeria’s gender gap in financial inclusion is widening. CBN and EFInA (Enhancing Financial Innovation and Access), a financial sector development organization that promotes financial inclusion in Nigeria – observed this growth in inequality. They engaged Dalberg to conduct research into why this was happening and what could be done to overcome this gap.

Through its National Financial Inclusion Strategy (NFIS), Nigeria has outlined a roadmap of actions to achieve its financial inclusion objectives. Resolving the gender gap will be key to achieving the targets set out. This is why the Central Bank of Nigeria and EFInA came together to produce an Assessment of Women’s Financial Inclusion in Nigeria, for which Dalberg served as key research partner. 

Together, EFInA and Dalberg embarked on six months of research and interviews that included a nationally representative survey. What they found was that the most important drivers of financial exclusion for both genders are a lack of income, lack of education, and low trust in Financial Services Providers (FSPs) – and these factors also drive the gender gap. These factors in and of themselves are very gendered, and to improve women’s financial inclusion, the report found, these gaps must be closed first. The paramount importance of these factors also means that working on other factors, such as changing the characteristics of financial products or pushing for more extensive rural agency coverage, are likely to yield limited results if the gender gap in income, education and trust in FSPs isn’t closed.  

Other findings of the work include: 

  • While excluded women have financial needs and ambitions and these indicate specific room for innovation to make products more appealing for them, low income can limit their perception of the need for financial services; and low income limits the attractiveness of serving women for FSPs
  • FSPs do not see a sufficient business case in serving the financially excluded, but more insight is needed to determine the true commercial viability of targeting low-income populations. 
  • Across genders, the difference in financial inclusion between rural and urban populations was largely explained by the same factors of income, education and trust in FSPs. The implication is that just increasing rural financial infrastructure will not be sufficient as long as rural populations don’t have an ability and willingness to pay for the products at a level that makes it attractive for FSPs to reach and serve them.   

Interventions need to be aligned to these findings:

  • Interventions aimed at increasing and deepening women’s financial inclusion must focus on two factors: (i) addressing the underlying drivers of the gender gap; and (ii) improved collaboration between stakeholders to understand and identify options for improving the commercial viability of serving the financially excluded. 
  • For stakeholders who choose to provide financial services to excluded women, it is important to recognize that subsidies will be required until the gender gap in the driving factors such as income, education, and trust in financial service providers has been closed.

Discover the full set of findings and read the full report, “Assessment of Women’s Financial Inclusion in Nigeria”, here

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