Digitizing Humanitarian and Social Protection Transfers in Nigeria

To better understand the opportunities and barriers to digitizing humanitarian and social protection transfers in Nigeria, Strategic Impact Advisors were commissioned by UK-funded FSD Africa, Enhancing Financial Innovation and Access and the GSMA. Chiemelie Ezeobi writes that the report was designed to highlight how digitalization will, among other things, ensure increased access to digital payments for poor and vulnerable aid recipients, paving the way for greater financial inclusion.

In March 2021, Strategic Impact Advisors (SIA) were commissioned by the UK-funded FSD Africa, Enhancing Financial Innovation and Access (EFInA), and the GSMA to better understand the opportunities and barriers to digitizing transfers humanitarian and social protection in Nigeria.

This was done through analysis conducted via desk research, key informant interviews with mobile financial service (MFS) providers, humanitarian organizations and government stakeholders, as well as focus group discussions (FGDs) with beneficiaries of cash transfers without humanitarian and social protection restrictions.

The reason is not far-fetched; digitizing social protection and humanitarian payments will pave the way for greater financial inclusion in Nigeria.

According to the Head of Press and Public Affairs | Communications Officer, Prosperity and Economic Development | Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office, Ndidiamaka Eze, a new report charts pathways through which entities supporting the poor with cash transfers could work in partnership with the private sector to enable sustainable access to payments and steps towards financial inclusion.

She said, “Cash transfers are increasingly being used by the Nigerian government, development and humanitarian agencies as a tool to support the poor and vulnerable and promote well-being.

“However, much of the cash transfers provided to the poor in Nigeria require recipients to ‘cash in’ immediately.

“The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has supported the government’s efforts by designing policies that can improve the transition from physical to digital cash transfers. The CBN is committed to achieving its 95% financial inclusion target set for 2024.”

Report

Citing a joint report by FSD Africa, Enhancing Financial Innovation and Access (EFInA) and GSMA, and carried out by Strategic Impact Advisors (SIA), she said it found that a gradual transition from physical cash transfers to digital technology would improve the use of beneficiaries. .

“While this transition may not be immediately possible everywhere due to limited network connectivity, low levels of mobile phone ownership and low literacy rates, among other barriers, the report outlines different opportunities for protection actors. social and humanitarian organizations, and the private sector, to work together. to support increased access to digital payments for poor and vulnerable aid recipients,” she added.

The joint report, Opportunities and Obstacles to the Digitization of Social Protection and Humanitarian Payments in Nigeria, highlighted the opportunities of digitizing cash transfers and presented a roadmap for its actualization.

The study reinforces the need for an ecosystem where recipients could eventually access money transfers to a permanent digital wallet through their mobile phone, invariably leading to multiple-choice usage, which they can then use to make transactions to meet all of their needs and help reduce dependence on physical cash.

The report offers recommendations to improve Nigeria’s ability to deliver digital payments to the poor. It highlights the need for humanitarian and social protection organizations to work in partnership with government and financial service providers to support an enabling environment to reach last mile beneficiaries, the importance of coordination to promote more consistent use cash transfers where appropriate, and efforts to better inform the development and expansion of relevant services by payment providers where possible.

The report recognizes that there are pockets of digitally transaction-ready recipients that could support the development of digital payment ecosystems and help advance financial inclusion.

While digital payments alone will not be enough to bridge the financial inclusion gap in Nigeria, she noted that access to digital payments is an integral part of it and “this report lays out practical next steps.”

Commenting on the report, Juliet Munro, Director of Digital Economy at FSD Africa, said, “Cash transfers are a vital source of income for many underserved households.

“We welcome the ongoing conversations with our partners about the possibilities that exist to digitize cash payments. Once the systems are in place, targeted households will be able to access much-needed assistance more quickly and efficiently.

Ashley Immanuel, CEO of EFInA, said: “Fintech innovation is a key driver of financial inclusion and very useful in providing access to financial services, especially for the underserved. Digitizing cash transfers will help reduce the burden of cash disbursements and support recipients’ application of sound financial habits such as savings. »

Chris Pycroft, Director of Development at FCDO Nigeria, said: “Really heartened to see this report highlight important and principled opportunities for development actors to support increased access to payments among the poor, throw the foundations of financial inclusion and harnessing Nigeria’s growing fintech scene”.

FSD Africa

FSD Africa is a specialized development agency working to reduce poverty by strengthening financial markets across sub-Saharan Africa.

Based in Nairobi, FSD Africa’s team of financial sector experts work alongside governments, business leaders, regulators and policymakers to design and build ambitious programs that make financial markets work better for all. .

Founded in 2012, FSD Africa is incorporated as a not-for-profit company limited by guarantee in Kenya. It is funded by UK aid from the UK government.

EFInA

Enhancing Financial Innovation & Access (EFInA) is a Financial Sector Deepening (FSD) organization that promotes inclusive finance in Nigeria. Founded in 2007, EFInA is renowned in the Nigerian financial industry for its thought leadership in achieving financial inclusion and advocating for the unbanked.

By funding and catalysing innovation, providing cutting-edge research, advocating for inclusive policies and building capacity, EFInA has earned a reputation as an honest broker among the private and public sectors in Nigeria.

Since its inception, EFInA has contributed to the increased focus on financial inclusion in Nigeria, bringing together and supporting stakeholders to develop and work towards the implementation of a National Financial Inclusion Strategy (NFIS).

GSMA

The GSMA is a global organization uniting the mobile ecosystem to discover, develop and deliver fundamental innovations for positive business environments and societal change. Their vision is to unleash the full power of connectivity so that people, industry and society thrive.

Representing mobile operators and organizations in the mobile ecosystem and adjacent industries, the GSMA delivers to its members on three main pillars: industry services and solutions, connectivity for good, and outreach.

Strategic Impact Advisors (SIA)

SIA provides insightful technical assistance to help people overcome obstacles and improve their lives through technology and analytics.

A small, woman-owned company with a global footprint, SIA works with clients seeking strategic approaches, innovative business models, and deep insights to use cutting-edge digital technologies and data solutions to solve business challenges. complex development.

His team members have provided boutique emerging markets advisory services to donors, implementing partners, the private sector and governments in more than 25 countries over the past 25 years.

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