Gender Financial Inclusion in Nigeria

Finance provides four functions of credit, savings, insurance and transactions. These are vehicles to catalyse economic prosperity among people. It is aimed to achieve diversity by giving equal access to everybody in the society. The challenges that result from unequal access bring about different programs to achieve financial inclusion. Over the years, financial inclusion has gained remarkable momentum across the globe. This is driven by the rapid growth in new financial products, innovative business models, technology-enabled delivery channels and commitment of governments and regulatory bodies towards economic empowerment without marginalisation. Financial inclusion typically means everyone having access to affordable financial products and services. It is not just a matter of having spending power but having easy access to a full range of financial services, which is not purely related to having finances to invest in. This article discusses gender financial inclusion in Nigeria by giving recommendations on how to close the wide gap between male and female access to finance.

The management of money is a key part of everyone’s life. People everywhere can borrow, save, insure against risk and facilitate their daily transactions. These corroborate the function of finance in society. Financial institutions play a vital role in facilitating these purposes. Ostensibly, an inclusive financial system is one in which rules and financial institutions are responsive to the needs of the poor, helping them to use money more productively and to develop financial security without the feeling of being sidelined or marginalised. However, research has shown that financial inclusion is highly unequal among poor people, particularly poor women, who are shortchanged by financial institutions. Indeed, financial institutions pay attention to specific customers with no specific consideration given to gender. This is supported by the World Bank Global Findex report that about 1.7 billion adults have no access to finance, of which women account for over 56%.

Nigeria in the Mirror of Financial Inclusion: In Whose Favour?

Financial exclusion affects people from a wide range of demographics. The old, young, disabled, men, women, low-income earners, uneducated, etc. The Central Bank of Nigeria reported that the gender gap in Nigeria represents a major issue to be resolved if the country is to achieve the targets it set in its National Financial Inclusion Strategy (NFIS). They stressed that the gender gap is larger than in other countries in Africa, and whilst financial inclusion is increasing for both men and women, the gender gap is widening. The World Bank Global Findex 2017 shows that women lag behind men in access to financial services. In many societies in Nigeria, women face discrimination and are disproportionately vulnerable and victims of domestic abuse. Unequal gender roles have implications for the most basic aspects of self-determination, dignity and freedom, which in turn influence financial inclusion. All these inequalities stem from social norms and prejudices still anchored in societies that restrict women’s financial inclusion, employment and resources and thus hinder their economic empowerment opportunities. Indeed, having a society with a sound gender financial inclusion benefits the overall progress of its people. Studies have highlighted the advantages of financial inclusion to women. Some samples of these advantages are empowerment of women to increase their bargaining power within households. It also increases their opportunities in earning income and controlling assets and insure them against vulnerabilities.

Fletschner and Kenney (2011) stated that gender inequalities in employment and earnings mean that women have lower-incomes, lower assets making them less able to open accounts in formal financial institutions. Women form a disproportionately large share of Nigeria’s population with most organisations dominated by men. This gives men high opportunities for higher income and assets. Due to the underrepresentation of women in formal employment and cultural restrictions, women do not have the income and collateral necessary to enjoy financial services. These factors, combined with discrimination against them in financial markets, mean that women are far less likely than men to have checking or savings accounts in their names. According to a CBN report on the factors that hinder the financial inclusion of adults in Nigeria, four out of the five factors directly are issues to women. The hindering factors related to income, cost of financial services, financial literacy and documents requirements. These hindering factors present an opportunity for financial institutions to provide products aimed at achieving financial inclusion for everyone. Since the development community has increasingly recognized the need for women to have better access to the formal banking sector to build wealth through saving as well as borrowing (World Bank 2012). Gender financial inclusion means that women have equal access to financial services as men. Claessens (2006) suggests that expanding female access to formal financial institutions can improve both equity and growth by increasing household income and wealth as well as the economic position of women within and outside their households. Efficient financial inclusion of women would present women with the opportunity to generate, save and control income that will have positive impacts on child nutrition and schooling outcomes. How can we achieve gender financial inclusion? These can be achieved by addressing the factors exacerbating financial exclusion. The possible pathway for all financial institutions in Nigeria should (i) introduce specific funds targeted at low-income earners, particularly women. (ii) provide a platform where financial literacy activities will be conducted. Overall, to achieve these objectives, every stakeholder in the financial system must tailor initiatives to improve women’s income and education to become commercially viable to serve currently excluded women that are victims of financial abuse in every corner of Nigeria.


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